Weniger Society Honors Roy Branson, Robert Lemon and Sandra Roberts

Ethicist Roy Branson, recently retired General Conference Treasurer Robert Lemon, and Southeastern California Conference President Sandra Roberts were honored February 20, at the Weniger Society’s Forty-first Awards Presentation in the Loma Linda University Church Sanctuary.

These annual awards by the Weniger Society are the Adventist “Oscars”. The recipients represent the best in Adventism and reflect the values of Charles E. Weniger, who during his life was the Dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary where he inspired his students by example and expectation to strive for excellence. The Society began its awards program in 1974, and has now honored 166 individuals.

Roy Branson was a revolutionary of the imagination, according to Donna Carlson, his long time friend who accepted the award for him, given his untimely passing away in July 2015.

Branson inspired and mentored a generation of ethicists at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary, Andrews University. He was one of the first Adventists to pursue graduate work on that topic, and immediately after receiving a Ph.D. in religious ethics from Harvard University in 1968, went back to the Seminary where his creative teaching caught the imagination of many students. Advocating for social justice was another passion that marked his life. As a graduate student he marched in the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. More recently he joined the fight against the big tobacco companies. During the ten years that he spent at Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University), he started the Center for Law and Public Policy. Branson edited Spectrum, the journal of Adventist Forum for over twenty years. It was there that he helped give voice to new ways of looking at traditional Adventist ideas refreshing the concept of Sabbath, for instance, by talking about it as a gift from God rather than dwelling on the switch from Sabbath to Sunday. He also became an advocate for an independent church press. He spent the last eight years of his life at Loma Linda University, where he was associate dean of the School of Religion, a professor of religion and director of the Christian Center for Bioethics. The son of missionaries, Branson grew up in Beirut, Lebanon where his father was the founder of Middle East College and his grandfather was president of the General Conference.

Robert Lemon accepted his award, “on behalf of all the thousands of church treasurers, financial administrators, and auditors around the world — from the General Conference level up to the local church level — who work tirelessly in the service of the Lord,” he said. “It is these individuals, mostly unnoticed and unrecognized, who deserve the recognition.”

Lemon was elected treasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist world church in 2002, based on his extensive experience in various treasury functions around the world. Born in Kongolo, Zaire to missionary parents, mission has always been his passion.

He also brought a commitment to transparency to his work, as well as humbleness noting that we often think that it is our gifts that make possible the work of God when really God gives us the opportunity to give so that we can be part of what He accomplishes.

Sandra Roberts said that the award presented to her was really for all the people that God had used to form and shape her ministry. She talked about leadership being a team venture and that she felt she was just one more person with a baton in her hand carrying out the mission of the church. Roberts was elected president of Southeastern California Conference in October 2013, after serving as the executive secretary of the conference for nine years. Her career there also included four years as the associate youth director, and five years as an associate pastor of the Corona church. She has also worked as a chaplain at Loma Linda elementary and junior high school, as the general manager of Pine Springs Ranch, and a religion teacher at Modesto academy. She earned a Doctor of Ministry degree, with emphasis in leadership development and spirituality, from the Claremont School of Theology and a Master of Arts degree in religious education from Andrews University. The daughter of missionaries, Roberts is a world traveler. Her goal is to visit at least one new country every year. Her list of countries visited numbers more than 80.

Calvin Rock, a 1982 Weniger Laureate and former vice president of the General Conference, gave the Clinton Emmerson Annual Address at the Awards Ceremony. He discussed the varieties of administrative personalities and approaches within the General Conference during the time that he served there.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7335

How soon will the Review publish these awards and will it include that Sandra Roberts is currently the SECC President?

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Congratulations to all honorees with gratitude for their many years of service to the SDA community and beyond.

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The Review actually published a story on this, and it did include Sandra Roberts’ official title.

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What is the purpose for these awards? What do they achieve?

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The purpose of the awards is to recognize and honor achievement and contribution to the Church and to humanity. It is a way to say thanks, thou good and faithful servant. The academy has its heroes and the Review its own. thankfully they met this time. TZ

The same person that was not recognized in the official yearbook.

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Seriously, Pago…if you can read the article it is very clear why they are being honored.

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it’s good to see someone with gc credentials acknowledge this pecking order between the gc and local congregations…

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A few years ago when Robert Lemon was visiting Australia he attended our church luncheon and sat alongside me. I found him to be a most humble gentleman and a pleasure to associate with. I’m pleased to learn he has been awarded this honor.

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I think it is impossible for Leadership break the corporate mold of passing out honors among themselves. Leadership honoring fellow leaders is Biblically unwise. Did not the owner of the vineyard, according to the parable, pass out the same reward to workers who labored all day as to those who arrived at the end of the shift?

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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Congratulations to these three fine persons who are great examples to all of us. Those who displayed courage and generosity especially in the face of barriers are considered by me as heroically altruistic. Branson was creative and considerate. Lemon is a gentleman and humble. Roberst is compassionate and brave. They are all altruistic. Human nature is such that when a person cooperates with God, altruism can rise to high levels (heroic altruism) that exceed the mundane levels of social cooperation. The overriding motive for true committed Christians is the love of God and all mankind that reaches from the depths of our hearts with the same love that God loves us. Dr. Luke refers to this special love: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35, emphasis added). I am inspired by their example.

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it’s interesting that all three weniger society award recipients for 2016 are children of missionaries…this suggests that there may be something in the way missionary parents are raising their children that the church at large can learn from…

another possibility, of course, is that the genes that enable people to be effective leaders and missionaries in strange, unchartered surroundings, are passed onto children, who then excel in local environments…