Why We Should Reform How We Elect General Conference Presidents

There have been past musings about changing our church leadership electoral process. Nominating committee irregularities during the last General Conference (GC) session, where Ted Wilson was renominated and subsequently elected for a third term as GC president, amplified the chatter. But we need to understand our current situation in order to appreciate the necessity for change.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12359

interesting article…but is the alliance abuse between TW and Africa something that really calls for systemic change…isn’t it possible, if not probable, that this particular alliance won’t be an issue when TW resigns, which will certainly happen at some point…

or are we saying that TW’s alliance is an example of what other GC presidents before him have used to secure the GC presidency…

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Thanks for laying bare the blatant duplicity of Ted Wilson. His silence of in the face of what the church leaders in Uganda support is deafening. Truly he has demonstrated the emperor has no clothes.


Sorry Tom, I missed something. What do church leaders support in Uganda?

Let’s be clear about “electing” a president. We don’t elect them because that would infer that we are give more than one choice to pick from. Reality is that a select committee, basically insiders who have already determined who should be put in office, put up a name. In the case of this president, people had to vote yeh or nay to Ted Wilson, and surprise, Ted got more yeh votes than nay votes. The sheep in the voting pool, who were often people who worked for the church and were afraid of loosing their job or other retaliatory actions, simply rubberstamped the “election” of Ted Wilson.

I stopped going to constituency meetings years ago. It is a sham and a disgrace to our denomination. Either give me choices or shut this whole thing down. But, for goodness sake, don’t call it an election, because it isn’t.


Man, have you been hiding out somewhere? :sweat_smile:

While I appreciate the longing for a choice, I doubt this would solve the problem described. If alliances were formed - as the author well documents - TW would have won even if you could have chosen between three candidates (just ask anybody who has been on the nominating committee - where there is a choice).
Thus I wholeheartedly concur with the historic descriptions of the author and would like to thank him for pointing out the scandalous behaviour towards Jan Paulsen and the deafening silence towards the ecumenical efforts [sic.] of the Adventist leadership in Uganda to push a law that is clearly inhumane and injust.

I am less optimistic that a change in the (s)election process will work.

The developments of the church in the last 13 years rather suggest to me that - like all other protestant churches - we will have to regionalize and make the General Conference a kind of network connecting regional churches with each other, rather than the hierarchical super structure it has become.


Wish I could disagree with you…but you’re right. As long as the North American Division is only about 4% of the population that makes up the Adventist denomination, we will all suffer through the misguided, reckless, unchristian tactics of the legalist leadership of our church.

God help us.


Hi there, no I have been really busy and traveling. I am here till December, then traveling to Africa for Mission

If it is the Homosexual issue there, let me just say, Pastor Blasius Ruguri, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East-Central Africa did I call upon “all religious ministers, all Ugandans, and all Africans to say no to Homosexuality.”

He clarified:
“Mine was a general statement to disapprove of homosexual practice,” Ruguri stated in the ANN release. “Our church is a ministry of mercy and as a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church I cannot condemn homosexuals to death or to hell.”

Point of clarification: It became the overriding concern in TW’s mind. From there it became a worry for his “cabinet” and then infected other parts of the church. (What keeps my leader up at night will keep me up at night etc etc).

Under this model the GC becomes a “consultative body” rather than an “administrative body”.

One criteria that could be enacted immediately is to term-limit positions with in the GC. Not in the way that the US President is limited to two terms in the top job but more precisely two terms in the GC, then back out to the field. This could also be applied at conference and union level. Yes, there are gifted administrators. Let them move up through the system. If you don’t move up, move out.

Something else that could be implemented is around voting on resolutions. Rather than the “branch stacking” that gives divisions with more say (sway), make the number of votes each division has equal and “balance out” the inequities in finance and population.

Or work on the principle of “majority of unions in the majority of divisions”. It is then less about absolute numbers but about balancing ideas to appeal to the church as a whole, not just the financial, or the populace.

I think the clear take away from Matthew’s article is that things must change. If not suspicions will continue to grow on both sides.


Am I correct in thinking that Ruguri, who is now the division president in East-Central Africa, was the president of the Uganda Union in 2009, when he (or whoever was the union president then) played the lead role in the ecumenical organization in Kampala to push for the law that made being homosexual a capital crime? I would like to check whether this connection to the current ECD president in my memory is correct.

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As usual, Matthew Quartey has directed our attention at an important aspect of what is going on in the church with wisdom, supporting evidence and humility. There is no better way to encourage a conversation about a problem to bring about a change promoted from the ground up. Unfortunately, the way in which the government of the USA is now caught in a crisis brought about by politicians who only care for their permanence in position that make them feel powerful has now become the model for the conduct of many church administrators.


The issues brought up by the author are very important. There’s no easy solution as no matter who is the president there will always be alliances and accusations of favoritism. Some legitimate as these seem to be…some not. We’ll never agree in a structure or a leader as long as we’re focused on so many non essential issues.

One thing I’ll say about the booing of Paulsen, I was there and I don’t recall what the response was from TW but there should have been a reminder to keep respect and decorum. However, I remember clearly that paulsen said “we (the NAD) have supported you with out $ for years and now we’re asking you to support us with this vote”. The African reps took this as saying “you owe us a vote”. He may not have meant it that way but that is how it came off and one could argue he was using past help as a reason for their current support…an alliance of sorts. So I disagree with the booing but there was a a very distasteful tone to what paulsen said.

As far as other models, no matter what model we use, alliances, favors, etc will always be accused Because 1. Favoritism exists because we’re all flawed. 2. Those who oppose the decisions will see impropriety even where it doesn’t exist.

I’m totally open to 2-3 nominees. However, explain to me how this would really open things up for campaigning and alliances of favor?

What we all need to is focus on our personal mission and service to sharing the gospel and respecting the decisions made by the majority. We all have to accept decisions we don’t like but ultimately all leaders will be held accountable To God and if we were all more committed to our mission there would be less divisions

In my world I would use the term “networking” … and then it doesn’t sound quite as bad. It is needed. BUT a network is the very opposite of a hierarchy. While our church has become more and popish (if that isn’t an insult to my Roman Catholic friends), I am dreaming of a church working together - each part with their gifts and insights … under the leadership of Christ alone.

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Majority does not make it right. We actually should act on the conviction of our conscience regardless of what the majority may decide.

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I think as far as our influence is able we should work for this. I agree…Christ ahead and all of us United. The problem is that I don’t think we as a whole have the spiritual maturity to not get our way. The 2015 gc vote is an example. What was the point of the vote if each division was just going to do what they wanted regardless? And no one can tell me there is no pressure in the NAD to support women’s ordination for those ministers within the nad that oppose it. All the criticisms that can be made if the gc pressuring Pastors to vote a certain way, can also be said of the NAD pressuring pastors within its territory to vote as the nad wants as well. Each conference or union can be accused of the same thing.

We haven’t been able to just say, let’s vote and that’ll settle it. Because win the vote did not turn out the way certain divisions wanted, they complained of favoritism, bullying, deceitful, tactics, etc. but if the vote had gone their way, couldn’t the other side have made same arguments?

We’re too worldly in our thinking, we’re so suspicious of each other and use worldly tactics to advance our opinions that we can’t just simply follow Jesus. We cant accept not getting our way without accusing the entire opposition of coercion etc. sadly our church looks more like the political world around us than Christ’s bride.

All share the blame to an extent so let’s try to use our influence wherever we are to foster a higher standard and more unity and accept things even when they don’t go our way

In my view, and in contrast to the author’s nuanced question, we have gone beyond ‘power tends to corrupt’ and have landed firmly on ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

While I very much appreciated the straightforward nature of this article, unlike the author, I have no hope or expectation that we will see any change. Our denominational mantra today is ‘change is bad’. This includes outdated interpretations of scripture which have led to the perseveration of bad doctrine, as well as the process of governance. Change agency requires skill sets that do not exist in church leadership.