Why We Should Reform How We Elect General Conference Presidents

The 2009 (as well as 2008 and 2010) SDA Yearbook listed Elder Ruguri as ECD Exec Secretary with Geofrrey Mbwana as ECD president. During the same period, John L. Wani served as Uganda Union exec director or president.

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GC 2015 Bulletin 7, pp50-51

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Accepting things even when they don’t go our way is not necessarily “unity” … “uniformity” - yes. Lockstep - yes. Did you ever notice that “we are marching to Zion” in three-four time? That makes anyone in lockstep stumble…

Unity is in Christ alone - and in Christ is freedom, like in a dance that will live of coming close and distancing again, leaving space to move and develop.

As to the vote you are referring to… please remember that no one tried to enforce WO on anyone, but simply requested that regions should be empowered to decide for themselves - as the Spirit moves. Or as Jan Paulsen clearly put it in his booed statement: it is an issue of trust…

Uniformity would be us all agreeing on every issue. This will never and doesn’t need to ever happen. There should be freedom to an extent on non-essential issues. Leeway is important both to conservatives and liberals. But even with some wiggle room, we will eventually come up against and issue like WO. I realize the vote was not to impose it in all territories, however we voted on it. My point is that there is no point to vote on issues if the territories who don’t have things go their way will just do what they want regardless. If it’s a non-essential then unity can only come by respecting the vote. We’re all going to have to accept votes we don’t agree with, that is not uniformity. But if each just does what they want anyway, regardless of a vote, then we certainly will never be satisfied with elections, gc sessions, etc. because we won’t be able to accept not getting our way and that will only foster more animosity from opposing sides.

If this is true, this truly sickens me. What a disgusting development to punish people who are absolutely born this way. What next, shall we punish people who are left handed.? I am disgusted with my church, and I never thought I would be in this position.

God…PLEASE help us. .


Thank you for this helpful examination. A number of us have been calling and writing leadership in the approach of the Ugandan vote to make the anti-LGBTQ+ bill law, and have been met with deafening silence. I have even written to the GC Legal Counsel office asking how it corresponds with our current support of a U.S. religious Liberty case going before the Supreme Court to have our church leaders about to hit world media scrutiny with the Ugandan legislation. I’ve received not so much as a “we received your message, but sadly, you are in error, Sister.”

The impression given is that the current church leadership does not care about how the ethical and human rights issues at stake will drive so many people away from Adventist membership. We forget that our world church emphasis also means that the campaigning and support of president (Archbishop?) Ndimukika to pass the death-penalty law there, tacitly stands to speak for all Adventists. By winking and ignoring this, we are basically stating we all support it. Members who see this as a horrific decision and human rights violation— tromping all over our beliefs as a church that religion should not act in league with government — are put in a terrible place. Do I want to remain aligned with a denomination associated with something so heinous? Does my membership now imply tacit support?

We recently saw a passive-aggressive lashing out at those calling the church leadership to accountability for past policies (GC support of “conversion therapy” and enabling of abusive conduct as alleged in the research and reporting of Ron Lawson of Colin Cook) which have hurt those in the LGBTQ+ community struggling to remain in fellowship with the Adventist church. When Wilson spoke at Vespers at Weimar this past month, he interjected into his speech the following:

“Today, people are wanting to take the Bible and take its meaning and turn it upside down, so it will say that which it doesn’t say, and that which it doesn’t say they say it says. We’re facing challenges today in many areas— I’m not just limiting it to one. In the area of LGBT, we need to treat people with respect, with care, with Christian love, but we also need to point people to the word of God, and to what God can do to change people’s lives. That’s called “conversion.” I mean, why do people who steal become honest? Why do people who are drunkards become sober? Why do people who are selfish become great benefactors? It’s because the Holy Spirit changes our lives. Christ’s grace and his power will change us. Don’t ever let anyone turn your Bible upside down.”

How can allowing multiple church representatives to campaign for laws extending to death penalty consequences for LGBTQ+ people, be seen in *any way * as “to treat people with respect and care”? How does it even remotely show “Christian love”? It’s disingenuous at best, and more accurately blind and void of truth-telling or sincerity. Not only do these laws institute draconian legal consequences, they also mark a implied approval from that government of the attacks, torture and abuse we see aimed at LGBTQ+ persons in the streets of Ugandan cities and towns. The ripple effect of the law is unimaginable.

The ripple effect of this leadership isn’t much better in the rhetorical sense, either. Trying to justify past horrors of abusive (literally) conversation therapy by making a statement that lumps LGBTQ+ individuals in with thieves and “drunkards” is awful. And isn’t it so interesting to see “selfish” people as sinners needing conversion? The result of their conversion = “great benefactors.” That holy grail of money. That’s awful, too. Our church, our members, deserve better leadership. Those of us who seek, not only for ourselves but for our children, a church that’s honorable, ethical, truly committed to respect and integrity, deserve leadership of which we are not ashamed.


I have written this information on this web site before but I will keep reporting it until they revoke my privilege to post. I never thought I would have to point out to a conference leader, no matter what continent they were in, that God loves every member of the LGBTQ community as much as he does you and me. I would vote to dis-fellowship this conference leader if it were me.

One segment of this LGBTQ community have quantifiable evidence of the very FACT that they were born this way. That is the “T” transgender community, which has come under a great deal of persecution right here in our own country, let alone in Africa where there is still some who practice genital mutilation.

1.9% Of the worlds population fall into the category of gender dysphoric.
That amounts to 152 million people, slightly more than the total population
of Russia

1 in ever 1300 to 1500 infants born, depending on which survey you read,
    are born with both male and female genitals.  That amounts to 5.3 million 
    people.  Slightly more that the entire population of Norway.

1 in every 2300 infants born have reproductive or gender defined internal 
organs that are opposite of their outward body presentation.  That 
amounts to 3.8 million people.

   There is a community in the Dominican Republic where a substantial 
    number of infants are born  female, and remain that way until they reach
   puberty, at which point, without any outside intervention, they change 
   into a male. This is well documented,  How would this sick conference 
   leader in Africa deal with these people?

Any thinking person can plainly see that we don’t all come out of the womb a perfectly defined human male or female. Though the numbers above don’t quantify every individual in any of the LGBTQ community, what they do say is that any one of us could have been born in this community. We could also have had a religious conversion to Adventism but with the misfortune of being born in this African conference where our church would have not only disallowed our right to belong to the Adventist church, but who would have supported our imprisonment or even our being put to death. This is just how disgusting this whole thing is to me. I absolutely hate what I am reading here.


The fairness of a process like this makes so much sense. But fairness and common sense is antithetical to the desire to maintain a system which works to keep the incumbents and their aspiring successors in power.

As I have stated elsewhere, “What bothers me most is the claim I’ve heard that the church doesn’t function in a political way when in actual fact politics is the art of government and is ever present by definition. The claim of being non political is used unscrupulously to lull unsuspecting church members into a false sense that outcomes will just occur with no preparation. All the while those unhampered by restraint on their political maneuvering get their way as they strategize, lobby and manipulate their way to the results they have diligently planned. The Spirit is in no way a part of this non level playing field.”

So I offer the following suggestions to support and add to Mathew Quartey’s:

  1. Use the system of a standing committee in constituency sessions at all levels of the church hierarchy.
  2. Allow less institutional representation and more lay representation on the standing committees.
  3. Level the “playing field” by recognizing that politics like music is neutral and we can aim to practice a morally ethical and wholesome version of politics, and, in addition, by giving every candidate equal opportunity to present their résumés (qualifications and experience) for careful consideration.
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Matthew Quartey’s articles are always worth reading, but he really deserves credit for this one. I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for him to write. He’s spoken about his African Adventist ties many times, and putting together this particular piece must have been tough. Thanks to him for doing it anyway, and giving us something to think about.

I can’t contribute much to the discussion – most of the local SDA congregations wouldn’t even let me break in, forget the SDA hierarchy – but at least I can contribute that.


My family were Sabbath keepers before 1844. They later became SDAs. Many have been pastors and/or administrators. And I, too, spent half my career working for the church. So I have loved the church like family. Now that I’m 75, I’ve given up for the most part. I see no hope for the church to change. The GC doesn’t make any difference to me because I’ve given up on it. I attend a local church which is, thankfully, progressive and inclusive. However, my spouse and I plan to quit attending altogether in another year. And I don’t think we’re alone in this - people are walking away from the church though not necessarily from faith.

Bottom line: I see no hope for the organized SDA church anymore even though that causes me to grieve!


Thank you for these quotes. I didn’t see the one I remember that initiated the booing. Were you in San Antonio? Do you remember as I do?

Don’t be so surprised, Lynden. That was very much the case, even into the sixties. I can remember friends being taught/forced to write right-handed in school.


Some years ago a local, mature Lutheran pastor and I enjoyed lunch together in the Atlantic Union College cafeteria. In response to my inquiry, he rehearsed his years of pastoral ministry. In passing, he described eight years as president of the American Lutheran Church in North America, Now leading a local church, I asked?

“Our community does not allow anyone to be in administrative leadership at any level for more than eight years. Then you must go back to the local congregation and rediscover why you went into the ministry in the first place.” After a number of years, one might go back into administration again, but never for an indefinite period of time, he said.

One cannot really be a “shepherd” of the flock in administration, it seems to me, if all you experience day after day are policies and committees with “shepherds” like yourself in administration. You need to be with people who do not and cannot hide their brokenness (as one must in admin), their grief, their collapsing marriages or drug dependent children, the agony of realizing they are LGBTQ+ and cannot be open about it without losing their family and their church. Try that for a while, and then see what impact it makes on the way you do administration, or think and pray and walk in your ministry.


This is what you heard, I believe, by Marvin Wray at the Yes mic, followed shortly by Elder Paulsen.

And your justification for the booing is “he made us do it?”

It is funny how you “clearly “ remember what Paulsen said but not Wilson’s response. I guess it boils down to our expectations. In the African culture I grew in it is an absolute taboo to boo at an elder, especially in public, period! And Paulsen was the consummate elder statesman, whose stature and long association with the continent provided him some leeway to speak frankly, however uncomfortably, to us. After all , it was this same Paulsen who honored us for being the first to pick an African to be the executive Secretary of the GC during his two terms in office.

We Africans know what we did was wrong and cannot ever make it right in public again. I know of unofficial attempts that have been made by leading African Adventists to apologize to Elder Paulsen for what we did. The shame we brought to his door, so to speak. And I know he has been gracious and even dismissive of what happened saying to one such “messenger” he knows “our better angels.” So we don’t need these attempts by others unaccustomed to our “pain” to make excuses for us. I have written about this episode before and did so again in this context almost as an expiation of our public “sin.”

Given the same opportunity, there’s no doubt we’ll do better. So let’s stop the justifications and or whitewashing of that event. It is unbecoming of us and makes it worse.


Thank you! You may be right in that. I remember it being pastor paulsen but I went back and found the YouTube video of paulsen and he’s quoted accurately in the article you posted. What’s weird is I don’t hear any booing of him…I’m confused now.

Hello, I don’t think I was justifying the actions, just explaining the context. However another commentator suggested the comment I was referring to was made by another speaker and they may be right. I’m not saying there’s any excuse I’m just saying the biggest reaction I recall from the African delegates was to the comment I referenced, which my point was that it sounded like a political favor awaiting a return on investment. I don’t think that’s how the speaker meant it, but that’s how it came off.

My point being that your suggestions to minimize the “politicizing” is understandable and I think we all agree in a perfect world we wouldn’t see this at all. However, no matter who is the president, some alliances will exist and there will always be at least the appearance of favoritism.

The examples you give do not look good for Wilson…of course we’re only hearing one side. But I live in North America and of course there is pressure from nad and local union officials to make pastors fall in line with nad stances on WO as well. How can someone who opposes WO move up in a liberal union like mine, even if they are a good pastor/administrator if they have openly opposed WO? They cannot, so aren’t local officials showing favoritism the other way in favor of those who support WO? We see the alliances at every level all the way down to local nominating committees.

Your goal is laudable, and I said I agree in having more than 1 option, however if you think this will reduce the political tone, I believe you’re mistaken. But praying whatever is best for our church. God bless

i think you have a point, actually…at the time, my own feeling was that San Antonio was so unbiblical, it couldn’t be possibly be respected, but i think it’s clear now that yes voters, particularly those who felt the issue was a matter of conscience, would have been in a stronger position had they not agreed to vote in the first place (would a compliance committee have been set up to force them to vote…i don’t think so)…

i think voting, and politicking fervently to win a vote, implies a willingness to comply with the outcome of that vote…to jump headfirst into the intensity of the fray that was the San Antonio vote, and then cite conscience concerns when you lose, seems a bit rich…it really is contributing to a feeling of general disrespect, regardless of how right you feel, and in fact are…

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African culture, with its divisions and sub-divisions, like any other, is not uniform. Evidently, this incident is an exception… why?

The nomination of Matthew Bediako, of Ghana and a former student of Elder Paulsen, for the no 2 post was no surprise, I think.

BTW, someone else, Michael Ryan, chaired that particular session. Here’s the record of how the “booing” was dealt with at the time.


I was able to check what I had written in the SDA Yearbooks today, and discovered that the memory I asked about here was incorrect. Joselito Coo has already reported what I found: In 2009, when the Uganda Union played the lead role in pushing for the first law there that made being LGBTQ a capital crime, Blasius Rugeri was not the president of the Uganda Union, but was the Secretary of the ECD. He became the ECD president after the 2010 GC Session. I should add that the Paulson administration responded to this with horror, and pressured the Ugandan Union to pull back on the position it had previously pressed, and the law was finally overthrown. The recent legislation, in which the present Uganda Union president was shown with four other religious leaders who had lobbied for a very similar bill, has not received any public comment from the present GC leadership.