June 28, 2010

Behind the Scenes of a President's Appointment

Behind the Scenes of a President's Appointment
The Nominating Committee's attempt to keep the process confidential

By Edwin Manuel Garcia, Adventist News NetworkcapTucked into, the farthermost wing on the top level of the sprawling Georgia World Congress Center, down a long hallway where few people wander, a select group of delegates gathered behind closed doors to undertake one of the most important tasks of the fifty-ninth General Conference session.

They sat in Room C304 to nominate the Seventh-day Adventist world church president Friday morning.


COMMITTEE LEADERS: The 236-member General Conference Nominating Committee is selected by each of the church's 13 world regions. The committee selected leadership, from left: Vice Chairman Delbert Baker, president of Oakwood University; Chairman Robert Kyte, president of Adventist Risk Management; Recording Secretary Cindy Tutsch, associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate; and Associate Secretary Ismael Castillo, president of Montemorelos University. [photo: Alden J. Ho, Adventist Review]

And their work was secret.

Before being allowed entry into the room, committee members representing all 13 world church regions lined up in single file to surrender their cell phones to a General Conference employee, who placed each device into its own clear plastic bag, which remained outside the hall.

Acknowledging the age of rapid-fire texting, e-mailing, and Tweeting, the committee agreed during a late-night organizational meeting June 24 to ban phones.
"They're trying to keep the chatter in this room from leaving the room," said committee chairman Robert Kyte.

Despite the cautions, the name of nominee Ted N. C. Wilson began circulating outside the room 30 minutes before it was officially brought before the full session.
Some of the 246 members seemed taken aback by the cell phone ban before Friday's meeting, though none complained.

After turning in their phones, members picked up their paper name tags and handed them to a volunteer security officer at the door, who then checked the names with the participants' badges before finally letting them into the room. Inside, members sat at tables with binders and handheld wireless devices to record their votes electronically.

"It's an immense responsibility to realize that the leadership of the church rests on the shoulders of those in this meeting, and the leadership of the church is critical," said first-time committee member Rosalie McFarlane of New Zealand, one of the few female members.

Committee members discussed several names before settling on Wilson. Committee leaders then left the room and walked to the cavernous Georgia Dome, where they informed current president Jan Paulsen of the selection. The leadership then met in private with Wilson, who indicated he would accept if the nomination was approved by the session delegates.

A security detail then escorted Wilson, Chairman Kyte, and other committee leaders to the backstage area of the platform.

Wilson's name was brought before hundreds of delegates, who voted with their yellow cards to elect him as president for the next five years.