Tuesday morning’s general business session featured the election of seven vice presidents to the General Conference executive team, an addition of one position since the 2015 Session. They are returning leaders Guillermo E. Biaggi, Abner De los Santos, Thomas L. Lemon, Geoffrey Mbwana, and Artur Stele. Ella Simmons, the first female general vice president in the church’s history, is retiring.
Audrey Andersson of the Trans- European Division (TED) and Maurice R. Valentine II from the North American Division (NAD) are this Session’s newly elected vice presidents.
Audrey Andersson most recently served as executive secretary of the TED—the only woman who has ever held that position in any division throughout the General Conference. Born in Ireland, Andersson graduated from Newbold College with a degree in theology. Her career was initially spent in the secular world—she ran a daily news service operation from the High Court in London and had her own communication company. She moved to Sweden when she married her late husband, Lars. Andersson was then called to the Swedish Union to serve as executive secretary, and from there she transitioned to executive secretary of the TED. She will be the second female to serve as a general vice president and the first European woman. According to Lori Yingling, director of General Conference Human Resources, “Audrey Andersson has proven herself to be a valuable asset to the work of the church. Audrey promotes collaboration and teamwork with everyone with whom she works. She has never met a stranger, and her optimistic outlook is contagious. I am so happy for her election to the office of vice president; she will be a positive addition to the presidential team and to the world field.”
Maurice R. Valentine II comes to the General Conference from the NAD, where he has served as vice president for media ministries since April 2021. Before joining the NAD, Valentine led the Lake Union for six years, first as executive secretary and then as president. He served in the Mid-America Union as president of the Central States Conference and served as vice president for administration (executive secretary). He also held the position of union ministerial director from 2006 to 2012. Prior to serving in the Mid-America Union, Valentine was assistant to the president in the Central States Conference, where he had begun his pastoral ministry in 1985. Over the course of 28 years, he pastored a dozen churches in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. Valentine is married to Sharon (Livingston) Valentine, and they have three adult children. “I’m encouraged by the election of Maurice Valentine to vice president of the General Conference,” Ron Smith, president of the Southern Union, said. “His gifts of cordiality, commitment to integrity, and deep-seated missional consciousness will assist in fostering responsible ministry for our world church.”
Guillermo Biaggi, a native of Argentina and former president of the Euro-Asia Division, was elected in 2015. Abner De los Santos hails from Mexico and previously served as vice president for member retention for the Inter-American Division. He joined the vice-presidential team in 2015, alongside Thomas Lemon, former president of the Mid-America Union in the NAD. Artur Stele, born in Kazakhstan, has been a pastor and academic dean and division president, and Geoffrey Mbwana was previously president of the East-Central Africa Division. Both became general vice presidents in 2010.