Roscoe J. Howard, former North American Division (NAD) executive secretary, passed away in Apopka, Florida, United States, on January 21, 2019, after a struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Howard was working as vice-president for Mission and Ministries for AdventHealth (formerly Adventist Health System) when, in 2015, he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive nervous system disease that weakens muscles and affects physical function. He was 64.
“Roscoe was shaped in a unique way by the hand of God to become the man and the instrument God would use in many varied and diverse ways,” said G. Alexander Bryant, NAD executive secretary. “Roscoe had a special blend of spirituality, intellect, articulation, humor, and laughter that was carefully woven into every assignment he undertook. God used education to shape and mold him to be the multi-faceted and diverse leader that he would become.”
Howard’s educational shaping started in elementary school in a humble community in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He then attended Auburn Academy in Washington State, followed by Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, and then on to Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama, for a short stint. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Howard began his ministry as the pastor of a two-church district in Oak Harbor, Washington. An African-American pastoring two Caucasian congregations was almost unheard of 40 years ago.
Then Howard moved to pastor the largest African-American congregation in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald City Seventh-day Adventist Church, located in Seattle, Washington. Though they were drastically different, Howard excelled in each of these diverse assignments, leading members into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and growing the congregations.
The North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) called him to serve as the youth director and vice president of Regional Affairs. As Howard served on various committees around the NAD and spoke on issues in an articulate, intellectually challenging, and well-thought-out manner, it didn’t take long for the recognition of his gifts to spill out beyond the borders of the NPUC.
The Mid-America Union called Howard to serve as the executive secretary of its territory. As he continued to grow and demonstrate his administrative prowess, the NAD asked him to serve as the executive secretary for the division. After he served in this capacity for several years, the Mid-America Union Executive Committee took a surprising step and asked Howard to return to its field to serve as the president. Howard said yes.
Howard had served as president of Mid-America Union for a relatively short period when he was asked by Adventist Health System (now AdventHealth), located in Orlando, Florida, to serve as vice president for Spiritual Wellness (later called Mission and Ministries). He accepted that call late in December 2010 and served with distinction, dignity, and creativity until struck with ALS. Howard took on this disease as he did all of his assignments: with courage, faithfulness, and an unshakable trust in God.
“Throughout Roscoe’s ministry and assignments, he never lost sight of what was important — and that was his family,” Bryant said. “He was always able to keep them as the top priority no matter what the assignment, and they were able to stay a tight-knit unit throughout his ministry, his life, and until his death.”
Howard is survived by his wife, Osceola, and children, Heather and Seth. A memorial service is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., Sunday, February 10, 2019, at the Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida.
Message from Ted N.C. Wilson Regarding Roscoe Howard
On behalf of the world Seventh-day Adventist Church family, we offer our Christian sympathy and condolences to Mrs Osceola Howard, Heather, Seth, and the extended Howard family on the death of Pastor Roscoe J Howard. I have prayed for the family and encourage you to lift them up in prayer. Pastor Howard was the former North American Division secretary and most recently the vice president for Missions for AdventHealth. May the Comforter come especially close to the family as we look forward to Christ’s soon return when He will provide us with eternal youth and life. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Ted N C Wilson, president, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.