A woman has been named president of a Seventh-day Adventist church conference for the first time in the denomination’s 150-year history.
Pastor Sandra Roberts was elected 72-28 as president of the Southeastern California Conference (SECC) at a constituency session held on Sunday at La Sierra University church in Riverside, California.
Pastor Roberts has spent the last 10 years serving as the SECC’s executive secretary. Since receiving her Masters degree from Andrews University in 1984, she has worked as a teacher, chaplain, youth director and pastor.
In 2006, Pastor Roberts completed her doctorate in ministry at Claremont School of Theology.
Following her election as president, Pastor Roberts challenged the audience to follow Jesus in the work that needs to be done throughout the territory of SECC.
“Following Him means that we are going to get our feet dirty with the dust of Southern California,” said Pastor Roberts in an official news release on SECC’s website.
“We must do this without fear that differences will pull us apart. Christ will always be our anchor point.
Pastor Roberts’ election comes more than a year and a half after the SECC announced its intention to ordain female pastors.
The Conference’s decision was made despite world church leaders repeatedly asking its regions to refrain from moving independently on women’s ordination.
The Church is currently engaged in an in-depth study into the practice and parameters of ordination, with a report on the subject to be presented at the 2015 General Conference Session.
At Sunday’s constituency meeting, Pastor Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference, passed on a message from Adventist world church president Ted Wilson asking the Conference not to move ahead with the election.
In his comments, Pastor Wilson reiterated that the election of a woman president would not be recognised by the General Conference.
Delegates also had the opportunity to speak before the election. While there were some opposing views, most people expressed their support for Pastor Roberts as president.
“God doesn’t play favourites,” said Pastor Gerald Penick, the outgoing SECC president. Pastor Penick challenged the attendees to trust God to lead the way.
The SECC is the administrative centre for a region that contains 154 Seventh-day Adventist churches with more than 70,000 members.
During the constituency session, delegates also voted through the appointments of five other key administrators. Among them was Pastor Jonathan Park, who steps into the executive secretary role left by Pastor Roberts.
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