It can be an isolating experience for Seventh-day Adventist Church members who hold high public office: this was one of the key messages to emerge from a unique gathering of Adventist public officials earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas. Some 21 leaders from ten countries—ambassadors, ministers of state, members of parliament, a senator, a deputy chief justice, and high-level officials within international organizations—came together for a lunch meeting on July 8 to discuss both the challenges and opportunities facing Adventists within the public realm.
Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, attended briefly and encouraged his fellow church members. “You are the Esthers, the Josephs, the Daniels of our world,” he said. “You make a difference in an arena that most of us never touch. And never forget you are there for a purpose; you are where God has placed you. Yes, you serve your country, or a particular legislature. But most importantly, because you are a Seventh-day Adventist, you are working under the very highest authority: Jesus Christ our Savior. You are called to be unusual ambassadors for Christ.”
Those seated around the table spoke frankly about the need for better networking between Adventists who serve their governments, and about the loneliness that often comes with serving in a political or civic role. Some expressed their disappointment that holding elected office is sometimes seen as “off limits” for faithful church members—a sign that someone has compromised their integrity. All spoke about their desire to carry their spiritual values into the public realm and to reflect Christ’s character in their service to their country.
Senator Floyd Morris, Senate President of Jamaica, was voted as the first president of WAPOA. Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Bienvenido V. Tejano, was chosen to serve as the association’s secretary, and Damaris Moura Kuo, president of the Religious Liberty Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association’s São Paulo Division, was selected as its public relations officer.
According to Senator Morris, the first order of business will be to identify more Adventist public officials—whether they serve their national government, or their local city council—and invite them to join the association. The group plans to communicate regularly and to organize a meeting of the association in 2017.
The gathering was hosted by the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the Adventist world church, and took place during the General Conference Session, which some of the public officials were attending as delegates.
Dr. Ganoune Diop, the newly elected director of PARL for the world church, says he hopes the association will promote a vigorous dialogue between Adventists who hold prominent and often-influential positions. “These men and women need our support and our prayers,” he says. “They are first and foremost our brothers and our sisters, but they are also called to represent Christ’s kingdom and His values within often-difficult and sensitive circumstances.”
Those who are interested in the association can contact the Adventist Church’s PARL department through its website, www.adventistliberty.org.