Behind the scenes of a president's appointment

The Nominating Committee's attempt to keep the process private

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Edwin Manuel Garcia/ANN

Delegates on the floor of Atlanta's Georgia Dome vote for Ted N. C. Wilson as president of the Adventist world church, Friday, June 25. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

Delegates on the floor of Atlanta's Georgia Dome vote for Ted N. C. Wilson as president of the Adventist world church, Friday, June 25. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

Tucked in 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 the most important task of the 59th General Conference Session.

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

And their work was top secret.

In fact, before being allowed entry into the room, committee members representing all 13 world 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 Thursday to ban phones -- thus leading members not into temptation to release the name of the presidential nominee before the official announcement.

"They're trying to keep the chatter from this room from leaving the room," said committee chairman Robert Kyte. "Technology today is wonderful but we don't want the technology to beat the work of the committee."

So much for that. The name of nominee Ted Wilson began circulating outside the room about 30 minutes before he was officially brought before the full Session.

Some of the 236 members seemed taken aback by the cell phone ban before Friday's meeting, though none complained.

"I think the purpose is fine, it's just the actuality of letting go of your cell phone is hard to fathom," said Mark Thomas, president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association. "For 24 hours a day I use my cell phone," Thomas said, likening it to a family member.

"I think we can just make reasonable precautions to make sure the integrity of the committee is preserved," said Branimir Schubert, vice chancellor of Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea. "On the other hand, technology is such today that it's almost impossible from preventing someone from doing something wrong if they choose to do so."

After turning in their phones, members picked up their paper nametags 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.

Once inside, members sat at tables with binders and handheld wireless devices to record their votes electronically.

Several of the members interviewed shortly before the meeting started said they were honored to have been chosen, and recognized the significance of their role.

"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 few female members.

Committee members discussed 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 delegates who voted with their yellow cards to accept him to be president for the next five years.