Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN

Maurice T. Battle, retired longtime Seventh-day Adventist Church administrator and a former associate secretary at world church headquarters, died at his home in Ellicott City, Maryland, last evening. He was 82.

During denominational service spanning more than 50 years, Battle served as a pastor and administrator. Beginning in 1948 with pastoral work in the church's South Atlantic Conference, his career later led to posts in West Africa and England before beginning service at world church headquarters in 1970.

Colleagues remember Battle as a skilled bridge builder among people, supplying a voice of reason amid conflict and fostering positive relationships despite previous distrust.

"Promoting friendly, stable relations among groups of people is probably one of his biggest contributions to the church," said Bert B. Beach, former director of the Adventist world church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty.

Battle was instrumental in the Adventist Church's efforts to dismantle Apartheid in South Africa, said Beach, who first met Battle when the two were serving the church in West Africa.

Born in 1927 in Oberlin, Ohio, Battle developed a love of reading -- especially biographies -- travel, gardening and stamp collecting. In 1948, he married Esther R. Coleman and earned a bachelor's degree in theology from then Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama.

Battle later received an honorary doctoral degree from Union Theological Seminary, an independent graduate school of theology in New York, in recognition of his "outstanding contribution" to both his denomination and the community.

Battle spent a decade helping to strengthen the church in West Africa. He served as Adventist Church president first in Liberia and later in Sierra Leone. During his years in Ghana, Battle acted as regional secretary and also oversaw several departments, including Sabbath School, Lay Activities and Public Relations.

Battle first served the world church as associate secretary for the Lay Activities -- now Personal Ministries -- department, beginning in 1970. He was elected as an associate secretary of the Adventist world church in 1978.

Adventist World church President Jan Paulsen said he was "saddened" to learn of Battle's death today. "[Maurice] was a friend and a highly valued colleague of mine for many years, going back to Africa," said Paulsen, who served as a missionary in Ghana while Battle was employed there. Paulsen also recalled that Battle acted as one of the officiating ministers at his ordination service.

Battle is survived by his wife, Esther, and four children.