Rose Otis. [Photo: courtesy of General Conference Women’s Ministries]
Maryland, United States | Rachel Ashworth, ANN

Rose Marie Otis, inaugural director of the Women’s Ministries department for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, died on Saturday morning, January 7, 2023, at her home in Frederick, Maryland, with her husband of 64 years, Harold Otis. Together, they raised a family and shared in ministry for the Lord. 

In October 1990, Rose Marie Otis was nominated director of the General Conference (GC) Women’s Ministries department, a new department established the previous year to fill a great need of the church.

The goals of the new department were to: 

  • Affirm the personal worth and value the Church places on the individual gifts and contributions of women
  • To create open dialogue bringing women’s perspectives to leadership
  • To nurture women members spiritually, meet their unique needs, and guide young women toward Christian service. 

Rose Marie Otis exemplified these values.

A Legacy of Adventist Communication

Rose, with her husband Harold, joined the ministry in the 1970s to work with the Review and Herald Publishing Association as the public relations director while Harold served as president. 

In 1988, the couple answered an invitation by the ​​Soviet Union’s top religious affairs official, Konstantin Kharchev, to relocate to Moscow to build a Christian publishing house in Russia. During this short time in Russia, the couple gained permission to construct several Adventist Institutions, including a publishing house, a university, and a seminary. These institutions ultimately played a role in organizing the Soviet Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

The publishing house in Moscow aimed to publish a magazine for Adventists in Russia, in both the English and Russian languages, to inspire and encourage the local church. Rose also used this opportunity to meet and connect with women in ministry. 

Rose Otis and Women’s Ministries

When the General Conference established Women’s Ministries, Rose Otis was tasked with the unique challenge of starting a new department within a worldwide organization.

During the early years of the Women’s Ministries department, the familiar women’s devotional book was brought to life. It was her knowledge of the publishing work that helped Rose as she envisioned this new devotional series. All proceeds were directed to a scholarship fund to help women within the church gain an education. This fund has awarded more than 2,700 scholarships to women attending Adventist colleges and universities worldwide. 

One of the main goals of the new department was to establish a system to meet the needs of women in each World Church division. In this capacity, serving as Women’s Ministries director allowed Rose to travel the world, which was one of her passions. 

Ministry in the North American Division

Rose continued to serve the worldwide Adventist Church as GC Women’s Ministries director until 1996, when she was nominated again for a leadership position–this time in the NAD. She ultimately accepted this call to ministry and became the first woman to hold the position of vice president in the NAD. Her responsibilities as vice president included the oversight of many ministries, including Women’s Ministries. It seemed wherever God called her, Rose strived to make way for women to be involved in God’s mission. 

Two years later, in 1998, Rose and Harold Otis moved once more, taking positions in the Texas Conference. In the heart of the NAD, Rose finished her career in ministry as the first female vice president of the Texas Conference. She retired in 2002.

Rose Otis, a Life Well-Lived

ANN interviewed Rose Otis in 2006, allowing the World Church a small glimpse into her heart for God’s mission and her role in making way for women. 

“I tried to demonstrate how women could really lift the church, how many talents and gifts were not being utilized by not including women, and how they can be used if we only encouraged women more. I saw lots of change in attitudes since I was there. Having Women’s Ministries programs has brought women out of the pews to organize initiatives from local church levels all the way to the world regional offices.”

Her legacy of ministry to women continued as others stepped into the path she paved. It continues for her family as her children grow and leave their legacy of mission in their own lives. It continues for us as we collaborate and worship with women in our divisions, unions, missions, conferences, and local churches. 

The Otis’ home church hosted a Celebration of Life on January 14, 2023, in Frederick, Maryland. Heather Dawn-Small, director of Women’s Ministries, remarked during her tribute to Rose Marie Otis, 

“Rose was a woman of incredible creativity, insight, sincerity, intelligence, and diplomacy. She was strong, but always feminine and willing to stand up for women and their needs in a disarming way.”

This is how the World Church remembers Rose Marie Otis: creator, innovator, leader, mother, wife, and woman. We remember Rose, who helped to shape what we lovingly call Women’s Ministries. 

To learn more about Rose Marie and Harold Otis, click here:

To learn more about Scholarshipping Our Sisters, click here:

To learn more about current editions of the Women’s Ministries Women’s Devotional Book, click here: