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Church leaders—present and past—shine brightly

Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever."

Daniel 12:3, The Message 

New York, United States— Barry C. Black, PhD, DMin,62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate, has been named Becket’s 2019 Canterbury Medalist for his honorable defense of religious liberty for people of all faiths. Becket honored Black with the 2019 Canterbury Medal at its annual Gala in New York on Thursday, May 23.

The Canterbury Medal, Becket’s highest honor, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated courage and commitment to defending religious liberty in the United States and around the world.

Becket is a nonprofit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths. The Canterbury Medal draws its name from one of history’s most dramatic religious liberty standoffs occurring between Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket, the law firm’s namesake, and King Henry II of England.

Chaplain Black has served as Senate chaplain since 2003. First-ever Seventh-day Adventist and African-American Senate Chaplain, he is the spiritual advisor for not only 100 of the most powerful law-makers in the nation but also their staff and families—a combined constituency of around 6,000 people. Each morning as he opens the Senate with a prayer, Black sets the discourse for the day in one of the highest chambers in the nation, in turn setting the spiritual tone of the country.

“Few spiritual leaders are as gifted as Chaplain Black in providing caring, courageous ministry in a pluralistic religious environment,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “For almost two decades, our nation has benefited from his chaplaincy and this year we humbly thank him for his work to safeguard religious liberty.”

The annual Canterbury Gala is attended by the world’s most distinguished religious leaders and religious liberty advocates. [NAD/ Becket Media Relations]

Washington, DC, United States—David Williams,PhD, MPH, MDiv, a consultant and honorary associate director of Health Ministries for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was 1 of 100 persons elected on April 30, 2019, to be members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). He is the first Seventh-day Adventist elected to this body.

Williams serves as the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, as well as professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University.

Peter Landless, General Conference Health Ministries director, said of Williams, “He has intensively researched the often-ignored but inestimably important areas of health disparities, inequities, and of discrimination and is an acknowledged, leading world expert in these conversations. We have been blessed and grateful that David and his wonderful wife, Opal, graciously and faithfully share cutting-edge insights on spirituality and holistic health. They make the difference!”

Loma Linda University president Richard Hart added, “As both an alumnus and current board member, Dr. Williams has been closely connected with Loma Linda University Health for many years. His contributions to understanding social behaviors have been foundational, and we add our congratulations to this important recognition by the NAS.” [Mark A. Kellner, Adventist Review/Harvard Chan School]

Texas, United States—Don C. Schneider, MA, former president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division (NAD), passed away May 23, 2019, in Texas. He was 76.

Schneider served as NAD president for 10 years. He was elected to the office in 2000 at the General Conference Session in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Prior to this, he served as Lake Union Conference president for almost six years. 

“Don was ‘the Jesus man.’ There is no more eloquent statement that can be made,” said Daniel R. Jackson, current NAD president.“He traveled throughout the NAD and the world declaring that Jesus was his best Friend. His loss will never be equated with being for-gotten. He was a ‘one of a kind’ man and leader.”

Juan Prestol-Puésan, current General Conference treasurer and former NAD treasurer, said he had the pleasure of working with Schneider for nine years. “He was a man of impeccable integrity and a balanced, spiritual leader who was always engaged with people and issues,” said Prestol-Puésan.

Schneider is survived by his wife and partner in ministry, Marti, as well as family and friends. [NAD Communications]

Baltimore, Maryland, United StatesHarold Wilson Baptiste, MA, former vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, passed away May 25, 2019, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the age of 81. Born in Grenada, Baptiste’s burdens for urban ministry and training the next generation of church leaders guided his ministry.

Baptiste was the longest serving executive secretary of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, active from 1990 to 2002, before taking the position of general vice president at the General Conference from 2002 to 2005.

Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference, recalls Baptiste’s judicious leadership and investment in the gospel. “Pastor Baptiste was a very balanced administrator and a fine friend . . . a very spiritual person. He was much appreciated for his quiet and statesmanlike approach to his work. It was a privilege to know him and Shirley and to work with him over many years.”

Jan Paulsen, former General Conference president, remembers Baptiste’s exceptional contributions to world church administration: “Harold was to me a colleague who had an extraordinary clarity of vision and commitment. He was a counselor whose judgment I valued highly.” 

Baptiste is survived by his wife and partner in ministry, Shirley, as well as family and friends. [Georgia Standish, NAD News]

Columbia, Maryland, United StatesSamuel Lee DeShay, MD, DMin, MA (Systematic Theology), former director of Health Ministries for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, passed away May 7, 2019, in Columbia, Maryland, at the age of 86. DeShay was one of the first African-Americans called to Africa by the General Conference, serving from 1961 to 1973. His positions included medical director at the Ahoada County Hospital in Rivers State, Nigeria, and Masanga Leprosy Hospital in Sierra Leone.

An internal medicine physician, hospital administrator, long-term missionary, trained minister and theologian, and classical concert pianist, Samuel DeShay’s life inspired countless people. Tributes at the funeral were shared by a litany of medical doctors, as well as Ted N. C. Wilson (General Conference president), G. Alexander Bryant (North American Division secretary), T. Marshall Kelly (WJOU Chaplain,Oakwood University), and Ted Jones (retired president, Atlantic Union Conference). DeShay is survived by his wife and partner in ministry, Bernice, as well as family and friends. [Ministry]

Church leaders pass on the baton

Don’t let anyone think little of you because you are young. Be their ideal; let them follow the way you teach and live; be a pattern for them in your love, your faith, and your clean thoughts."

1 Timothy 4:12, TLB

Bacolod City, Philippines— Church leaders at the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) Youth Leadership Summit at Central Philippine Adventist College, in Bacolod City, Philippines, challenged more than 1,600 Adventist young men and women to bravely ask God for wisdom and faith to do mission and take up the responsibility of being the next leaders of the church.

“#Ask2019” is part of the five-year theme of the SSD Youth Department, “Pass It On.”

Gary Blanchard, youth director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, shared his excitement as he encouraged delegates to face these challenges and live radically for mission. “We have to ask ourselves what we want to do for the Lord,” Blanchard said. “God has placed a passion and desire in our hearts to do something. What does He want you to do? Whatever it is, do it with all your heart. Live dangerously for God!”

Delegates to the youth leadership summit joined various activities and attended breakout classes to get acquainted with ways that they can use their skills to serve the church.

The SSD Youth Department partnered with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to empower youth to become a volunteer workforce that can be tapped by the agency during relief operations. Other church entities, such as media ministries, health, communication, One Year in Mission, and Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle, collaborated with the youth department to present options for service that would allow young people to integrate it into the life of the church effectively.

SSD Youth Ministries director Jobbie Yabut acknowledged the role parents play in the lives of their children: “This meeting with young people would have never been successful were it not for the parents. They are the ones who dedicated their sons and daughters to become part of the movement that will prepare them for leadership,” he said. [Southern Asia-Pacific Division/Adventist Review]

Church leaders meet in collaboration

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

Psalm 133:1 

History was made in April 2019 when a delegation of United States (US) regional conference presidents—historically African American Adventist Church administrative regions—traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, for a summit with Adventist Church leaders of the East-Central Africa (ECD) and West-Central Africa (WAD) Divisions and the Adventist University of Africa (AUA) vice-chancellor. The delegation also included the executive secretary of the North American Division (NAD), the Regional Affairs director of the US-based Pacific Union, and three regional conference treasurers.

Titled “Transatlantic Family Reunion Summit,” the venture’s goal was building relationships and coming together to share stories and strategies for mission and ministry.

ECD president Blasious M. Ruguri characterized the summit as the “realization of a dream” deferred. He welcomed the North American delegation with a charge that included a confession that misinformation and misconceptions had kept the groups apart.

“We must do the hard work of destroying the strongholds that still enslave so many millions of those that we serve,” Ruguri said. He then challenged the gathering to remain faithful to the vision and committed to the mission as well as to serve “in a manner worthy of the sacrifice of our ancestors, and especially of our Savior.”

The summit included sessions to examine missional growth, including an emphasis on the concept of Total Member Involvement (TMI), an initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference to get every church member involved in sharing Jesus with their neighbors and friends. African leaders were eager to share how God is blessing the work in Africa, where approximately nine million Seventh-day Adventists currently live.

WAD president Elie Weick-Dido delivered a closing charge that called on the groups to embrace their shared heritage and values as well as to pursue common goals and ventures. Each African division was matched with three regional conferences, whose administrators committed to inviting and hosting the African church leaders in the United States regularly. [R. Clifford Jones, Lake Union Herald/Adventist Review]

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