Bern – Thursday, June 23 – Ella Simmons, Seventh-day Adventist General Conference vice president, the first and only woman to be part of the circle of the worldwide presidency’s board of the Seventh-day Adventist church, visited the Euro-Africa Region headquarter offices. She is visiting Europe on her way to attending and chairing the European Division’s Education Advisory at Friedensau Adventist University, Germany, where the three European Division educational representatives will also participate. This will be an important meeting as it takes place once every 5 years.
Ella Simmons will also attend the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations in Geneva next July 4-7. This international meeting is focused on education. Besides the vice president position, Ella Simmons is also Chair of the International Board of Education of the SDA church. She has an educational background as a teacher. After sharing faith experiences and ideas during devotional time, the EUD workers had the opportunity to ask some questions and make queries on issues connected with our worldwide church.
To the question on what her tasks are as vice president, we discovered a very busy vice president, chairing many different committees and advisories, especially in the field of education around the world. Among many roles, she is also ADRA International board’s vice chair.
question on how she sees the future of the church in Europe, she answered: “I am optimistic and realistic. The future of the church is in the hands of the members of the church. There are good examples of brilliant work being done in Europe, as there is also room for improvement. There is a great future ahead if we focus more on what we can do for unity.” Ella Simmons underlined unity instead of uniformity as a sign of identity, emphasizing the importance of respecting the doctrines that identify our church.
To the interesting question on the strengths and weaknesses of the SDA church in Europe, she replied: “We must acknowledge that what we are and what we are doing make the difference.” She didn’t refer to any particular situation, but her invitation to avoid individualism, which can hardly create unity, was evident. She emphasized that it is important for members at all levels of the Adventist church to keep to the guidelines, avoiding excesses to one extreme or the other.
The last questions focused on her leadership as a woman as well as the proposal that arose in Atlanta to get youth and women more involved in church leadership at every level of the organization.
Ella Simmons responded that she feels very comfortable and well-accepted among all her colleagues, more for her competencies than because of gender. “We should be respected for what we are and not only for what we represent,” she underlined. “It is true, in Atlanta the message was clear, more youth and women in leadership. But God is calling all of us to take our responsibilities
according to competencies and possibilities.” Focusing on a leadership that includes more youth, Ella Simons pointed out the need for work at the local level: “Let the youth be more active in the church, taking on roles of responsibility. Church work is so important that we need the support of the youth. Of course, the youth need to be trained, coached in order to accomplish their tasks. Let them make mistakes,” continued Ella Simons, “and help them not by an authoritarian approach, but an authoritative one, accompanying them in taking their responsibility as church leaders.”
Ella Simmons is travelling with her husband Nord Simmons, a retired high school teacher. They are proud parents of two adult sons and happy grandparents of 2 grandchildren.