Ron Smith to Lead Southern Union, Succeeding Retiring Gordon Retzer
New president holds two doctorates; Retzer caps 43 years of service

BY MARK A. KELLNER,  News Editor
he 255,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the North American Division’s Southern Union have a new president: Ron C. Smith, until recently executive secretary, was elected Sept. 18, 2011 to succeed Gordon Retzer, who is retiring after 43 years of denominational service.

“Thank you for trusting us,” Smith told delegates, “and by God’s grace we want to be loyal, faithful, and committed to your charge.”

Reflecting on Smith’s election, Retzer said, "Ron Smith is a man of God who loves people and the Seventh-day Adventist church. He is a man of integrity and character and a gifted preacher. I have greatly enjoyed working closely with him and have no doubt that God will use him to lead the great Southern Union to new accomplishments through the power of the Holy Spirit."

The constituency session, chaired by North American Division President Dan Jackson, also elected Jim Davidson, president of the Carolina Conference, to serve as union executive secretary, and re-elected Randy Robinson treasurer; Dennis Millburn, undertreasurer; and Carlos Salazar, Association treasurer.

NEW LEADER: Dr. Ron C. Smith is the new president of the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, succeeding Gordon Retzer, right, who is retiring after 43 years of denominational service. [PHOTO: Southern Union]
Smith, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is a product of Christian education. His father was in the Seventh- day Adventist gospel ministry.

Smith is a graduate of Oakwood University, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology and Biblical Languages. He received his Master of Divinity degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in 1982.

He has earned two doctoral degrees. In 1985, the Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, New York, conferred the Doctor of Ministry degree upon him. In 1995, he graduated with a Ph.D. in Psychology from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena, California.

Smith has served in the Seventh-day Adventist ministry for 32 years, including work in the Northeastern and Southern California conferences. Among the various pastoral assignments he executed, he served as Senior Pastor of the Berean Church in Los Angeles, California, and the Ephesus Church in Harlem, New York.

Dr. Smith is a registered clinical psychologist and a marital and family therapist.

He served for eight years at the post of Vice President of the Review and Herald Publishing Association and Editor-in-Chief of Message magazine, the oldest Black missionary Christian lifestyle periodical in North America. He most recently served as Executive Secretary of the Southern Union for four years.

He has been married to Yolanda for 32 years. They have two children, Dawn and Ron II, who are also graduates of Oakwood University. Ron II has a M.Div. degree from Andrews University and is a pastor in the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s been an unusual privilege, really, for us to work with the officers of the Southern Union,” Retzer told the constituency session. “I want to thank you … for making the last eight years of our ministry so enjoyable and so fulfilling.”

Gordon Retzer was elected president of the Southern Union in 2003. He returned to the Southern Union after serving as president of the Lake Union Conference for three years.

Prior to going to the Lake Union he served as president of the Florida, Kansas-Nebraska, and Rocky Mountain Conferences. He has filled the role of executive secretary and ministerial director in the Rocky Mountain Conference, and Sabbath School and personal ministries director in the Iowa Conference. He also has been pastor in the Florida and Iowa conferences.

Earlier, Retzer was the manager of Adventist World Radio in Guam and then moved to the General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, serving as president of Adventist World Radio.

                                 -- with additional reporting by R. Steven Norman, III, Southern Union Communication Director

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