The 2021 Spring Meeting of the General Conference (GC) Executive Committee recently took place on April 13–14. The session was conducted virtually to adapt to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Two pivotal elections transpired Wednesday morning: Paul Douglas, MBA CPA, will become the new GC Treasurer (effective August 1), replacing Juan Rafael Prestol-Puesán; Erton Köhler will become the new GC Secretary (effective immediately), replacing G.T. Ng.
Douglas, currently the Director for the General Conference Auditing Service, has cultivated an extensive pedigree in financial administration and denominational service. He became an assistant auditor for the GC in 1986, then stepped up to a full-fledged role two years later. He continued climbing the ranks, ultimately becoming GCAS Director in 2006.
Douglas realized and embraced his niche for accounting as a youth in Jamaica. He focused his studies and interest on science, with the intent to go into medical school, yet hit a period of indecision upon graduating and transitioning to college. An educator-mentor recommended Douglas give bookkeeping a try, and the immediate success he experienced swung the door wide open to what has become an impressive career, with no turning back.
After his election Douglas expressed his honor and gratitude to the Church, and thanked Prestol-Puesán for his leadership. He also stated how deeply humbled he was by his new role. “I’m not worthy, but I’m willing. I’m willing to serve in this capacity—serve God and serve you, this church—as we blend together… the matter of stewardship and evangelism,” said Douglas. “I believe we are in the closing chapters, if not closing paragraphs, or earth’s history, and we now need to redouble our efforts and navigate these very difficult and challenging times.”
Köhler, a native of Caxias do Sul, Brazil, sought, from childhood, to follow his father’s footsteps into full-time ministry for the Adventist Church. He completed his bachelor’s degree in theology in 1989 at Brazil Adventist University (Adventist Institute of Education at the time). Months later, he began serving as a district pastor for the Sao Paulo Conference.
In 1994, Köhler phased into administration, filling youth ministry directorship roles for the Rio Grande do Sul Conference, Northwest Brazil Union Mission, and South American Division for various, four-year periods, with a brief stint as the Executive Secretary for Rio Grande do Sul in between. He has been the President of the South American Division since 2007, continuing his education to the tune of a Master of Theology degree from BAU and a Doctor of Theology degree from Peruvian Adventist University.
During his remarks Köhler expressed his gratitude to the GC nominating committee, General Conference President, Ted N.C. Wilson and Ng for the confidence they placed in him.
“I believe, friends, that God leads everything. I believe that God leads the church,” said Köhler. I believe in God’s leadership using human beings and I believe that God leads my life; God leads my family; and God leads my ministry also.… my only answer now needs to be, “I will go!”
Wilson conveyed ringing endorsements of both candidates during the course of Wednesday morning’s voting session. “[Köhler] is a very professional person; a very mission-focused person; a very skilled administrator,” said Wilson. “He is a visionary. He has a world vision.”
After Douglas’s election, Wilson spoke of his confidence in him and his work in GCAS. “[Douglas] has distinguished himself in so many ways, including a very high caliber of ethics… Christian ethics. He is someone who is always striving for the best,” said Wilson.
“He has a very highly professional approach to his work. He has the highest ethical standards,” continued Wilson. “ He understands policy extensively. Obviously, because of his work within auditing, he knows treasury function. He has a very keen intellect. He’s very mission focused.”