An Open Letter to Pastor Ted Wilson
Dear Elder Wilson:
I have heard that you will be going to India in June of 2019—not your first trip to India as a president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church.
About 30 years ago, I saw your father when he visited India while he was the president of the General Conference. I saw with my own eyes how the Indian Seventh-day Adventist leaders then “worshiped” your father.” I was part of the group that lavished a royal welcome on him, as if he were a king. At that time, I thought your father was a demigod, not a human being.
I know during your upcoming trip to India, you are going to be treated just as we treated your father 30 years ago. They will make you feel like a king. The Indian church leaders will spend lavishly to impress you—perhaps partially to try to cleanse away their own sin of corruption.
I think you understand what I am talking about. You have experienced what I have described here during your previous visits. Some officers in the Southern Asia Division office told me how you enjoy that type of adulation. Here are some pictures of you and your wife riding in a gold chariot and a silver chariot.
Why do you need such a huge garland? They offer you a garland and shawl at every place you visit. Isn’t one enough, the first time you arrive in India? How many should they buy before you call this a pure waste of money?
Please go and visit the rural India to know what is true India. This convoy of vehicles, chariots and garlands are not their way of life. They do physical labor all day to earn 2 or 3 dollars a day, which is spent on you in a blink of an eye.
Perhaps you are looking forward to all the pampering, adulation and sense of royalty that will be showered on you in India. If you did not, you would have already refused this utter wasteful spending of the sacred tithes and offering. When I wrote a letter to your office regarding this, your office responded that it is important to respect proper protocol and hospitality when welcoming a guest or leader. You added that the Southern Asia Division officers will make sure that an appropriate but not extravagant welcoming reception takes, if deemed necessary.
I am writing this open letter to challenge you. I challenge you to travel like a common man, not in a convoy of vehicles and chariots. I challenge you to stop using protocol and local culture as an excuse. I challenge you not to accept any of the planned lavish welcomes with garlands of flowers, chariots, and adulation. The money spent on welcoming you is coming from the offerings and tithes of poor farmers and laborers from all around India. I hope you know how much they suffer and how hard they work to give this offering. They are not giving so that you and Indian Seventh-day Adventist leaders live and spend in a lavish way.
It is time for you to be a role model of humility, to exemplify God’s character. Are you ready to accept my challenge? Are you ready to cleanse the Indian Seventh-day Adventist of leaders who have normalized this corruption? Are you ready to be humble and lead from the front by setting an example of what a leader should be?
A leader should not be revered like a demigod. These same Indian Seventh-day Adventist leaders demand the people who work under them also revere them like demigods. A leader should be a servant first.
Just remember, when you are riding in a gold-plated chariot, how many in the Indian Seventh-day Adventist Church are suffering for their next meal.
Let me tell you a personal story. I work for a bank in the United States. A few years ago, when I was a new employee at the bank, my manager took me to the office of the CEO and introduced me to the CEO of the bank. The CEO looked at me and said, “What can I do to help you succeed? I am here to serve you.” I was surprised and touched by this. He was exemplifying what a servant leader is. I have tremendous respect for this man.
I hope you understand the moral of this story. As the CEO of the church, you are there to serve others and help others succeed, not to be revered or treated as if you are a king. Maybe that was not your intention, but that is the perception many have. Unfortunately, in the Indian Adventist Church, the leaders, like you, have become demigods to the poor laymen and low-rung workers. The common people in the Adventist church in India have to “worship” the Indian Seventh-day Adventist leadership, just like they “worship” you.
I hope you will accept my challenge to be a servant leader, and will cleanse this evil of hero-worshiping from the church, particularly in the Southern Asia Division. Leaders are here to serve, and that should be our motto. I hope you will change your plans and behave like a common man during your trip to India, and demand the same from the Indian Adventist leaders.
Perhaps this open letter will be ignored by you and the Indian Seventh-day Adventist leaders. But I wrote it to raise my voice in the hope that few good people will join me in this crusade against the wasteful spending, oppression of the voiceless, and institutional corruption that has become so normalized within the Southern Asia Division.
A Crusader in Christ,