Confidence was again placed in Pastor Leonard A. Johnson to serve the world church as the Bahamian was re-elected to serve a second five-year quinquennium (term) as executive secretary of the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists at the church’s recent 61st General Conference Session.
He is the first Bahamian to hold the office and is the first person from one of the English-speaking unions of the Inter-American Division of the Adventist Church.
As executive secretary, Johnson sits as the second officer of the Inter-American Division overseeing 24 unions in 42 countries. Additionally, there are 156 local fields with a membership of 3.7 million people.
“I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to continue serving my church at this regional level,” said Johnson, who is based in Florida. “It is not automatic that one is given a second term as the delegates in a church [election] session can determine whether they will continue to have you serve or assign you elsewhere. The fact that I was elected speaks to the favor of God, and the execution of my responsibilities as the executive secretary in the Inter-American Division.”
Johnson has responsibilities primarily for church membership records, employee service records and policies. He is one of three administrators of the organization, who carry the responsibility of sitting on numerous boards of the church and its institutions such as universities, publishing houses, health system, and food companies. He also chairs a few of the boards.
His office also comes with travel that takes him across the Caribbean, Central America, the northern tip of South America and Mexico.
Johnson was first elected in 2018 during the year end committee of the Executive Committee of the General Conference. During his initial term, he worked with his departmental team to maintain and improve their church’s membership records. They also continued with the digitization of membership records. Of the 24 church unions, he said, there is just one more that needs to be digitized.
Additionally, he is responsible for policies and their interpretation.
“We have done much in terms of editing and providing a better understanding of the same through on-hand training.”
According to Johnson, another area in which they have made progress is the retirement plan of the church which is shared between his office and their church’s treasury.
“Building on the work of my predecessor Pastor Elie Henry [now president], the online system is becoming more user-friendly and convenient.”
Returned to office during the June 6-11 General Conference Session held in St. Louis, Missouri, Johnson said he and his team head into the new term continuing the work of the last term.
He is also hoping to master the Spanish language, which he said will aid him in communicating with the majority of the members. He takes Spanish lessons twice a week.
“I am currently reading more than I speak – even though I have preached in Spanish a few times online and in person in Colombia, Panama and Miami.”
Like most Bahamians, Johnson studied a foreign language at the high school level, which, for him, was Spanish, but he said he did not pay attention as he should have.
From the time that he started his journey in 1981, as a young intern/pastor, Johnson said he committed himself to serving with quality and excellence and going the extra mile. And since assuming his current position from 2018, he has brought the same disposition to the office.
He is also a proud Bahamian in his role.
“The other day, while watching the NBA finals, when the Golden State Warriors won, and hearing Klay Thompson talk about The Bahamas while draped in a Bahamian flag, I felt so proud. Then, I thought of those of us from a small island nation making significant contributions throughout the world. I remarked that the smallness of our country does not determine the significance or greatness of our contribution as a people. I am a proud Bahamian and wherever I travel throughout the world, I promote my country.”
He said it may surprise some people that he still reads the local newspapers and listens to the news online as much as he can.
“I keep in touch with my heritage. All said and done, I praise God for His goodness upon The Bahamas,” said Johnson.
Johnson previously served the church in The Bahamas as a pastor, departmental director, executive secretary and president of the then-Bahamas Conference and, later, the Atlantic Caribbean Union (based in New Providence).
Johnson holds a doctorate degree in ministry from the Reformed Theological Seminary with more than 40 years of denominational service in the Inter-American Division territory.
Johnson, in 2016, while serving as president of the Adventist Church in The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, was also awarded the Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) medal – an award granted to people of high office, or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country. He was the first Seventh-day Adventist minister to receive the CMG medal in The Bahamas.