ORLANDO, Florida — For the first time in its 107-year history, women and ethnic minorities now make up the majority of the Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God.
Starting this fall, white men will comprise 10 members of the 21-member Executive Presbytery. The EP, which serves as the board of directors for the AG, will have a record number of women — four — as well as the most African Americans ever, also four. Three Hispanic men round out the body (two of the women are also Hispanic).
A recent study found that women and ethnic minorities make up only 38% of the directors on boards of Fortune 500 companies. The EP now stands at 52%.
District councils nominate candidates for the majority of nonresident executive presbyter positions. A nominee must capture a two-thirds majority to be elected.
The change on the EP aligns with the Fellowship’s desire to increase its diverstiy. In his 2021 General Superintendent’s report, Doug Clay shared the goal of having 15,000 U.S. AG churches, 40,000 ministers, and 50% ethnic minority in adherents in the next five years.
Maricela H. Hernandez won election as West Spanish language area representative, outpolling incumbent Daniel “Danny” de León on the third ballot, capturing 85.3% of the total. Nine candidates vied for the office.
She is the first woman elected as an EP representing a geographic region.
Hernandez is founder and program director of Flames of Fires Ministries in Peñitas, Texas. With her husband, Rafael, Hernandez is co-pastor of Family Christian Assembly in Peñitas. Earlier this week, she won a Church Planting Award from the AG’s Church Multiplication Network.
For years, Hernandez has been involved in ministry to Hispanics along the U.S.-Mexico border. She also is secretary/treasurer of the Texas Gulf Hispanic District.
General Superintendent Doug Clay thanked de León for his past four years as an EP. Since 1976, de León has been pastor of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, California, a church that has established over 90 satellite congregations in the U.S. and in Latin America.
SoCal Network Superintendent Rich M. Guerra is one of the new Latinos on the executive presbytery, elected on the third ballot with 72.8% in a field of nine contenders for Southwest area representative. Incumbent T. Ray Rachels, Southwest Area EP since 2011, couldn’t seek reelection to another four-year term because candidates are limited to serving 12 consecutive years.
From the stage after the vote, Guerra — who noted that his grandparents immigrated from Mexico — thanked his mentor Rachels, whom he followed as SoCal Network superintendent in 2010.
The largest number of candidates, 13, vied for an open seat as Ethnic Fellowship representative to succeed John E. Maracle, prohibited from running again because of term limits. Maracle, a minister for 48 years, has the current longest tenure on the Executive Presbytery, serving since 2007 as representative for the two dozen Ethnic Fellowship groups.
Delegates tabbed Walter F. Harvey to succeed Maracle, electing him on the third ballot with 85.6% of the vote. Harvey lauded Maracle for being a tremendous example of humility, dedication, and service who strives for ethnic diversity, inclusivity, and reconciliation. In 2018, Harvey became president of the AG’s National Black Fellowship. During his tenure, the NBF has forged a partnership with SUM Bible College & Theological Seminary.
Since retiring last year after pastoring Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee for 28 years, Harvey has been focusing on his role as CEO of Prism Economic Development Corporation.
Maracle, originally from the New York-based Mohawk people, is the first Native American representative on the Executive Presbytery. Now living in Tempe, Arizona, Maracle also is wrapping up 21 years as president of the AG’s Native American Fellowship. Maracle will continue serving as a U.S. missionary representative for Native American ministries.
Manuel “Manny” A. Alvarez, superintendent of the Spanish Eastern District, won his EP first election, gaining 72.5% of the vote on the second ballot among nine contenders. Last year, the General Presbytery appointed Álvarez to fill a vacancy created by the elevation of Executive Presbyter Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús to AG national general treasurer in 2019.
Delegates reelected Bill E. Wilson as Northwest area EP representative for a second four-year term. He won on the third ballot in a field of 11 candidates, taking 86% of the vote. Wilson has been superintendent of the AG’s Oregon Ministry Network for 14 years. He previously led Portland Christian Center for two decades. Wilson told delegates he thinks the Northwest will turn from a region of riots to revival.
Rob Ketterling, who first came into office in 2017, won a new term as North Central area EP. Ketterling won on the third ballot in a field of a dozen candidates with 77% of the vote. In 1995, he founded River Valley Church, which grew into a megachurch on 10 campuses around the Minneapolis/St. Paul region.
Terry L. Yancey, who also came to the EP in 2017, as South Central area representative, won a second term. He returned to office on the third ballot with 76% of the tallies among 12 candidates. He is superintendent of the Kansas Ministry Network. In a poignant story from the stage, Yancey recalled how his 84-year-old mother struggling with Alzheimer’s disease recently repeatedly talked about how the Lord called her son into ministry.
Two elections involved EP slates recommended by the General Presbytery, the 360-member body made up of representatives from the 67 AG districts and networks. It is the top rule-making body when General Council — which meets biennially — isn’t in session. GPs recommended a slate of four candidates for each of the under-40 and African American EP representative, who both needed a two-thirds majority to be elected.
Melissa J. Alfaro, 39, won a second four-year term as ordained under 40 minister representative on the EP, with 83.4% of the vote on the third ballot. Along with her husband, Jay, she serves as senior pastor of El Tabernaculo in Houston. Alfaro spoke at the Hispanic Centennial Celebration in Houston in 2018 as well as at General Council in Orlando in 2019.
Alfaro, in a speech from the stage, thanked other EP members for simultaneously mentoring her while making room for her to grow in leadership.She recounted how, after 15 years of infertility, she has given birth to two children since her EP term began. She suggested God can prove most fruitful in times of silence. While many now see the Church as being in a season of barrenness due to COVID-19, Alfaro said it’s the best time to prepare for making room for younger leaders.
Delegates returned Samuel M. Huddleston to the EP, with a second ballot majority of 81.7%. He became the first representative of the newly created ordained African-American minister EP post in 2017. Huddleston is assistant superintendent of the AG’s Northern California-Nevada District.
Bottom Photo: (L to R) Rich Guerra, Maricela Hernandez, Walter Harvey