Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Sidebar: New Allegheny East President Comes Full Circle

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

When the delegates to Allegheny East Conference’s Fourth Quadrennial Constituency Session elected Henry Fordham president Sunday morning, he told them he had come full circle. “In my family we had 27 ministers, two union presidents, six conference presidents and several teachers,” he announced. “God has enabled me to join this group of servant leaders.”

Fordham’s uncle John Wagner Sr. was the first president of Allegheny East Conference, which was established in 1945, and his grandfather was caretaker of the grounds. He spent summers there, attended the conference’s Pine Forge Academy and even taught there for two years.

“To think that as a child he played on the grounds at the conference headquarters and, all these years later, God chose him to be the president,” said his wife, Sharon, watching him speak to the delegates after his election. “It’s an honor that the Lord chose him to lead this great conference in these last days.”

Henry, a welder by trade, accepted God’s call to ministry when their children were small. The youngest was just 5-months-old when they moved to Huntsville, Ala., to attend Oakwood College (now Oakwood University).

The couple, who now have 10 grandchildren, has spent 34 years in ministry, all of it in Allegheny East Conference. Henry was a teacher, pastor, interim pastor at churches throughout the conference’s seven-state territory and executive secretary for the last 12 years. Sharon recently retired after 26 years working for the Social Security Administration.

“I am glad to pass the mantel on to Elder Fordham,” said his predecessor Charles Cheatham, handing over his gavel. “As president, you will chair a lot of meetings. When you want the people to hear you, tap it. When you want God to hear you, pray,” he advised.

Fordham is known for preaching, evangelism, traveling to India and Africa, being a devoted family man and an avid photographer. He’s also a teacher. He once turned up to preach at an AEC church dressed as a homeless man to see how the congregation would treat him. As he peeled off the layers to reveal his person, members were shocked and humbled.

On Sunday, as he watched the constituency proceedings from his perch on stage and waited to take over his new role, Fordham was also humbled.

“I may not be a perfect president,” he said concluding his charge to delegates, “but I will be a praying president.”

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