Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

A Pastor's Pastor to Retire

Story by V. Michelle Bernard

Rob Vandeman, an administrator and pastor who has ministered for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost 50 years, has announced plans to step down at the end of the year from his role as the Columbia Union Conference executive secretary. Vandeman, who has served in his current position since 2011, plans to continue working at the Columbia Union in some capacity until the union’s constituency meeting in July 2021.

Vandeman began his pastoral ministry career in 1971 at a church in Denver. He joined the Columbia Union in 1984 as senior pastor of Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md.

Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, who welcomed Vandeman to his officer team in 2011, notes, “Rob is a champion for the grace of Christ and the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in so many ways. He was a pastor among us. ... His input, wise counsel and ready sense of humor will be missed by all who had the privilege of serving with him.”

With almost 50 years of experience, he’s become a resource on policy and church procedure.

“He’s just a wealth of knowledge, but yet he’s fair and will listen to [you],” says Shannon Kornick, HR specialist at the union, who has worked with Vandeman for four years.  He’ll guide you back to what the process is and this is how it’s done within the church.”

She also adds that his humor also can help lighten tense situations and help people open up.

Throughout his career, Vandeman has been dedicated to supporting high quality music. “I may not be musically inclined, but I do understand music’s amazing power to soften, sensitize and produce compas- sion and caring,” he wrote in the February 2015 Visitor editorial.

But Judy, his wife of 48 years, is musically inclined and plays a strong role in his ministry.

“It’s fun to listen to Rob talk about Judy,” says Rick Remmers, Chesapeake Conference president, sharing an anecdote Vandeman told him. “He would have churches ask him to preach and also ask if Judy could sing or play her harp. If she didn’t happen to be available along with him on a particular date, they would say let’s keep on looking for a date when Judy can come. He quickly realized there were places where, yes, they welcomed him, but they wanted her, and he was the bonus.”

In addition to his secretariat duties at the union, Vandeman served as chair of the board for WGTS 91.9, the union’s radio media ministry, as well as the union’s Human Resources director and Ministerial director.

“As Ministerial director, he really exemplified being a pastor’s pastor,” says Remmers. “He approached what he did with a pastor’s heart, and never lost that sense of care for those around him. He carried that pastoral concern for others into his administration roles.”

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