Maurice T. Battle, retired longtime Seventh-day Adventist Church
administrator and the first African American to serve as an associate
secretary at world church headquarters, died at his home in Ellicott
City, Maryland, on February 23, 2010. He was 82.
During denominational service spanning more than 50 years, Battle served
as a pastor and administrator. Beginning in 1948 with pastoral work in
the church's South Atlantic Conference, his career later led to posts in
West Africa and England before beginning service at world church
headquarters in 1970.
Maurice T. Battle's decades of denominational service led to his
election in 1978 as the world church's first African American associate
secretary. Colleagues remember Battle as a skilled bridge builder among
people, supplying a voice of reason amid conflict and fostering positive
relationships despite previous distrust. "Promoting friendly, stable
relations among groups of people is probably one of his biggest
contributions to the church," said Bert B. Beach, former director of the
Adventist world church's department of Public Affairs and Religious
Battle was instrumental in the Adventist Church's efforts to dismantle
Apartheid in South Africa, said Beach, who first met Battle when the two
were serving the church in West Africa.
Born in 1927 in Oberlin, Ohio, Battle developed a love of reading -
especially biographies - travel, gardening and stamp collecting. In
1948, he married Esther R. Coleman and earned a bachelor's degree in
theology from then Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama.
Battle later received an honorary doctoral degree from Union Theological
Seminary, an independent graduate school of theology in New York, in
recognition of his "outstanding contribution" to both his denomination
and the community.
Battle spent a decade helping to strengthen the church in West Africa.
He served as Adventist Church president first in Liberia and later in
Sierra Leone. During his years in Ghana, Battle acted as regional
secretary and also oversaw several departments, including Sabbath
School, Lay Activities and Public Relations.
Battle first served the world church as associate secretary for the Lay
Activities - now Personal Ministries - department, beginning in 1970.
When elected as an associate secretary of the Adventist world church in
1978, Battle became the first African American to hold that position.
Adventist World church President Jan Paulsen said he was "saddened" to
learn of Battle's death today. "[Maurice] was a friend and a highly
valued colleague of mine for many years, going back to Africa," said
Paulsen, who served as a missionary in Ghana while Battle was employed
there. Paulsen also recalled that Battle acted as one of the officiating
ministers at his ordination service.
Battle is survived by his wife, Esther, and four children.
-Elizabeth Lechleitner, "Former Adventist World Church Associate Secretary Dies at 82," Adventist News Network, February 24, 2010