Elder Roscoe J. Howard III, former Mid-America Union Conference president and North American Division executive secretary, passed to his rest in Apopka, Florida, on Jan. 21, 2019, after a struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Howard was working as vice president for Missions for Adventist Health System (now AdventHealth) when, in 2015, he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. He was 64.

A life shaped by education

Howard  attended Auburn Academy in Washington, followed by Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, and Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama. He also earned a master’s of divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and a doctorate of ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

Ministering far and near

Howard began his ministry as the pastor of a two-church district in Oak Harbor, Washington. At that time (40 years ago) an African-American pastoring two Caucasian congregations was unheard of.

Howard was later called to pastor the largest African-American congregation in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald City Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Seattle, Washington. Then the North Pacific Union Conference called him to the union to serve as the youth director and vice president of Regional Affairs. As Howard served on various committees around the division, his many gifts became apparent and ministerial assignments took him and his family from coast to coast.

The Mid-America Union called Howard to serve as executive secretary of its territory in January 1998. As Howard continued to develop his administrative skills, the NAD asked him to serve as executive secretary for the division. After Howard worked in this capacity for several years, the Mid-America Union Executive Committee took a surprising step in 2008 and asked him to return to its field to serve as president. Howard accepted.

In 2010 Howard was invited join the Adventist health system headquartered  in Orlando, Florida, as vice president for Spiritual Wellness, a role he served in until struck with ALS.

“Roscoe Howard has served our church in numerous capacities and been a blessing to many, no matter where he was called to minister,” said Mid-America Union Conference president Gary Thurber. “He and I were interns together in the Washington Conference back in the 1980s. Throughout his ministry, he was a wonderful friend and mentor to me. I, and so many others, will miss him greatly. All of the Mid-America Union family pray for his gracious wife, Osceola, and their children, Heather and Seth, during this tender time.”

Elder Gil Webb, vice president for administration of the Mid-America Union Conference, currently occupies the office Elder Howard worked in 21 years ago when he was voted to serve as executive secretary for MAUC. “I’ll remember Roscoe as he sought to live out his life guided by the theme Selfless Service for the Savior,” said Webb. “Under that theme, Roscoe sought to break down barriers and build up people.Roscoe brought with him high energy, wisdom and commitment.  He could converse on a variety of subjects always inserting a word or two in the dialogue causing you to go search out its meaning.”    

A memorial service was held on Feb. 10 at the Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida. Donations honoring Howard’s life may be sent to the Oakwood University Alumni Association Greater Orlando Chapter at 3653 Rochelle Lane, Apopka, Florida 32712.

Brenda Dickerson, with additional reporting by the NAD Office of Communication