Adventist Church Appoints New "Voice in Washington"

Newly appointed legislative director inspired by activism of early church

Veteran attorney and business leader Dwayne Leslie will be the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s voice in Washington, D.C., following a vote taken February 8 by the church’s executive committee. As associate director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) and director of legislative affairs, Leslie will represent the world church and its concerns on Capitol Hill, at the White House, and among Washington’s diplomatic community.

Dr. Delbert Baker, a vice president of the world church and advisor to PARL, calls Leslie’s appointment a “decisive step” toward strengthening the church’s presence and impact in the public sphere. “This is a key position,” he says. “Mr. Leslie will have the opportunity to amplify the church’s voice on issues that are central to our mission.”

Leslie’s career has spanned both the corporate and legal worlds. He has focused on legislative and healthcare issues, and represented a diverse range of clients, from biotech companies to media organizations.

Leslie says he will draw inspiration in his new role from the activism of the early Adventist Church which, in spite of its small size, so often projected its voice into the public sphere on issues of temperance, freedom of conscience and human rights. “Today, we still have so much to contribute to the public discourse—on health, education, and issues of justice and conscience,” he says. “But how can we speak if we don’t have a seat at the table?”

“The story of Adventism will be told—but the question is: Will we choose to tell it ourselves? Or will we allow others to define our church and its agenda for us?”

Dr. John Graz, director of PARL for the world church, says that Leslie brings an extraordinary range of experience and abilities to his new role. “But more than this,” says Graz, “he brings a strong desire to serve his church and to advocate on its behalf. We’re delighted to welcome him to our team.”

Leslie sees the move as a natural progression in his career, which he says has long been driven by a desire to “give back” to his community and to his church. “I grew up in a wonderful Christian home,” he says. “My parents were both Adventist educators, and they taught me to always ask: ‘Does what I’m doing help people? Does it give back to others from the gifts I’ve enjoyed?’”

After studying economics and political science at Andrews University, Leslie went on to earn a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He began his legal career at the international law firm of Jones Day before moving to Mintz Levin, where his practice focused on healthcare and pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients. Most recently, he has served as CEO of Phase V Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company that develops new formulations for drugs used to treat central nervous system injury.

Leslie pays tribute to attorney James Standish, his predecessor as the church’s legislative point person on Capitol Hill. One of his first goals, says Leslie, will be to “expand the relationships that James has established, and to build on the great job he’s done in representing the church.”

When asked what prompted him to accept the position, Leslie says he believes the Adventist Church has a unique mission, “to defend religious freedom, to be an advocate for justice, to be a voice for the voiceless.”

“If I, even in a small way, can speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves—that’s what really inspires me,” he says.