Celeste Ryan-Blyden

On November 11, 2021, the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee elected Celeste Ryan Blyden to serve as executive secretary. She is the first woman to fill the role in the union’s 114-year history.

Celeste  joined the union in  January 2002 as communication director and  Visitor  editor. In 2004, she was promoted to assistant  to the president  and added  Visitor  publisher  to her portfolio. In 2014, she was appointed to serve as vice president for Strategic Communication  and Public Relations, making history as the first female vice president of the Columbia Union. She was re-elected at constituency sessions in 2016, and again in May  2021. 

Though Celeste grew up in upstate New York attending Northeastern Conference’s Ellenville (N.Y.) church, she spent much of her life in the Columbia Union territory, attending Pennsylvania Conference’s Honesdale church, graduating from its Blue Mountain Academy in Hamburg, and, in 1993, earning a double major in Counseling Psychology and Journalism/Public Relations at Columbia Union College—now Washington Adventist University—in Takoma Park, Md. She later earned a master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Bowie State University (Md.). 

Upon graduating from college, she started serving as a volunteer at the North American Division (NAD), where she pitched the idea to publish a magazine for young adults called  Adventist View. For the next six years, she traveled throughout the NAD speaking and sharing the startup publication at youth events and college campuses. At its height, with distribution from AdventSource, circulation reached 25,000.

During that time, she was invited to work at the NAD as an administrative assistant, marketing coordinator, media relations manager and eventually as the division’s assistant director of communication, where she started helping church administrators with crisis communication efforts. Since 1999, she has helped churches, schools and organizations work through nearly 200 crisis situations.  

Among the many initiatives and achievements to her credit is her 2013 book, Crisis Boot Camp. She is also the editor and project coordinator of the 2020  Communication Handbook,  as well as project director and publisher of the Columbia Union’s 2021 Words of Life devotional book. She also co-created and produced an award-earning Hope Channel television program called Real Family Talk with Willie and Elaine Oliver for eight seasons.  

In 2017, she spearheaded the Adventist Women Leaders initiative with a luncheon for 15 women administrators from across North America. The group, led by a committee of women in ministry, has grown to 300 and is a supportive network, affirming the call and leadership of women around the world. 

Celeste, an ordained local church elder, is a frequent speaker at churches, schools and events. She’s been invited to speak and/or conduct trainings in Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the Middle East and many places across the United States, Canada and Bermuda. 

To deepen her ministry effectiveness, she enrolled in the master’s degree program in Pastoral Ministry at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University (Mich.), and she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in leadership.  

She is married to Austin, and they have two daughters—Larraina and Sarita.