Editorial: What Might Be

As the clock ticks down on the current term for church officers elected at the 2010 General Conference Session, announcements of impending retirements are being shared and speculation about who will fill the vacant slots whispered in the hallways. The nominating committee that will be convened at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio will be given the task of filling those slots in very quick fashion. So the Adventist grapevine is abuzz about various scenarios of who is out and who is in. Will there be surprises?

Part of the drama surrounding these Adventist elections comes from the fact that no one really knows who will serve on the nominating committee. None of the elected officials at the General Conference are eligible. That means the vice presidents, department directors and assistant department directors sit out the process and wait to hear their fate. Even so, the General Conference Building is ground central in the rumor department, since it is where the official plans for the session are organized.

But it is the delegates from each Division that will caucus on Thursday to choose their region’s designated number of nominating committee members. Union conference presidents generally predominate, but the committee will have over 200 members—10% of the total number of delegates—so others will also be named to serve. Those chosen will pick the chair of the committee, and the work of selecting individuals for over 120 positions will begin on Friday. Under other circumstances, this process might take many weeks or months, but the expectation is for the committee to complete its work in one week. Nominating a president will be the first order of business, and there will be an expectation that a name will be taken to all the voting delegates at the session by the first Friday afternoon, July 3.

Once the president has been elected he will meet with the nominating committee and his wishes will be the starting point as the slate of vice presidents, department directors and their assistants are chosen. This is where church elections get very personal, dramatic and seemingly political.

For instance, the board chairs of all General Conference Institutions are GC vice presidents. So at Andrews University and Loma Linda University there is great interest over who is in and who is out as a general vice president. According to several sources, of the nine vp’s, three have announced their retirement: Benjamin Schoun, Michael Ryan, and Armando Miranda. Three are sure to return: Delbert Baker, Geoffrey Mbwana, and Artur Stele. And the fate of three is unknown and much speculated about: Pardon Mwansa, Ella Simmons, and Lowell Cooper.

Last fall at Annual Council and again this spring, GC Secretary G. T. Ng recommended that all elected GC employees pack up their offices before heading to San Antonio. He is requiring those elected officials that work under him in the Secretariat do so.

All of this brings to mind the video that ended the Spring Meetings—“What Might Have Been.” The vision of Ellen G. White on which the video is based, historians tell us, was really about abuse of power or “kingly power” and the struggle in 1901 between the GC President and John Harvey Kellogg which did not get resolved at the 1901 session, but continued for a couple more years. What did get done at the 1901 GC session was an amazing reorganization of the church structure with a diffusion of power through newly created union conferences. No one was more surprised by this than Ellen White.

She wrote: “I was never more astonished in my life than at the turn things have taken at this meeting. This is not our work. God has brought it about. Instruction regarding this was presented to me, but until the sum was worked out at this meeting, I could not comprehend this instruction. God’s angels have been walking up and down the aisles in this congregation. I want every one of you to remember this, and I want you to remember also that God has said that He will heal the wounds of His people" {5BIO 110.2}.

The creation of union conferences was the surprise of 1901. Practically every session has at least one surprise of some kind, whether it is a surprise election like in 2005 when Ella Simmons was elected the first female vice president of the church, or the vote in 1995 at Utrecht for women to serve as pastoral associates and perform the majority of the duties of a church pastor, in spite of the fact that at the same session the request by the North American Division to be able to ordain women did not pass.

Mrs. White’s words are worth remembering on the Road to San Antonio. God will heal the wounds of His people. The call for prayer in these days leading up to the meeting is a worthy one. Who knows what the Holy Spirit will do in San Antonio?

General Conference session always holds surprises.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6772

Only ONE person is nominated for the presidency? If a name, singular, is taken to the delegates, what does such a vote mean if only one person is nominated? Or did I misunderstand?

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You did not misunderstand. There is never any more than one name presented to the delegates for their approval or disapproval. Only in the very rare occasion when the delegates have voted “no” to the name presented does the request go back to the nominating committee for a different name.

This is why many of us consider that the delegates really have no “vote” at all, but are merely there to rubber stamp what has already been decided by those relatively few who are on the nominating committee.

If I understand what Bonnie said correctly, it means that the committee that is meeting now is the one who will decide who is on the nominating committee… for how else could they have a name ready to present to the Session by the first Thursday. And it sounds like that committee will meet to do this initial business at least, even before the Session itself begins. And when would that be possible if not now?

But I could be wrong.

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I would pray that ALL elected officials earnestly seek to resume their call: [quote]Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.[/quote] While I have cited the KJV which distinguishes teaching as the perquisite, the Greek - μαθητεύσατε, mathēteusate - and most translations not subservient to the 17th C. interpolation, recognise God’s injunction as ‘to make disciples’. This is not about making mere believers of Jesus and the truths He espoused, but to make followers of the Lamb, as intoned by John, wherever He goes, thereby making a cognisant display of the immaculate love of God. One does not make disciples, followers, from afar, unless it be as a personality cult (which, if the Dalai Lama be understood, is the greatest negative, that adulation of his position denies the possibility of exonerating and living out the Truth to which he merely points). Revealing how one follows Christ is an on-the-ground, moment-by-moment proposition. It is understandable that it may gruelling to undergo that constant hypervigilant inspection of one’s every word and and action. Yet, I submit that when we have counted the cost of the Lord’s discipleship, which He clearly admonished us to do BEFORE admitting to it, then we can be assured that our labours in His behalf will be by the direction of His Spirit, and our dispassionate love for God’s chosen will overcome a multitude of short-comings. This is the ambition of each and every one of disciples of Christ. And it is their prayer that God be made accessible in His revelation in their lives.

I believe Pastor Ng has it right, that God’s Anointed Shepherds will avoid re-election to be workers in His vineyard.

Trust The Being.


this is the first general conference i’m making an effort to really follow, and it sounds to me like it’s one of the most suspense-filled sessions ever…i still haven’t ruled out being there for the closing wknd…

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Hi Jeremy,

If it wasnt for joining the dialogue here at Spectrum I probably wouldn’t even know about the GC session. I asked some Adventist friends last week actually, and they had no idea that there was even to be one this year; or do Adventists make a bigger thing of this in the U.S than other counties?


Do North American Adventists make a bigger thing of General Conference Sessions and their outcomes than in other countries?
Great Question.

Is a partial answer to your question related to how the North American Division and the Offices of the General Conferences seem to be Inter-Twined, and in some ways seem difficult to separate them both.
Other Divisions, being further away geographically, may have a sense of more separatist and a more sense of Identity and Independence of organization and local control. Perhaps seeing the General Conference located in Silver Springs, MD more as a Consulting Service rather than a controlling entity like it seems to be with the North American Division.

Discussion on Spectrum the past few months indicates that the NA Division is moving offices to a new location. Perhaps this distancing will allow for a greater sense of using the General Conference more as a Consulting Service rather than a controlling entity like it seems to be now. Perhaps the NA Division will gain a sense of its Own Identity over time, which to some degree it has Never had.


I’m looking around my office thinking it could use a good cleaning out every four years. But seriously, in the slow world of the church, this election processes seems rushed and would likely favor the incumbents. President Wilson might be renominated before some members of the Nominating Committee have found the appointed room. Much prayer is needed before the meetings because once the process starts its a race to the finish.


Thanks Steve, that really helped me see things a little clearer. And will be interesting to see if this plays out as you have illustrated.

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From my perspective, who the president is/will be, WO, LGBT, LGT, EGW, SOP,racial tension issues will make little difference to churches at the local level. It really only matters to the small crowd of SDA agitators and those who deal with them. Those of us in manufacturing industry, who are involved and knowledgeable about quality control, know what is the chief problem is in the denomination. So many think the main issue is connected to the top leader ;ie-Ted Wilson.
The person who is really the key individual related to the chief problem is Jerry Page. I am not saying he is the problem person. I am stating that he is the key person to deal with the chief problem.
What will be a great challenge is keeping anyone with insight from trying to shove new wine into old wineskins.

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probably…everything is over-the-top in the u.s…it isn’t a church thing…


if I understand correctly Jerry Page is head of the ministerial department and as such has a strong hand in the fate of ministerial credentials. thus a potential chief of any inquisition. What interests me is the President of Andrews, which is a General Conference institution. the Seminary has not been a strong supporter of PRESIDENT Wilson. what is the relationship between the seminary and the university? I think the current administration of Andrews is the best in years and years.
Tom Z


Mostly what it will mean is that the staff of both institutions will grow. Staff expands to fill the space available. Watch for the budgets of both institutions to increase in the next decade, even as NAD congregations close at a record rate.


You’ll have to explain to me how Jerry Page is the key person in deciding what happens at the GC session.


Doesn’t matter if you’re there, as long as the people who carry water for you are there. And though I think it falls short of a conspiracy, I am quite certain that there is influence being exerted to make sure the right people—that is, those who will support what church leaders want—are going to be on that committee.

What might be? I don’t expect any surprises of the magnitude that Pope Francis was to the RC church. Do you?


You know, it seems to me the call for prayer is used more as an indication that a problem is pretty big or complicated; or as in this case, rigged, rather than an actual call for prayer. Would someone explain, what we expect as an answer to this kind of “prayer”? We will all be dumbfounded if the unexpected happens, especially if the words, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” would appear on the big screen - (I assume there’s going to be a big screen). :worried:


Is this the way it has always been done? This is really sad that such a “voting” for the President is really no vote at all but merely a name presented by a select few that determines the future leader for 4-6 years (can’t remember the time). The same method use for appointing dictators. We get what we allow. There should be a demand for change to a democratic plan for presenting several names and majority votes win.

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The General Conference Session, I think, is primarily of interest to Denominational workers in the conference/union/division structures, and to a lesser extent, their subsidiary institutions. Most SDA members may not even be aware that a Session will be held. The Officers of the General Conference are for the most part unknown to the laity. The issues which may dominate the next Session - women’s ordination, and recent literal six day creation, are unlikely to have been addressed in the local churches.
I may be wrong, but it is my belief that the sitting of the General Conference in Session is of no more interest to regular SDA members around the world, than the sitting of the Parlement français. The question is how can we may it less so.


What kind of suspense when only one name is nominated for the head leader?


Warren said: “Much prayer is needed before the meetings because once the process starts its a race to the finish.”

The Common Prayer [about you, hurts, needs, perspectives]. Many times these types of prayer is to help with Already Determined Solutions.
God’s Better Role – To help to know What I and We really desire.
It comes down to getting it right. WHO is praying?
God, or
Why? Do we want a certain person for a certain position? Because they will meet a certain need? Or, it is their “time”?
How much discerning is done prior to GC sessions? Seems like it would take at least a year. And candidateS would be interviewed and present proposals.
Just my thoughts as I have seen how some other Denominations work for selecting the Top Officials.