In Defense of the GC Session

I have heard from a number of people, including pastors, that they feel General Conference is a waste of resources. "It's thousands of dollars spent on OURSELVES. Couldn't that money have been better spent doing REAL ministry instead of being internally focused?" To me, these complaints sound familiar. In John 12, Judas complained of the wastefulness of resources devoted to anointing Christ's feet. He couldn't see the value (or so he said). Obviously I'm not saying that those who criticize the use of funds for GC are modern day Judases. Yet, an apt comparison can be made: we are often hard pressed to see the importance of things beyond our own priorities. However, unlike Judas, (whose motives were less than pure) I believe those church members who critique GC actually have good intentions. They just genuinely underestimate the worth of this quinquennial gathering.

The multi-pronged approach to effective church ministry is nothing new. But despite cognitively understanding that fellowship, discipleship, outreach, and worship are all important facets of church life, we find it easy to dismiss some of these aspects in favor of our preferred component. For those concerned with evangelism/outreach, it can be especially tempting to downplay the importance of the other areas, particularly fellowship. Spending time together can seem like a superfluous exercise that should take the back burner so we can attend to more pressing matters like "reaching the world"! However, almost everyone can recall an evangelistic series where dozens of people were baptized only to see hide nor hair of them within a few weeks. Why? Although there may be a variety of reasons, often, people leave if they don't make meaningful connections. Particularly if converts have relinquished old habits and associations when they joined Adventism, our negligence in making sure they are meaningfully connected is tantamount to holding open the back door for them. Conversely, there are those who stay in spite of the disconnect: members who remain isolated within the crowd. They occupy the same pew for years, but never create deep ties nor really feel as if they belong to the church or that the church belongs to them.

Admittedly, I'm an ardent proponent of outreach. I've have written about it alot--even on this very website. Yet I can't stress enough the significance of balancing outreach with forging healthy fellowship. We have to stop viewing these as competing priorities and begin seeing them as inextricably linked necessities for vibrant church life.

The significance of General Conference is often taken for granted, especially by lifelong Adventists. It's easy to underestimate the impact this event has for new believers. It's hard to realize how huge it is when a new Adventist first recognizes that they belong to a worldwide family. Having been converted to Adventism myself, I unashamedly gush that my favorite part of General Conference is the closing ceremony Parade of Nations! It's astounding to watch the wonderful diversity that our world church comprises.

But the value isn't just for first generation Adventists. The entire church benefits. Now more than ever, in a time where we have so many differences of opinion and are so quick to lash out at each other from behind our computer screens, it's crucial to see each other eye to eye in flesh and blood. When we get to rub elbows with one another, breath the same air, and sit side by side, it becomes that much more difficult to remain consumed with vitriol towards one another--even with regards to those with whom we sharply disagree. We recognize that the communion service is an essential part of our heritage: eating together, touching each other, praying together. These things bind us together as family. Likewise, our huge reunion that takes place once every five years can help bind us together too! True, planning General Conference expends alot of resources. But I think the value added is definitely worth it.

Courtney Ray is a pastor in the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

To compare this man-made organisation to Jesus Christ is a gross representation of Scrip-torture! Whether it should be or not, there is no impending crucifixion and burial for this GC, so there is no comparison. So, yes, there is value in that organisation heaping glory upon itself, that the world may acclaim it.

Trust God.


I am wondering if you are aware how condescending this sounds. ‘Outreach’ is only applicable to those on the OUTside, to those you have excluded from your IN group, as if your group is really special. Please. In Christ there is no in or out. Quite pandering to such an exclusive mindset.

Trust The BEing!


I agree with the author. I would not want to see us abandon the gathering together and the potential of this periodic assembly to manifest the unity that Jesus prayed for us to possess. I think there is more poignance and power to the address of divisive issues when we meet each other face to face.

I wouldn’t want to draw any comparisons between those who criticize the GC gathering and Judas’ critique of the harlot; however, if we need to assess the particulars of how we gather together and then implement changes in the program in order to receive more value from the process, then let’s do that. I would not want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.


All Denominations get together to discuss.
That is the unintended consequence of a periodic General Session.
People meet and re-meet each other. Talk and discuss what is on their minds with each other in small groups and obtain a certain amount of understanding of what is thought outside of their small worlds.
Having space for Adventists to show what is happening in their corner of their world is also important. To allow for the ability for groups to advertise their ideas for moving the church along is also important. Not all will share their ideas, but they are out there for everyone who wants to be aware of their messages.
This session – not everyone has had the opportunity to consider the LGT doctrines. The ONE ministry. What it will mean to the World Church to allow Women Full Inclusion in the SDA Church. What DO WE DO with the children of SDA parents, AND the parents of those who are Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Other? IS THERE A PLACE in the Church for them, or do we [like in the OT when they came back from Babylon] tell them they have to Go To Samaria. Leave their families forever, and if they wish to worship God, to worship God elsewhere? Not in a family setting?
The General Session allows persons to discuss these issues with one another. If strong enough feelings, to bring them to the Delegates to think about and hopefully to let Justice and Mercy rule, and Common Sense be part of the actions.

Unfortunately, a number of other Denominations are ahead of SDAs in their understanding of Scripture in various areas. And there is an increased Health in the Denominations because of this.
Several have given up The Headship Doctrine, and they are better for it.
Others have become All Inclusive, and this has strengthened Families both in the Church setting AND in THE HOME SETTING.


Yeah, right! And their rapidly declining membership bears that out.

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Believe what you want to believe. Read what you want to believe about causes for changes in Denominations, Seventh day Adventists included.
The Lack of the Headship Doctrine, and the giving of it up, has improved Church.
The FULL Inclusion of Women in church.

In EVERY organization, Secular AND Religious, there are Men who discount women. When these organization become more Inclusive, THESE MEN have to either stay or go. Apparently, these have decided to GO. At least they are not around to be Disruptive.
Praise God!


Obviously you do not search your stats very well. The MILLIONS who are leaving are both men and women. I wonder if we will have a mass exodus when this vote fails miserably for the pro-WO supporters or will they stay around “to be Disruptive”?

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Mr H-
I know quite a number of BOTH men and women who believe in The Headship Doctrine. I have talked to them in my own local SDA Church. This is the reason the Nominating Committee of my local church WILL NOT select a Woman for an Elder. They can be Deaconess or Custodian, but NOT Elder.
If they are in the SDA Church, they are probably also in other Denominations.
[Or, at least WERE before they left].


Let me ask you this question. If the pro WO SDAs droped out of the church, the church would be smaller. Would this make for a healthier SDA denomination? See the point? A declining membership does not necessarily correlate to the health of a church.


i agree with courtney…the cost of a general conference is worth it…i went to the st.louis one a while back and really enjoyed it - i actually bumped into someone i knew from my home church who had moved to hawaii some time before…it’s uplifting to feel part of such a huge crowd…

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There has already been and is now a mass exodus from the SDA church because of the church’s stand against the ordination of women. Young people, including young adults, have left through the back, side and front doors.


Have you ever been informed what the total cost of that event is, every 5 years?

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The church estimates the cost to be $20 million. I wish the article had mentioned this.


But yet the church is growing. Those leaving are being replaced. Some shaken out… some shaken in.


I doubt it, we would just find something else to fight about.

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@elmer_cupino :

Elmer, did you get your airline ticket to Malta yet? I am getting mine by tomorrow. Not easy to make a reservation, since there are many people heading to that place soon. But we must go, because they will need our services badly down there.
Don’t be surprised if you see people complaining about nightmares second to non-reelection… :wink:

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Which is $5 million per year, on a $2 Billion annual revenue world wide.

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The NAD ministerial convention in Austin Texas happening at the same time as the GC in San Antonio is highly redundant and they seem to have money to burn giving away 20k at games called evangelism shark tank. Of course they stayed at the Hilton.
So which is the waste? And since each is expensive why would the NAD choose to do theirs at the same time in the same fiscal year? Which has real work to do and which is a paid vacation?

Well? Should I offer my congratulations to TW for his reelection?

What kind of newsfeed are your parakeets getting from SA?

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