Official Announcement on Postponement of GC Session

Spectrum shared a few hours ago that our sources confirmed the Executive Committee of the General Conference voted to postpone GC Session until May 2021. The official announcement from the Adventist News Network is now available, and is shared in full below:

World Church Executive Committee Votes to Postpone General Conference Session

The Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (EXCOM) voted March 19, to postpone the 2020 General Conference Session until May 2021. The vote comes after a March 17 recommendation from the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) to delay the 2020 General Conference Session (GC Session) by up to two years due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 General Conference Session will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana and is currently scheduled from May 20 through May 25. It was originally scheduled from June 25 through July 4, 2020.

The Impact of COVID-19

The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has spread globally since the end of 2019. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global health emergency and on March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As of now, the virus has infected more than 230,000 people. There have been more than 9,300 associated deaths.

“The Church has consulted with senior representatives of the World Health Organization structure and we are recommending that the Church take a careful approach to large gatherings including the General Conference Session,” said world Church Health Ministries director Peter Landless. “We also recommend each region adhere to the proclamations of their local health organizations to find ways to maintain local church operations and mission through alternative means.”

Meeting from around the world via teleconferencing technology, the Executive Committee considered two recommendations that emerged from a series of official conversations and meetings at world Church headquarters. General Conference Session planners, health professionals, legal advisors and administrators explored possible alternative plans for the 2020 General Conference Session in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The General Conference Crisis Management Committee considered the possible alternative plans and made two recommendations to the ADCOM, including postponing the 2020 General Conference Session.

“After taking into account both the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world and the uncertain nature of how it will develop over the next few months, the Crisis Management Committee considered postponement the safest and most prudent route to take,” said Geoffrey Mbwana, chair of the Crisis Management Committee and the Session Planning Committee.

The two ADCOM recommendations can be read here.

For the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the General Conference Session, held every five years, is the largest and most important business meeting of the world Church. During Session, delegates elect officers and handle clarifications to the Church’s Fundamental Beliefs, discuss adjustments to the constitution and bylaws and vote changes to the Church Manual. The GC Session is also significant because it allows for spiritual visioning, mission focus and what Adventist World Church president Ted N. C. Wilson described as a “super camp meeting and homecoming” for up to 60,000 Adventists from around the world.

Proposal to Postpone and Downsize

The first proposal, which was accepted by the Executive Committee with a vote of 187 (yes) to 1 (no), recommended the 2020 General Conference (GC) Session be postponed for up to the constitutionally-allowed 2 years, depending on when rescheduling is feasible. In a subsequent meeting on March 19, a combined ADCOM and GC Session Planning Committee recommended the May 20–25, 2021 date.

The ADCOM also proposed to downsize the rescheduled event without compromising the core functions of a GC Session. Downsizing includes a proportionate reduction in the number of attendees; inviting only delegates, spouses and dependent children and a limited number of technical staff; reduction of the number of days of the GC Session to 4 to 6 days; omit both ancillary meetings and exhibits during the Session. The proposal also noted the current term of office would continue for the duration of the postponement. Following the rescheduled event, the next administrative term would end during the scheduled 2025 General Conference Session.

“I did not want to, and still don’t want to, change the date of the GC session, though circumstances are forcing us to do so,” explained Wilson, who chaired the Executive Committee meeting. Wilson added that several key factors contributed to the proposed postponement including the safety and precautions due to COVID-19. Among them, the closure of consulates around the world make acquiring visas difficult, if not impossible. National borders are also being closed and restrictions imposed on international travel.

The chair also explained that the proposal to downsize the GC Session is heavily driven by financial concerns. GC Treasury personnel have indicated that the financial effects of the pandemic could result in a significant decrease in tithe as congregations are no longer meeting regularly due to Federal, State, and local regulations limiting the number individuals that are able to congregate in any public gathering due to COVID-19. Reference was made to the availability of returning tithes and offering online, where available, during a time when many congregations are closed.

Discussion by Attendees

The discussion among committee members was started by Viriato Ferriera, Inter-European Division delegate. He agreed with the decision to postpone the 2020 GC Session, but suggested a modified exhibit booth area, giving each entity or ministry a limited number of booths. Wilson explained that specifically for the rescheduled GC Session proposed for 2021, the exhibit area would be used for the various business functions of the Session, as well as for the large gathering on Saturday (Sabbath).

The downsized 2021 GC session would provide a room with a seating capacity of 3,200 for delegates for business sessions. The area currently allocated for exhibits would be used for other business functions such as the work of the nominating committee, as well as for the large gathering of general attendees on Friday night and Sabbath (Saturday) with a seating capacity of around 26,100.

David Trim, director of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, added a historical note. While he agreed with both recommendations, he questioned whether or not the constitution and bylaws of the Seventh-day Adventist Church allowed for term-limits of elected officials to be shortened. Trim noted the four times GC Session was postponed in the past, the elected officials restarted their new term. Todd McFarland, associate general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, assured attendees that a close study of the constitution and bylaws allows this delay to be a “bump” into the next term. He added that the financial implications of moving the 2020 and 2025 GC Sessions to maintain a 5 year sequence, would be prohibitive.

Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, education director for the world Church, also spoke in favor of the recommendations but asked the nominating committee to be structured in advance of Session. She cited the importance of the committee completing their work during a shorter GC Session due to the longer time it takes for inter-divisional employees to move their families to the World Church headquarters.

Other members asked questions of clarification regarding the impact of this postponement on officers within divisions, those planning to retire and leaders appointed following GC Session. Wilson explained according to the GC constitution and by-laws, GC officers and elected leaders would hold their position until May 20, 2021 or until their replacements are elected. He also said individual retirements will be respected as if the Session had taken place. Regarding General Conference appointees and staff normally elected at Annual Councils, these individuals will serve until the Annual Council following the 2021 General Conference Session.

Finally, the election and appointment of departmental leaders within divisions will be handled by the Executive Committee of each division and attached field. Details will be communicated from GC Secretariat to each division and attached field.

Future of General Conference Session

The second proposal considered by EXCOM relates to future GC Sessions. The ADCOM proposal called for the “the General Conference administration, in consultation with divisions, to review the current configuration of General Conference Sessions and make recommendations to the General Conference Executive Committee.” The proposal addresses the goal to modify current GC Sessions due to the need to “reduce the financial and logistical footprint of General Conference Sessions and to be more efficient and effective in the handling of Church funds.”

As with the voted measures for the 2021 GC Session, the proposal for future GC Sessions recommends the number of delegates be proportionately reduced, no special guests be invited, the number of days of the event be shortened, but still include one Sabbath. The proposal also recommends that future GC Sessions not include exhibits, booths or ancillary meetings.

Other than to add GC attached unions and fields to the language, the proposal to explore future GC Sessions was approved with 191 (yes) to 1 (no).

Wilson affirmed that a broadly based group of division representatives and General Conference officers will bring recommendations to a future General Conference Executive Committee about the length, scope and structure of future GC Sessions. Any Executive Committee proposals that require General Conference Session action will be presented to the Session.

Following the vote, GC general vice president Ella Simmons urged that the process of reviewing the future number of GC Session delegates be “completely clear and transparent.” Simmons emphasized that in reviewing the associated formula, the Church would consider if “all of its elements serve our needs at this time.”

The Work of God

“I did not anticipate that we would ever be at this point at this time,” noted Wilson during the meeting. In the same breath, he emphasized the global crisis is a calling for Seventh-day Adventists to minister to others. “This is a time for Adventists to spread hope and encouragement. We should be anchors of stability and pillars of hope,” Wilson said.

Quoting the biblical text 2 Timothy 1:7, the world church president reminded Executive Committee members that “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” Wilson also shared his conviction that the mission of the Church will move forward. “The Three Angels Messages are not being stopped by the coronavirus. God’s work will not be inhibited by this virus.”

This article originally appeared on the Adventist News Network and Adventist Review websites.

Image: Indianapolis skyline at night, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Further Reading:

BREAKING: Executive Committee Votes to Postpone GC Session Until Spring 2021, March 19, 2020

ADCOM Votes Recommendation to Postpone GC Session, March 17, 2020

“No Plans to Postpone Session” Says GC President Ted Wilson, March 16, 2020

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10286

Bravo, Bravissimo!! Common sense is prevailing!! I have long called for this on this blogsite.

Previously, I have called for the GC Session to be held at Watson Park Convention Centre, Brisbane, Queensland Australia. This is the South Queensland Conference camp ground. It is adjacent to the campus of the largest Adventist K-12 school in Queensland. This site welcomes about 3,000 campers (half in Conference provided tents; some in camping trailers; the elderly and infirm in cabins some with an ensuite) and about another 4,000 or 5,000 people on the Sabbaths.

The GC President could stay with his wife in the motel accomodation. No need for an armoured car to keep the GC President away from trouble and from the crowds. Plenty of rooms for committees etc. Even a garbage dump across the road. The largest canvas tent in Australia is pitched for our annual camp meeting. It holds about 4,000 people. Audio-visual equipment second to none is regularly set up in that tent. Other huge canvas tents are also set up on the convention grounds. A security firm is able to provide security for all. We have a camp kitchen and a dining room for a limited number of people, even a pie store and an ice cream store and sheltered wooden benches to sit on. The communal toilet and shower facilities are mostly very presentable. There is nothing like walking 200 or 300 metres in the moonlight to answer the call of nature.

I’m sure Elder Ted Wilson knows Watson Park well as he has stayed several times with his friend and GC Executive Committee member several miles away from this Convention Centre.

The aim of camp meeting is to live a spartan life while focusing on our relationship with God. You cannot do all this while living in 5 star luxury and wrapped up in cotton wool. The weather in this part of the world is suitable for camping of this nature from the end of March till early June and again from early September till late November.

Of course, the entire program should be uploaded to the Hope Channel. It should also be online. And other loyal and also independent media should be welcome on site. But no spectators.

I am not joking. This is a serious suggestion.

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this may be a good opportunity to restructure GC sessions so as to avoid the kind of regional disparity that marred san antonio…for instance, if each division fielded the same number of delegates, it’s interests would be better represented in policies determined by delegate vote…when entire divisions and world regions are essentially steamrolled because their delegate numbers don’t match those of other divisions, a GC vote cannot be said to represent the world church or reflect a consensus of world feeling…what we have, instead, is the exercise of kingly power by the division or divisions with the most delegates…

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I still insist that an INTERIM Administration should be chosen to replace the current crew until the next election. TW’s term expires in June/20. Extending his term like this is wrong.
But I am aware that this is not going to happen. I know the system long enough to not have unrealistic expectations at this time.

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Mixed benefits and feelings.

Let us be clear that the changes on offer, necessary as they be, represent a turning point for the world church.

The razzmatazz that went alongside the formal business showcased the best and the worst of our makeup. The commercialisation left a pit in my stomach, a ‘den of thieves feeling’ - but then there are institutions and ministries which made me proud. Many spent far too much money, while claiming need.

Many attended to meet friends and colleagues from yesteryear. Wonderful reunions, yet the booing / baying hordes baiting ‘for and against’ was unseemly.

Politically, authoritarian control will become more entrenched, maybe that is the destiny anyhow. The influence of Divisions and their convocation will grow at the expense of the whole. Yet, parochial rivalries are more intense than vague global variance.

The influence of those with deep pockets will prevail over those with deep thoughts.

On the one hand, showcasing various spiritual cultures added wealth, but, too often spiritual offerings were background Muzak for restless corporate moguls. My heart went out to those selected from across the world, to sing at 8:00 in the morning to an empty barn while delegates straggle to their seats.

The virus is asking us to stay home and enjoy insularity. I suspect that the benefits will be short lived.

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Academy principals and teachers often are obligated to attend regional conferences, some on the other side of the continent. These include plane tickets and motels, as well as food and, quite often, side trips to regional tourist traps - all while carrying their personal computers (and what not) that could have handled the meetings long-distance.

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Thumbs%20up

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Even the wealthy Catholic Church cloister the college of cardinals in spartan accommodations while in conclave. There’s no need to turn the GC session into a big production.

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Grandiosity is a big temptation for Adventists.

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Did that grow out of a sense of inferiority, George?

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Peter,
Spiritual arrogance can be generated by several factors.
Being defeated twice by failing predictions of Jesus’ return must have been devastating, embarrassing, and frustrating. But then…, “eureka” … only “we” know what actually happened in 1844. Therefore, we self-appoint ourselves as being the Remnant and only true Church of God.

No wonder…

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Victor, you may be right. Or, alternatively, some units of the Church may decide to ignore the GC when it seems right in the local context. The whole idea of one central policy being paramount across the globe and cultures may crumble.

Instead of bowing to “authoritarian control,” there may be outright rejection of it, leading to some kind of showdown or adjustment. Things cannot go on as they have been.

Is there a MuzBuz drive through coffee outlet nearby?, if so I am placing a booking!!
Seriously!!

:notes::musical_note::notes::musical_note:…Dixie!!! (sorry, no Emoji for whistling!!)

We can all stay home and enjoy reparte with George!

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That’s the plan for today: Blanket, hot tea/coffee, church online (LSU), and, of course, Spectrum.

Maybe watching the Presidential daily briefing. Curious which Press member he will wildly attack today for no reason…
Or, because I am tired of listening to his deplorable lies about how efficient he has been against the COVID-19, I may skip it today. The truth always ends up surfacing and exposing his lies. No wonder he hates the free Press.

Seems there is a little Trump derangement syndrome within your comments. I prefer to approach his announcements with an open mind, wait, listen, explore, investigate, then weigh the balance. I did that with Obama too and he continuously lost out.
God is certainly watching out for our nation and His followers, SDA or not. PTL this Sabbath and count our blessings.

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Using TDS as an argument against reality being pointed out is no longer effective after 17,000 lies to the Nation.

No wonder why he becomes so irate. His lies during his morning “updates” (just another TV show) have been quickly figured out and debunked by the Press a few minutes after he tells them to the American people - as if we were all cognitively impaired. He offends our intelligence by treating us as if we didn’t have one. Well, some people appear to enjoy being treated as if they were mere idiots…

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And others appear to enjoy treating others as if they were more than mere idiots.

George, do you know the concept of self restraint, or can you actually not help yourself?

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Yes, it is obsessive! I’ve never seen anything like it. :crazy_face:

Far too dangerous to employ the drinking game. That would prove deadly in short order…:sunglasses:

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