The 2015 General Conference Session is underway in San Antonio, Texas, and at the start of the first business session Thursday morning, General Conference Vice President Lowell Cooper announced that of the 2,566 total delegates slated to serve, 1,868 delegates have registered on site in San Antonio. Vice President Cooper said, "Although we have some delegate visa issues, we have a large number here."
I spoke to one appointed delegate from the North Ghana Union Conference who had one of those "visa issues." Annor Boahen is secretary of the North Ghana Union. I heard from Boahen by email from the campus of the Valley View University, the Adventist institution in the Accra Region of Ghana. He was selected as a delegate by the North Ghana Union, but was denied a visa. I asked him to explain his situation. He noted that he has had several previous denials.
"Five years ago during the GC Session I applied for Visa not as delegate but to attend Chaplaincy Seminar that was going on co-currently with GC Session but I was denied the visa. In 2012 I applied for transit visa through US to Trinidad and Tobago and was denied again. This year I applied for the GC Session and my wife and I were denied, together with some other delegates."
I reached out to the General Conference communication department to find out what efforts were being made on behalf of prospective delegates. Communication noted that visa challenges routinely impact the anticipated delegate total at Session. "For some travelers, visas are granted in ample time and others may not know until the 11th hour if they will or will not be able to travel," I was told.
I asked Elder Boahen what had transpired since the visa denial.
"We reported to GC through our division," he responded. "In fact GC responded quickly with an elaborative letter signed by Rosa Banks to the U.S. Embassy in Ghana and gave us copies." After that, Boahen says, they applied for the second time. Some were given visas, he said, "but we were not lucky."
About five delegates were denied visas from the North Ghana Union, he said. "We have tried to replace some of them with some of the guests who are lucky to have secured visas. GC has been helpful in this area."
It is significant that the official number of delegates released deviates from the official tally in every session based on travel issues like these.
"I feel bad personally for missing this great opportunity to serve the church," Boahen wrote to me. At last check, nothing had changed in his visa status.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Unfortunately this is an issue that continues to plague any group that holds conferences or meetings in the US.I have been involved in small typography related meetings where international attendees were denied and despite giving ample time for the application, they found out quite late in the process that they were denied.
I am sure this happens wherever meetings are held. Since 9/11 the US has been far more strict on entry visas. Not a single African country and only one South American country is a member of the US visa waiver program.
For those interested @GeorgeTichy. Malta is a member of the US visa waiver program.
this just shows the gc sessions should be held in canada each time - canada has fewer hang-ups with visas…calgary is gearing up for stampede, “the greatest show on earth”, tomorrow, which means free breakfasts on almost every street corner…plus we’re in a heat wave…a gc session here would have been just the thing…
Which is why the GC session should NOT be held in the USA. Firstly, the USA is notorious for its bureaucratic visa procedures, exorbitant visa costs etc. Second, it is expensive to get to and to stay there for 3rd-world delegates.
Choose a place which would be rather central (cheaper for the majority 3rd world delegates to get to) and mostly visa-free. Rich country delegates could afford it either way. How about Madagascar or Georgia - not the US state? More people could easily get into those than many other countries, though I doubt that Madagascar could cope. They’re less organised than the Philippines. Georgia might work. They’re European.
That would likely be in Europe somewhere. Excellent connections with the whole world and the right infrastructure to host a huge event (with upwards of 65,000 people in attendance). Span comes to mind.
There are some important reasons why the General Conference Sessions are most often held in North America. For a city to be able to provide accommodations for tens of thousands near an arena with reliable media capabilities AND a large enough exhibition hall close by is a rare thing. There are a limited number of places that meet the requirements for a meeting of this size.
I know those are the reasons given but if Americans think that only their country can easily meet these requirements they need to get out more. As for media capabilities, if you pay the money you get the capability, regardless which country you’re in. Perhaps if they save on accommodation and conference facility costs they could spend a bit more on the required media facilities in other countries.
Seek and you shall find. I think they don’t want to seek, they’re too comfortable in their own back yard.
in theory, yes…but a lot of times, as in the ghana cases, it’s basic red tape…I recall being hung up at the border one time because the orchestra i was planning to play in, which was a volunteer adventist orchestra, was charging admission for one of it’s concerts in the states…i actually had to turn around and re-enter with a special work permit, even though i wasn’t getting paid…this kind of thing would never happen with an american entering into canada…
the u.s. has been in hyper-vigilant mode ever since 9/11…a good deal of what goes on now is over-kill…
as i understand it, a basic requirement for a gc session is a stadium juxtaposed to a convention centre, along with nearby hotels, city transit, and access to an international airport…apparently, outside of the u.s. and canada, there aren’t a lot of cities that can provide this…
With those denied Visas, is there any way they can attend committee meetings via the Internet? And share their input to the other members from the world.
With members “absent” from the discussions and the voting it does not provide input from ALL the World Church.
And this also allows for Voting on important issues to be skewed.
Also: Almost any major city in Europe or Asia is as expensive (more, probably) than Texas in the summer—London, Paris, Prague, Vienna (we did that once), Tokyo. Toronto was good, but anywhere in North America is expensive and has tightening immigration challenges. North Africa presents security issues, as well as woman issues, Sub-Saharan Africa does not have the infrastructure to accommodate such a conference. Maybe Stockholm (they’d be inexpensive in the winter). Singapore. But most industrialized countries who can manage the transportation, safety, assembly, office and production support, and health care challenges are very expensive. These cities also are very security oriented. Indonesia is not safe. South Africa might work, but probably can’t handle all these people. And by the way, because we no longer have a “First and Second World”—“The ‘Free World’” and The Soviet Union—we use the terms “Developed and Emerging or Developing Nations.” And after all: Who are we to say we’re first?
The current requirements for sessions probably only can be met in North America. In my view there are a couple of options as a result:
Change the requirement / concept. There is no need to have 65,000 people in one hall. At the German Kirchentag there were up to 250.000 visitors in one relatively small city (Stuttgart) - and it worked well.
Work on the visa issue. Apparently the Adventist church is not known well enough to allow for such visas. Looking at the numbers it seems to be more than an individual issue of a couple of delegates. This should tell us something about our status (and about the USA).
We’d all suffocate . . . . But maybe they can clean their air in another five years. Hon Kin is not a bad idea but is also quite expensive, as is Shanghai. We were in Manilla a while back when Marcos was in power.