MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
Dear General Conference Session Delegate:
Soon, after two postponements due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, delegates from around the world will be gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, for the 61st General ConferenceSession. As you know, the Session is the largest, most representative business meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And yet, it is so much more. Even though this Session will be shorter and more limited in some ways than previous ones, it is still a time to gather as a worldwide family to worship, pray, plan, and fellowship together.
As a delegate, you have been given a special opportunity for God to work through you as a representative from your area of the world, guiding you through the Holy Spirit in advancing the heaven-born mission of the Church. I am certain you will be blessed abundantly as you serve Him in your important role.
The theme for this Session— “Jesus is Coming! Get Involved!”—reflects our Adventist belief in the soon coming of Christ and emphasizes our active participation in preparing for His coming. This preparation involves completely surrendering our lives and wills to Him, daily connecting with Him through Bible study and prayer, and in loving, Spirit-filled service proclaiming the Three Angels’ Messages and ministering as Jesus did to a world in need.
Let’s prepare for our upcoming General Conference Session by spending time with Godin prayer, asking for His will to be done in His Church, and in prayerfully searching and relying on His Holy Word, the Bible, and His end-time gift to the Church, the Spirit of prophecy, for guidance.
Let’s move forward together, focusing on God’s promises and on the Holy Spirit’s wonderful work in our personal lives and in the Church for personal and public witnessing and evangelism. Let’s lift up God’s Word as central in all we do. Let Christ’s righteousness be the theme of our personal and public expression of who Seventh-day Adventists are—Christ’sfollowers carrying out His loving ministry to those in need—physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
As we—individually and corporately—submit to and follow God’s leading, I believe He will work in a marvelous way during the 61st Session. Let’s plead for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let’s ask Him to guide in all we do, in all discussions, and in all the decisions. Let’s pray that the entire Church organization—every division, union, conference, mission, department, and entity—around the world will work in an integrated manner under the Holy Spirit’s guidance to carry forward the important mission of God’s last-day remnant Church.
In a message to the delegates of the General Conference Session in 1913, EllenWhite wrote the following words, which I believe are just as true for us today:
I have words of encouragement for you, my brethren. We are to move forward in faith and hope, expecting large things from God. The enemy will seek in every way to hinder the efforts that are being made to advance the truth, but in the strength of the Lord you may gain success.
Let no discouraging words be spoken, but only such words as will tend tostrengthen and sustain your fellow workers. . . .
Perplexities will increase; but let us, as believers in God, encourage one another. Let us not lower the standard, but keep it lifted high, looking to him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. . . .
As He has worked in all ages to give victories to His people, so in this age He longs to carry to a triumphant fulfillment His purposes for His church. He bids His believing saints to advance unitedly, going from strength to greater strength, from faith to increased assurance and confidence in the truth and righteousness of His cause.
We are to stand firm as a rock to the principles of the Word of God, remembering that God is with us to give us strength to meet each new experience. Let us ever maintain in our lives the principles of righteousness, that we may go forward from strength to strength in the name of the Lord(Selected Messages, Book 2, pp. 403, 404, 407).
May God guide in your delegate activities as we each humble ourselves before our Creator, Redeemer, High Priest, Savior, Best Friend, and coming King.
Jesus is Coming! Get Involved!
Ted N.C. Wilson
Many people from various parts of the world will be attending the 61st Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. In the past, the majority of attendees have been members and friends of our world Church. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, the number of attendees has been reduced.
You have been selected as one of the just over 2,700 delegates from our worldwide Seventh-day Adventist family of over 21 million members.
What does it mean to be a delegate to a General Conference Session? What is expected of you? What privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities do delegates enjoy that are not granted to others who also attend a General Conference Session?
These and other questions are answered in this brochure.
1 | What is a General Conference Session?
A General Conference Session is a major international event in the life of the Church. It is a time of great excitement, inspiration, fellowship, and challenge. This Session involves a wide variety of reports, meetings, virtual exhibits, and art forms; but the foundation of all of these is a business meeting of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.
General Conference Sessions, in harmony with the Constitution and Bylaws, are held quinquennially, once every five years. However, due to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, the 2020 General Conference Session was postponed twice.
A General Conference Session is really a business meeting of the member units comprising the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This includes all the union conferences and union missions throughout the world along with any local missions, conferences or unions of churches directly attached to the General Conference or a division.
As of December 31, 2018, there were 63 union conferences, 58 union missions, 11 union of churches conferences, 5 union of churches missions, 1 field and 1 union mission directly attached to the General Conference, and 698 local conferences and missions. These figures will have changed by the time of the Session in St. Louis, Missouri.
For administrative purposes, the entities described above have been grouped into divisions with the exception of the union and field that are attached to the General Conference. However, it is the union conferences, union missions, unions of churches, and local missions/conferences, not the divisions, that are constituent units of the General Conference.
2 | What is involved in the daily program?
This General Conference Session will span six full days with a wide variety of programs.
Each day begins with a devotional based on the Session theme “Jesus is Coming! Get Involved!”
The morning devotional meeting is followed by the morning and afternoon business sessions. The evening hours will also contain devotions and reports from the world divisions which will bring some of the most inspiring moments of the Session.
3 | Who is in charge of a General Conference Session?
Officers of the General Conference are responsible for planning and arranging a General Conference Session. But the real authority that governs a Session lies in the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws which describe the organization’s purpose, define its members, and detail its structure and procedures.
A copy of the Constitution and Bylaws is contained in the General Conference Working Policy. General Conference Session delegates will receive a copy of the Constitution and Bylaws included with the agenda materials.
4 | How are delegates for a General Conference Session selected?
The Constitution states that delegates to a General Conference Session are designated as regular delegates and delegates at-large. All delegates, whether regular or at-large, are entitled to full participation in the business of the Session in person or by means of an electronic conference or similar communications.
Members of the General Conference Executive Committee, along with the associate directors of General Conference departments, shall be delegates at-large to a General Conference Session. All other delegates are selected through procedures outlined in the Constitution. Delegates from union conference territories are selected by their union conference executive committees.
Delegates from union mission territories are selected by their division executive committees after consultation with the organizations concerned.
Delegates from division or General Conference institutions are selected by the division or General Conference executive committees, respectively.
5 | How are delegate quotas determined?
The Constitution provides very explicit guidance for determining quotas. Consideration is given to:
- Division membership as a proportion of world membership.
- Union membership as a proportion of division membership.
- Number of organized entities (local conferences, missions/fields).
- Number of division institutions.
- General Conference institutions and other entities.
- Minimum quotas for laity, pastors, teachers, and non-administrative employees.
Although no quotas are imposed, the Constitution does expect and assume that delegates selected for a General Conference Session shall be of both genders and reflect a range of age groups and nationalities.
Under current calculations, over 2,700 delegates have been selected. Members of the General Conference Executive Committee and associate directors of General Conference departments are automatically classified as delegates.
Calculations for all delegate allotments are based on the membership of the Church as of December 31, 2018, and the number of eligible entities.
6 | What is the role of a delegate?
A delegate’s primary responsibility is to attend the business meetings of the Session in person or online; and, if appointed to a subcommittee, to attend the meetings of the subcommittee.
Persons who attend the Session without having delegate status may observe the business sessions but are not entitled to participate in discussions or votes of agenda items.
A delegate is expected to evaluate prayerfully the agenda items in the interest of the entire Church family.
After listening to the discussion, he/she is free to make up his/her own mind as to how to vote. Delegates are not to be placed under obligation to vote as a group in order to advance a specific viewpoint.
Delegates should not come to the Session with the idea that they must represent only the interests or the thinking of their particular culture, nationality, or organization.
7 | What kinds of items are on a General Conference Session agenda?
The business agenda for a General Conference Session contains several different kinds of items, all pertaining to some aspect of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist family. The Session agenda includes:
- Reports for General Conference officers and the world divisions.
- Admission of new unions as constituent members of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. A General Conference Session could also remove a union from membership in the General Conference.
- Election of officers of the General Conference, officers of the divisions, and department directors, and associate department directors of the General Conference.
- Proposals to amend the Church Manual.
- Proposals to amend the General Conference Constitution and Bylaws.
- Other matters of Church doctrine or Church order that have been referred to the General Conference Session by the General Conference Executive Committee.
8 | How do items get placed on the General Conference Session agenda?
The General Conference Constitution defines several of the items which are routinely placed on the agenda. Additional items may be referred from time to time by the General Conference Executive Committee.
In order to ensure the careful and thoughtful development of agenda items, new proposals from individual delegates are generally not entertained during the Session.
Prior to a Session, agenda items may have been processed by various subcommittees to allow for wider study and assessment of the implications contained in any proposal. The General Conference Executive Committee will have studied proposals relating to union membership in the General Conference, amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws or to the Church Manual, as well as any other item dealing with Church doctrine or Church order.
9 | How will you know what items are to be discussed?
Agenda items for the Session are usually presented in the form of recommendations.
Delegates receive copies of the agenda prior to the beginning of the Session. During the Session, the items are presented for discussion by the delegates.
Amendments can be made prior to voting. Any recommendation may be adopted or defeated through the voting process.
10 | How do elections take place?
The General Conference Session appoints standing committees, as necessary, to assist in the business of the Session. The Nominating Committee is one of these.
Regular delegates from each division meet as a caucus and select a prescribed number of their members as members of the Nominating Committee. Similarly, the delegates at-large meet as a caucus to select some of their members for the Nominating Committee.
The Nominating Committee, at its initial meeting under the chairmanship of the General Conference president, selects its own chairperson, vice-chairperson, and secretaries.
The Nominating Committee proceeds to prepare recommendations for General Conference officers, department directors, and associate department directors. Delegates from each division meet again as a caucus to prepare recommendations to the Nominating Committee for officers of their respective divisions.
All recommendations of the Nominating Committee are presented to the entire delegation for voting.
11 | How is order maintained in such a large meeting?
The General Conference has adopted a set of parliamentary practices to assist it in the orderly business of the Session.
The General Conference booklet, Rules of Order, outlines the procedures that are to be followed. A copy of this booklet is provided to each delegate.
12 | What is the responsibility of delegates after the General Conference Session?
A delegate’s official function ends when the General Conference Session closes. However, by virtue of having attended and participated in a business meeting of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist family, each delegate becomes a goodwill ambassador for the Church. He/she will have gained a personal knowledge of the governance, diversity, and unity of the Church, its progress, and its challenges.
Where possible, a delegate should help to acquaint members in local churches and conferences/missions concerning what he/she has seen and heard at the General Conference Session. Such reports will serve to encourage members and promote renewed commitment to the fulfillment of the mission God has entrusted to the Church.
13 | How are General Conference Session actions recorded, preserved, and circulated?
The General Conference Secretariat creates and maintains a record of General Conference Session proceedings and actions. Adventist Review Ministries makes these available, both through print and digital means, in a series of bulletins that also contain officer and division reports, reports of General Conference departments, summaries of devotional messages, and other special features.
These bulletins will be distributed to in-person delegates during the Session. All bulletins will be available digitally to all delegates on the Adventist Review website. Additionally, the proceedings for this Session will be available on the same website but separate from the bulletins.