Approval to amend the General Conference Constitution was voted by the GC Executive Committee October 7, 2020. The voted amendment will allow delegates to participate electronically in the next GC Session now scheduled to take place in May 2021:
“Delegates may participate in a regular or specially called General Conference Session by means of an electronic conference or similar communications by which all persons participating can hear each other at the same time, and participation by such means shall constitute presence in person and attendance at such a meeting. Votes cast remotely shall have the same validity as if the delegates met and voted onsite.”
The approved action will have to be voted again at the Session itself, because changes to the constitution require a two-thirds vote at a General Conference Session. Another amendment was approved that would allow for committees of the Executive Committee, including the Nominating Committee, to also function electronically.
In his introduction to the agenda item, GC President Ted N. C. Wilson said that it is probable not every delegate will be able to personally attend the May 2021 Session in Indianapolis. One-third of the delegates are required to be in attendance, according to the Constitution, he noted. That means of the 2,713 delegates, 905 need to be present to conduct business.
With this amendment approved, the discussion about whether or not to again postpone the Session, given the current COVID-19 situation worldwide, might go differently when it is addressed later on the agenda.
This amendment vote was the first significant business action of the Annual Council meeting that opened Oct. 6. “Election Buddy” was the system used for the vote, and it was introduced with fanfare by Hensley Moorooven, undersecretary of the General Conference. He described it as a well-tested platform used by industry and both the Republican and Democratic political parties. Executive Committee members were assured that all votes were anonymous. No one would be able to know how someone else voted. Voting twice is not possible with this system that the General Conference Auditor Paul Douglas said had been tested and proved to be very secure. Ballots are only sent to Executive Committee members. Invitees to the meeting do not get to the vote.
General Conference Secretary G. T. Ng and his associates presented the morning’s other business item, the Secretary’s Report. Ng began by expressing his gratitude that God is alive, that he himself is alive and that the church is alive. He also noted that he was speaking live — not on prerecorded video. It was a smile-worthy note during this Zoom-call meeting. Ng, known for his great sense of humor, then proceeded to tell a joke that began with the question, “What is going to be the language of Heaven?” French — the language of love? Spanish — that prepares you for heaven? English — the lingua franca of the world? The joke involved the story of an old man going to a Jewish Seminary to study Hebrew. When asked why he wanted to learn Hebrew, he replied that as a Christian who planned to go to Heaven he thought it would be helpful. When asked what would happen if he went to the “hot place” he replied that would be okay, because he already knew English. On Zoom, there was only silence after the punchline, not the usual laughter that would fill the room with good cheer had the committee been together in person.
Church membership is up to 21,414,779 (in 2018), he reported. The growth is greatest in the East Central Africa Division which had 296,110 baptisms or 27.49% of the total. The South African Indian Ocean Division came in second with 282,048 baptisms or 19.23%.
For illustration purposes, he said if the “Adventist Village” had 100 people, 41 would be Africans, 30 would be Latin Americans, 19 would be Asians, 6 would be North Americans, 3 would be Oceanians, and 1 European. He claimed that Seventh-day Adventists are the most international church in the world with members in 213 of the 235 nations listed by the United Nations.
David Trim, director of the GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, gave the yearly statistical report and focused on two trends that he said needed to be overcome: the attrition and loss rate, and the leveling off of the growth rate. The church now has 65 years of numbers on its losses in membership. Since 1965, it has lost 16,240,069. Our success in soul winning is declining, we are not having the evangelism successes of the past. “Have we taken our growth for granted? He asked. Are we training our members? He closed with an endorsement of wholistic discipleship that nurtures and equips members. “We need our congregations to be more successful,” he said. His entire report can be viewed by clicking here.
In the mission portion of the Secretary’s Report, Fylvia Fowler Kline described the services offered by the Vivid Faith Department that not only coordinates volunteer service opportunities but works with all levels of the church to turn their strengths into projects. For the Maritime Conference that has a small number of members in a large geographical area, they helped the conference turn the internet into a full-time ministry to connect members with their communities. In the West Central Africa Division where 47% of the people are Muslim, the Division decided to partner with other institutions in the area such as a Bible organization to help strengthen their outreach. At Colombia Adventist University, brainstorming with Vivid Faith led to English programs for remote areas, also an international music festival, and book clubs in the cities.
The meeting ended as it began — with a season of prayer. It will reconvene each day (except Friday) for the next week with a worship service on Sabbath, and for business meetings via an international Zoom call that is being live-streamed on the Executive Committee’s website.
Find more information on the live stream schedule and agenda by clicking here.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
Image credit: Video still.
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