General Conference Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesán announced his retirement plans to the Executive Committee at the (Zoomed) Spring Meeting April 13. He will step down at the end of July 2021. Added to the recent announcement by General Conference Secretary G. T. Ng of his retirement, this further change in the three top officers of the church, will keep the Nominating Committee very busy on Wednesday morning when its deliberations are set to begin at 5 a.m. (Eastern time).
This personnel news topped the 2020 financial report of a break-even year for the General Conference with tithe holding steady, while offerings were down approximately 20%. Expenses were cut by the elimination of travel, some personnel and program cuts, allowing the General Conference to end the unpredictable year of 2020 in the black, delegates were told.
Another major item on the agenda was a proposal for a Special General Conference Session to take place in January 2022. The sole purpose of the meeting will be to add a new section to the General Conference Constitution to allow for electronic participation at GC Sessions. This was the last agenda item on Tuesday, and President Ted Wilson apologized twice for the technical problem on Zoom that prevented translation of presentations into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. However, Wilson did not delay the item or vote. He simply instructed G. T. Ng, Hensley Moorooven, and Karnik Doukmetzian to speak slowly as they explained why the proposal was being made and how it would be handled.
Amending the GC Constitution to include this new section requires a vote by the General Conference in Session, and that has become even more complicated as the pandemic has entered new phases causing more countries to lockdown and forbid travel. The 2020 General Conference Session has already been postponed twice (the maximum allowed by the constitution), and should world pandemic conditions not improve, the planned 2022 Session might be jeopardized. Making it possible for electronic participation in GC Sessions would help address any foreseeable problems.
However, rather than just calling a Special Session to deal with this issue, the proposal before the Executive Committee also includes a plan to reduce the total number of regular and at-large delegates to that Special General Conference Session to 400, and to allocate that quota among the Divisions as follows:
East Central Africa Division (ECD) – 37
Euro-Asia Division (ESD – 14
Inter-European Division (EUD) – 16
Inter-American Division (IAD) – 65
North American Division (NAD) – 31
Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) – 10
South American Division (SAD) – 39
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) – 37
South Pacific Division (SPD) – 14
Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) – 23
Southern Asia Division (SUD) – 21
Trans-European Division (TED) – 15
West-Central Africa Division (WAD) – 29
Chinese Union Mission (CHUM) – 6
Middle East and North Africa Union Mission (MENA) – 1
GC – 42
G. T. Ng said the GC’s expectation is that it will be unlikely for even 400 people to attend. Their plan is based on getting the quorum minimum (30%) for the meeting, in other words 137 people. And the way that they plan to meet that number was laid out in the proposal suggesting that divisions that are unable to send their allotted quota of delegates due to travel restrictions or other reasons “reallocate their unused quota to the General Conference to be reallocated by the General Conference Administrative Committee using primarily individuals from these divisions who are currently working at the General Conference Headquarters/USA.” The proposal also makes a point of saying that the General Conference will not reimburse delegates to the meeting for travel, accommodations, per diem, or any other expenses. In other words, that will all be left up to the Divisions to pay.
Wilson said repeatedly that there will only be one item on the agenda and that the devotional will probably last longer than the business session which they expect to handle in about 30 minutes. He also said that openness and transparency are crucial to this item which helps to explain the most significant part of the proposal: “To request all 13 world division executive committees and 137 union executive committees to discuss and vote on the proposal with positive affirmation received by simple majority of those entities, recommending the constitutional amendment, and to report back to the General Conference Secretariat no later than August 31, 2021.”
The suggested timeline calls for divisions/unions to hold their executive committee meetings and votes during May–June 2021, and then send their reports to the GC Secretariat by August 2021. The first official notice for the Special General Conference Session would then be sent out September 2021, with the Special Session being held January 18, 2022.
In the discussion that followed, there was broad support for the proposal, along with a couple of suggestions. Barna Magyarosi wanted the Minutes to include that the process should not serve as a precedent for other agenda items in the future. Randy Robinson suggested saying the “sole purpose” for the meeting would be this item.
The vote to approve the proposal was 169 yes to 3 no.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
Image: Video still from ANN’s livestream of Spring Meeting Day 1 (April 13, 2021).
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