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.