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Editorial: What Might Be


As the clock ticks down on the current term for church officers elected at the 2010 General Conference Session, announcements of impending retirements are being shared and speculation about who will fill the vacant slots whispered in the hallways. The nominating committee that will be convened at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio will be given the task of filling those slots in very quick fashion. So the Adventist grapevine is abuzz about various scenarios of who is out and who is in. Will there be surprises? 

Part of the drama surrounding these Adventist elections comes from the fact that no one really knows who will serve on the nominating  committee. None of the elected officials at the General Conference are eligible. That means the vice presidents, department directors and assistant department directors sit out the process and wait to hear their fate. Even so, the General Conference Building is ground central in the rumor department, since it is where the official plans for the session are organized.

But it is the delegates from each Division that will caucus on Thursday to choose their region’s designated number of nominating committee members. Union conference presidents generally predominate, but the committee will have over 200 members—10% of the total number of delegates—so others will also be named to serve. Those chosen will pick the chair of the committee, and the work of selecting individuals for over 120 positions will begin on Friday. Under other circumstances, this process might take many weeks or months, but the expectation is for the committee to complete its work in one week. Nominating a president will be the first order of business, and there will be an expectation that a name will be taken to all the voting delegates at the session by the first Friday afternoon, July 3. 

Once the president has been elected he will meet with the nominating committee and his wishes will be the starting point as the slate of vice presidents, department directors and their assistants are chosen. This is where church elections get very personal, dramatic and seemingly political.

For instance, the board chairs of all General Conference Institutions are GC vice presidents. So at Andrews University and Loma Linda University there is great interest over who is in and who is out as a general vice president. According to several sources, of the nine vp’s, three have announced their retirement: Benjamin Schoun, Michael Ryan, and Armando Miranda. Three are sure to return: Delbert Baker, Geoffrey Mbwana, and Artur Stele. And the fate of three is unknown and much speculated about: Pardon Mwansa, Ella Simmons, and Lowell Cooper.

Last fall at Annual Council and again this spring, GC Secretary G. T. Ng recommended that all elected GC employees pack up their offices before heading to San Antonio. He is requiring those elected officials that work under him in the Secretariat do so.

All of this brings to mind the video that ended the Spring Meetings—“What Might Have Been.” The vision of Ellen G. White on which the video is based, historians tell us, was really about abuse of power or “kingly power” and the struggle in 1901 between the GC President and John Harvey Kellogg which did not get resolved at the 1901 session, but continued for a couple more years. What did get done at the 1901 GC session was an amazing reorganization of the church structure with a diffusion of power through newly created union conferences. No one was more surprised by this than Ellen White.

She wrote: “I was never more astonished in my life than at the turn things have taken at this meeting. This is not our work. God has brought it about. Instruction regarding this was presented to me, but until the sum was worked out at this meeting, I could not comprehend this instruction. God’s angels have been walking up and down the aisles in this congregation. I want every one of you to remember this, and I want you to remember also that God has said that He will heal the wounds of His people” {5BIO 110.2}.

The creation of union conferences was the surprise of 1901. Practically every session has at least one surprise of some kind, whether it is a surprise election like in 2005 when Ella Simmons was elected the first female vice president of the church, or the vote in 1995 at Utrecht for women to serve as pastoral associates and perform the majority of the duties of a church pastor, in spite of the fact that at the same session the request by the North American Division to be able to ordain women did not pass.

Mrs. White’s words are worth remembering on the Road to San Antonio. God will heal the wounds of His people. The call for prayer in these days leading up to the meeting is a worthy one. Who knows what the Holy Spirit will do in San Antonio?

General Conference session always holds surprises.


Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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