The 60th General Conference Session was officially opened for business just before 10:00 this morning. I was a bit late for the opening exercises, and I was not the only one. The electronic voting technology that the Church has been looking forward to using was largely absent, too. The first vote garnered only 138 responses through the system. The second, only 225. Shortly thereafter, the old paper voting cards were pulled out. By the time the nominating committee was voted this afternoon, it seems that the kinks (and the interference with Alamodome wi-fi) had been worked out.
But some things were amazing. When two delegates asked about the breakdown of gender and age in the nominating committee, the General Conference Secretariat had the numbers in less than five minutes. I was impressed.
Another thing that I have been deeply impressed with is the number of times we are praying during each business session. Not just the customary opening and closing prayers, but several times during the session we engaged in silent, small-group, and corporate prayer. The message is that this is a spiritual gathering, not a political one. We were reminded of the admonition in the Church Manual, p. 110, that delegates “should view the work as a whole, remembering their responsibility for the welfare of the worldwide work of the Church,” and that “any church or conference officer or leader attempting to control the votes of a group of delegates would be considered disqualified for holding office.” GC President Ted Wilson made a public statement of surrender to the will of God and invited us to stand with him in that commitment and in a prayer of consecration.
In my view, the discordant note came this afternoon when the division caucuses brought a recommendation of a nominating committee that largely consisted of men in their 50s. Only 34 women were elected to the 252-member committee, and only 10 of the members are in their 30s. As a young Adventist minister, I feel that I have a voice in this church, but apparently not at GC Session. When those statistics were shared, there was an audible gasp in the Alamodome. Young people in the Adventist Church have a strong, articulate, and diverse voice. I fear that it will not be heard.
Elder Wilson’s report Thursday evening was a powerful recap of the last five years of activity, but woven into a reverberating appeal to move forward in missionary activities of all kinds. “The world needs to hear a Christlike message from a Christlike people,” Wilson emphasized.
The NY ’13 initiative was mentioned, as was the Year in Mission program. Both of these projects were part of the renewed mission to the great cities of the world. In his report, Wilson mentioned nearly every department within the church’s structure, stating that “they are all part of an integrated evangelistic mission outreach.” This includes, of course, “comprehensive health ministry,” which was highlighted several times. With a busy schedule, I had forgotten the $20 million investment into this community just a few months ago through Your Best Pathway to Health. No wonder people seem so understanding of who Adventists are when I engage them on the street.
All through Wilson’s report was the story of the Exodus: the victories that God gave, the challenges of God’s people, the temptation to trust in men, and ultimately, the final crossing of the Jordan. This is the reason for the newly formed Public Campus Ministries Department, the emphasis on GAiN (Global Adventist Internet Network) to connect information ministries, and the distribution of 140 million copies of The Great Controversy in the past five years. Wilson articulated time and time again that the goal of all of our work—even the work of refining our policy and statements of faith this week—is to follow Christ to a miraculous crossing of the Jordan.
In closing, we sang a medley of Second Advent hymns. It was beautiful to hear such songs of hope ring in the cavernous Alamodome. I will likely have those songs ringing in my head tonight as I make my way to bed. There are some significant challenges in the coming days, but there is also a tremendous measure of hope.
(Photo: Seventh-day Adventist world church president Ted Wilson preaches Thursday evening at the 2015 GC Session.)