9 March 2020  |

In light of recent statements from the General Conference (GC) about the COVID-19 virus, and the canceling of a number of other international programs by organizations fearing a pandemic, many have asked whether there is provision for canceling a GC session.

Article 5 of the GC Constitution includes a brief mention of how a postponement can be done:

Sec. 1. The General Conference shall hold quinquennial Sessions at such time and place as the General Conference Executive Committee shall designate and announce by a notice published in the Adventist Review or Adventist World or other publications voted by the General Conference Executive Committee in three consecutive months beginning at least four months before the date for the opening of the Session. In case special world conditions make it imperative to postpone the calling of the Session, the General Conference Executive Committee, in regular or special council, shall have authority to make such postponement, not to exceed two years, giving notice to all constituent organizations (emphasis added).

It is not clear whether the GC ExCom has to meet in person (as it does each spring and fall) or whether this decision can be made by votes from a distance. One would assume bringing all the ExCom delegates together in a room could have the same objection, in terms of the pandemic, as the session itself.

Article 5 goes on to say that the GC ExCom can call a special session of the GC at any time—in this case, if needed to replace a postponed one.

Sec. 2. The General Conference Executive Committee may call special sessions of the General Conference at such time and place as it considers proper, by means of a notice as provided for in Sec. 1., and the transactions of such special sessions shall have the same force as those of the regular sessions.

The same section outlines an unusually liberal quorum requirement:

Sec. 3. At least one-third of the total delegates authorized hereinafter under Sec. 5. of Article V, must be present at the opening meeting of any regular or specially called General Conference Session to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. Once the Session is declared open, the delegates remaining present shall constitute a quorum.

What this appears to mean is that if as few as a third of the delegates could make it to an opening session, the meeting can be started. If most of the delegates then left or fell sick, the meeting could continue, even if only 10 people remained in their seats.

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