• Amendment allows delegates to participate in the upcoming GC Session on June 6-11, 2022, even if they can not physically travel to the venue in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, church leaders said.
    • Due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions, the delegates for the special January 18 Session were chosen primarily from individuals who currently work at the GC headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, US.
    • Divisions unable to send their allotted quota of delegates due to travel restrictions or other reasons were  allowed to reallocate their unused quota back to the GC.

24 January 2022 | Back when masks were things you wore to costume balls, vaccines were meant for smallpox and social distancing was ignoring someone at a party, the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference (GC) Constitution established that GC Sessions and all voting must take place in-person and onsite.

Times have changed, and so has the GC Constitution. Delegates to a Special General Conference Session on Jan. 18, 2022, voted unanimously to allow delegates to participate by digital means in a future GC Session in the event that unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances arise, reported the Adventist News Network.

Practically, this amendment allows delegates to participate in the upcoming GC Session on June 6-11, 2022, even if they can not physically travel to the venue in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, church leaders said.

According to GC executive secretary Erton Köhler, the vote showed that the Adventist Church understands the times it’s living in. “I saw in delegates a clear interest in adapting our structure and processes, in making adjustments that may help the church to streamline its operations,” Köhler said.

The recommended amendment, voted by the GC Session delegates, reads as follows:

Article V. Sec. 4. Generally, regular or specially called General Conference Sessions are to be held in person and onsite. However, delegates when requested by the General Conference Executive Committee may participate by means of an electronic conference or similar communications by which all persons participating can hear each other at the same time, and participation by such means shall constitute presence in person and attendance at such a meeting. Votes cast remotely shall have the same validity as if the delegates met and voted onsite.

Due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions, the delegates for the special Jan. 18, 2022, Session were chosen primarily from individuals who currently work at the GC headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, US. These delegations were approved by each division and consequently voted by the General Conference Executive Committee (GC EXCOM) on September 16, 2021.

In 2020, a meeting of the GC EXCOM had already voted to propose an amendment to the GC Constitution that would allow for virtual participation when specifically requested by the Executive Committee.

During a meeting on April 13, 2021, Adventist Church Undersecretary Hensley Moorooven had detailed some of the factors considered in presenting this proposal. Article V, Section 1 of the constitution states that postponing a GC Session should not “exceed two years” beyond a regularly scheduled date. Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) the GC EXCOM  had already postponed the 61st GC session twice.

The possibility of another delay because of the ongoing worldwide impact of the pandemic would have put the GC out of compliance with its governing document.

Moorooven had explained that amendments to the GC Constitution and Bylaws can only be done by the delegates at a regular or special GC Session.

Based on the authority granted to it in Article V of the Constitution to reduce the total number of delegates to a GC Session for reasons of a “major crisis within the Church or international arena,” the GC EXCOM also had voted on April 13, 2021, to reduce the total number of regular and at-large delegates to 400 people at the Jan. 18, 2022, Special GC Session.

The allocated quota of delegates for the GC, 13 divisions, and two attached unions was approved as well. The motion included a request that divisions unable to send their allotted quota of delegates due to travel restrictions or other reasons be allowed to reallocate their unused quota back to the GC.

The GC Administrative Committee then designated these positions to individuals currently working at the GC headquarters, primarily from the divisions which shared their quota.

After the vote and on the sidelines of the Jan. 18, 2022, Session, Köhler said that he was “impressed by the strong support the delegates gave to the motion.”

“In situations like these, it is usual to get different opinions, but we received just a few observations,” he said.

GC Education Director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy said she appreciated the solution found, given the circumstances. “Things are going to get worse as we get to the end of time. This allows us to stay organized as we move forward,” she said.


(Photo: Delegates at a Special GC Session on Jan. 18, 2022, voted unanimously to allow delegates to participate by digital means in a future GC Session in the event that unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances arise. Photo via screenshot of Special GC Session on YouTube.)

To comment, click/tap here.