07 June 2022 | After two consecutive postponements of the planned GC Session, June 6, 2022 marked the first day of the first hybrid General Conference (GC) Session in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.—for the first time, delegates could attend and participate in the GC Session online and in-person.

Delegates waded through many motions, and some major decisions were made, including re-electing Ted N.C. Wilson as president of the GC.

Although the topic of women’s ordination was not specifically on the GC agenda, it was still obliquely referenced by delegates who debated the use of male-dominant language in the description of prominent church roles, and the replacement of such language with more gender-neutral words.

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The session opened with remarks from the Power 3 of the GC: President Wilson, Secretary Erton Köhler, and Treasurer Paul Douglas. Then came remarks from the Adventist Celebrity 3: evangelist Mark Finley, Chaplain of the United States Senate Barry Black, and Dwight Nelson, senior pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Mich., U.S. (we still remember your clear lectern from Net ’98!).

President’s Report Highlights:

    • President Wilson talked about new books that had come out, including the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) 2020 book, Biblical Hermeneutics: An Adventist Approach.
      • Not mentioned: the BRI’s new book, Sexuality: Contemporary Issues from a Biblical Perspective, which includes issues currently discussed in contemporary society, such as prostitution and human trafficking, female genital mutilation, rape, and child sexual abuse. It also delves into topics such as queer theology, homosexuality, transgenderism, cybersex, and robotic sex, among others.

Morning Business Session Highlights:

    • 10 new unions welcomed into the Sisterhood of Unions in Zimbabwe, Belize, Ghana, Netherlands, Malaysia and Ethiopia.
    • Delegate Jonathan Zirkle requested to have the Church revisit its statement on vaccines as part of the GC Session agenda. Grace Mackintosh from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada provided a second via Zoom for Zirkle’s request.
      • President Wilson urged delegates to stand united in refusing to put this issue on the agenda, as it is not a constitution and bylaws issue, not a church manual issue, and not a fundamental belief item. Wilson also reminded delegates that the Church’s stance is that individuals have the right to choose for themselves.
      • Result: 1,579 (89%) voted against adding the issue of vaccination to the agenda; 203 (11%) voted in favor of the addition.

Afternoon Business Session Highlights

  • 1,336 voted yes (91%); 137 voted no (9%) to amend chapter 10 of the Church Manual regarding Unauthorized Speakers (see page 53 of GC Agenda) to clarify who may be invited to speak in the church, and to address the confusion caused by the implication that a layperson cannot preach because they do not hold credentials.
  • The 268-member nominating committee was approved.

Evening Business Session Highlights:

    • Tracie Mafileo, a delegate from the North New Zealand Conference, suggested using inclusive language throughout the Church Manual, specifically regarding offices. Currently, pronouns associated with conference presidents are exclusively male throughout the Church Manual (see pages 58, 64 of GC Session Agenda).
    • Sandra Colon, a delegate from the Central California Conference in the North American Division (NAD), pushed back on the idea that only ordained pastors could choose people to lead business meetings. She pointed out that some pastors were commissioned (e.g., women) and that “if you limit the language to ordained pastors, you’re limiting the movement forward of the work of the church.”
    • A recommendation to amend the Church Manual “Ordination of Elders” section was met with much discussion (see page 59 of GC Agenda), particularly, replacing the words “as deacons” with the gender-neutral “in the deaconate” in the sentence, “They are also qualified to serve as deacons.”
      • Gerard Damsteegt, a GC delegate, said, “This statement subtly allows for the ordination of women elders….by removing the word “deacons” and replacing it with the genderless “deaconate,” we allow the elders to be either male or female…so substituting the word “deaconate” is a subtle shift in the Manual to legitimate [sic] the ordination of women elders, which is never be done in the Manual [sic].”
      • Damsteegt and his wife are known opponents of women’s ordination.
      • Damsteegt argued that female elders were voted in an Annual Council, but never in a General Conference Session, and said that “for any major changes, the whole representatives throughout the whole world—they need to vote, and not a small section in the Annual Council.”
      • However, delegates at the 1990 GC Session voted in favor of adopting an amendment to the Church Manual that they were told was specifically crafted to permit women to be ordained as local elders.
      • Delegates at the 2022 GC Session voted to approve the change in wording by 76% (1,088 voted yes), and 24% voted against it (350 voted no).
    • Wilson was re-elected to the presidency for his third term, with no discussion, in the final minutes of the business session.

Other Highlights:

    • Dr. Peter Landless addressed the delegates regarding health protocols at General Conference Session. Masks were provided to delegates but could be worn at their own discretion.
    • Motion to limit speeches at session to two minutes, or three minutes if the speaker needs translation. Let’s see how well that works…
    • A delegate asked for delegates on-site to be allowed to vote by standing because of connectivity issues. Two thoughts: 1.) Maybe ElectionBuddy should be called ElectionDuddy; and 2.) So much for anonymous voting.
    • See what delegates get in their swag bag here.
    • The Virtual Exhibit Hall is hosting Kahoot Games four times a day.

      *Updated June 9, 2022 with name of North New Zealand Conference delegate.


      (Photo: General Vice President of the General Conference Abner De Los Santos chaired the 61st General Conference Session Evening Business Session on June 6, 2022. Photo via YouTube screenshot.)

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