12 June 2022 | To the disappointment of very few, June 9, 2022, was the last day of the 61st General Conference (GC) Session’s business meetings in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
The flurry of delegate activity included votes on the finer points of church discipline, a statement of confidence in the writings of Ellen White, and a maddeningly belated decision that it’s OK to accept tithes and offerings given online.
Those of us following the #GCSession hashtag on Twitter are, no doubt, noting the disconnect between delegate comments and what can often come across as snark from Adventist Twitter users following the session online. The sarcasm online speaks to a frustration many are feeling as their denomination’s leaders tighten the parameters of what it means to be Adventist in a way that excludes dissenting views.
@kjjbrowning summed up the situation up effectively tweeting:
“ATTN mainstream Adventists:
Humor is a coping mechanism.
Anger is a secondary emotion.
So when you see venting, sarcasm, and satire on Twitter during #GCSession be aware that there are wells of grief, rejection, hurt, and love underneath it.
And have some holy compassion.”
With that helpful context articulated, let’s wade into the nuts and bolts of Day 4.
General Vice President of the GC Guillermo Biaggi chaired the morning session, General Vice President of the GC Geoffrey Mbwana took over for the afternoon’s business session, and GC Vice President Thomas Lemon chaired the evening session.
- Tim Standish, a research scientist at the denomination’s Geoscience Research Institute, lodged a complaint in the form of a point of order first thing in the morning business session. In his view, there was too little time for delegates to register to make a comment. He claimed the lack of time had kept him from being able to speak up on Nominating Report #9—the one announcing division presidents. Standish wanted the report sent back to committee but didn’t succeed, as the report had already been passed the day before. His request was denied.
- A motion to add yet another chapter to the Church Manual on making disciples (Church Manual Amendment item 429) attracted much discussion, as a number of delegates felt the item should be sent back to committee, due to lack of clarity on what was meant by “discipleship,” especially in the light of translating the concept into other languages. The delegates voted to send the item back to committee—1,332 voted yes (94%); 89 voted no (6%).
- A commanding majority of delegates approved a motion to amend chapter 7 of the Church Manual to clarify the need for written notice prior to church board and business meetings in which members would vote to discipline a member. Vote results: 1,364 voted yes (97%); 41 voted no (3%).
- 1,363 delegates voted yes (95%) and 78 voted no (5%) on a motion to amend chapter 12 of the Church Manual to insert a direct quotation from the Bible on the topic of Sabbath-keeping (item 433).
- Delegates voted to stress the importance of premarital education and counseling with an amendment to chapter 13 of the Church Manual that adds a new section on the topic (item 434). The vote passed: 1,333 voted yes (98%); 23 voted no (2%).
- Delegate Michael T. Nixon (VP for Diversity & Inclusion at Andrews University) spoke to the need for counseling as people navigate the grief and difficulty of divorce. His comments are well worth watching.
- The importance of innovation in finding ways to communicate the Gospel to the diversity of cultures globally got support from delegates. A motion to amend chapter 3 of the Church Manual to emphasize this need and include the formation of new mission groups (item 435) passed: 1,280 voted yes (99%); 17 voted no (1%).
- 1,289 delegates voted yes (99%); 11 voted no (1%) for an amendment to chapter 6 of the Church Manual authorizing the church board to recommend the removal of a member from membership to a business meeting without discussion, debate, or the need to vote (item 426).
- Attention, Adventist history enthusiasts! @SDAHistory tweeted out this resource on the history of denominational business meetings: “Are you curious how the Adventist Church conducts business? And does our modern complex practice of numerous committees and meetings match our past Sessions? Read more about past sessions in the General Conference Bulletins: https://bit.ly/3O0MuZm #AdventistHistory”
- And as we were all bursting with culinary curiosity, here’s what the delegates had for lunch, courtesy of a tweet from: delegate Michael T. Nixon, V🅿️ (Chillmonger) @VPNiX0: “Day 4! Getting better for sure. #GCSession #GCLunches”
- The nominating committee presented the following votes for GC Corporation Board: Vote to approve Ted Wilson (chair), Daisy Orion, Timothy Aka, Guillermo Biaggi, Dennis Carlson, Scot Coppock, Paul Douglas, George Egwakhe, Erton Köhler, Thomas Lemon, Geoffrey Mbwana, Hensley Moorooven, J Raymond Wahlen II, Josue Pierre, James Winegardner, Saw Samuel, Audrey Andersson.
- 525 delegates voted yes (98%); 12 voted no (2%) to approve the new GC Corporation Board membership.
- Session agenda item 124—Resolution on the Holy Bible—generated some significant back-and-forth as several delegates flagged the risk of misunderstanding of the resolution’s articulation. But a motion to refer the resolution back to committee failed—427 voted yes (32%); 911 voted no (68%). Ultimately, a motion to approve item 24 passed—1,249 voted yes (89%); 157 voted no (11%).
- Next up was a Statement of Confidence in the Writings of Ellen White—session agenda item 125. A motion to send this statement back to committee due to concerns about clarity failed—507 voted yes (41%); 723 voted no (59%) and the statement of confidence eventually was voted through: 1,189 voted yes (85%); 212 voted no (15%).
- There was this honest tweet from someone who had clearly had enough of the afternoon session: @ChigemWogu “Well its another wrap for me. Midnight already and I need to catch some sleep 😴. May God continue to lead in this #GCSession.”
- Frank Hasel, director of the Biblical Research Institute, pitched the book Biblical Hermeneutics: An Adventist Approach to delegates, saying a solid understanding of the topic was important.
- Undersecretary of the GC Hensley Moorooven made a motion to allow the GC Executive Committee to review and extend the postponement of GC Sessions and decide the timing for a subsequent session following a postponement. The motion to amend item 208 of constitution and bylaw amendments was carried—1,054 voted yes (97%); 32 voted no (3%).
- Around the end of the afternoon session, there was this nod (courtesy of @GCSession) to the strangeness of the times:
- In irrefutable evidence of collective Adventist exhaustion at this point of the day, Tamara Sue (@caffeine_joy) tweeted, “Is this the part where it’s obvious no one has slept for multiple nights, everyone misses their dog, someone starts praying while mysterious music starts playing & people agree to anything? #GCSession #FlashbacksToAcademy.”
- Associate Secretary of the GC Gerson Santos announced that all delegate comments regarding the referred items had been taken back to the committee. Changes to the items had been made and were being brought back to the delegates.
- However, proposed amendments to the controversial Church Manual amendment titled “Pastor and Other Church Employees” were being put on hold due to time constraints, said Santos. The issue will not come under review until the next GC Session in 2025.
- Delegates voiced concerns over the gender-exclusive language in the conference president description on June 7, 2022. The amendment was referred back to the Church Manual committee. On June 9, 2022, Santos said the committee did not have time to address all the concerns with the item. Consequently, delegates also did not have time to vote on the revisions.
- For those whose patience and stamina are challenged by all these church manual amendments, Bangor, Maine-based Pastor Shawn Brace (@shawnbrace) tweeted: “It’s interesting to remember that, in 1883, when the idea of a Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual was first proposed, it was shot down vehemently by all parties, with leaders worried it would create too much uniformity and reliance on it rather than Scripture. #GCSession.”
- An amendment to chapter 9 of the Church Manual handling when and how the nominating committee is to be appointed, how to fill vacancies in the event of a standing nominating committee, and correct representation within members of church nominating committee (item 412) was voted through—952 voted yes (99%); 14 voted no (1%).
- Delegates voted to approve (948 voted yes (99%); 11 voted no (1%)) three-year terms of office in exceptional circumstances, if approved by the conference (item 413 in Church Manual amendments).
- A strong majority (1,013 voted yes (99%); 11 voted no (1%)) voted to amend chapter 6 of the Church Manual to include a new section titled Redemptive Membership review (staying up-to-date on church membership records with an eye to reaching out to inactive members).
- A motion to amend chapter 3 of the Church Manual to include a section regarding reaching the diverse cultural groups internationally passed—1,038 voted yes (99%); 9 voted no (1%).
- In a belated sign of the times, delegates voted through an amendment to chapter 8 of the Church Manual to include the use of electronic payments as a valid way to return tithes and offerings (item 436)—1,017 voted yes (99%); 8 voted no (1%).
- Thursday night marked the last business session meetings for GC Session. Even the policy wonks seemed happy as applause rang out after the last vote.
- For those who haven’t yet had enough of GC business sessions at this point, you can always take up this suggestion: from @AdventArchives: “In case it’s of interest to those at or following #GCSession, minutes of the General Conference Executive Committee (historically referred to as the General Conference Committee) up through 2011 are available at https://bit.ly/3O0sB4C.”
(Photo: South Pacific Division colleagues Nick Kross and Sven Ostring work out some of their own kinks after a long day of meetings at the 61st General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., on June 9, 2022. Photo via a screenshot of an @adventistrecord tweet.)