A Special Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was held in person at headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland on Jan. 18, 2022, for the sole purpose of voting a one-item agenda. 

Two-hundred-forty-seven delegates registered and, wearing approved  masks, socially distanced themselves during seating in the auditorium. The group of 247 delegates more than comprised one-third of the delegates needed to establish a quorum for conducting business. The entire session was live streamed from the gc.adventist.org website and can be viewed online now at gc.adventist.org/live/2022-session.

Due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions, the delegates for this special session were chosen using primarily individuals who currently work at the GC headquarters in Silver Spring. These delegations were approved by each division and consequently voted by the General Conference Executive Committee on September 16, 2021.

After an opening prayer and a short devotional thought presented by Jim Howard, associate director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, GC Executive Secretary Erton Köhler read the recommended wording to replace Section 4 of the GC Constitution (the motion was also displayed on a screen):

Generally, regular or specially called General Conference Session 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.

Before the vote, General Conference administrators explained that since the GC’s constitution has not previously allowed for virtual sessions, and since the GC Session has already been postponed twice due to the pandemic and cannot be delayed further without going against the bylaws, this in-person session was necessary to keep the church conducting its business legally.

Following a brief time of discussion and a prayer, delegates cast their votes by raising ballot cards. The motion was carried unanimously.

“Thank you for helping the General Conference to move into the 21st century,” said Ted N.C. Wilson, GC president.

In addition, GC general counsel Karnik Doukmetzian said that the vote is significant because “it makes provision for the future in case meetings of the General Conference Session cannot be held in person to allow for individuals to be ‘present.’ World conditions may not allow for delegates to travel to be present in person, and this provision allows those delegates to participate and represent their territories even if they cannot physically travel to the site of the session.”

In keeping with the promised brevity, the entire meeting lasted only one hour. The closing prayer was offered by Paul Douglas, chief financial officer of the GC. 

There are approximately 2,730 delegates slated to attend the GC Session on June 6-11 in St. Louis, Missouri, to represent more than 21 million church members from more than 200 countries. The theme for the upcoming session is Jesus is Coming: Get Involved. The GC Administrative Committee will meet later this month to determine more specifics for this event.

Read more about this special session