Delegates to the 60th GC Session in San Antonio have re-elected Ted N.C. Wilson as president for the quinquennium ending in 2020. G.T. Ng was also re-elected as secretary. Juan Prestol-Puesan, previously serving as undertreasurer, was voted in as treasurer to replace Robert E. Lemon, who is retiring.

Since the first founding session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan in May 1863 our church has relied heavily on the democratic process of electing its leaders.

The first item of business during sessions—after preliminaries—is electing the GC president, who must be an ordained minister according to our constitutional bylaws. Then the GC executive secretary, treasurer and up to 10 vice presidents are elected, followed by 13 division presidents. This process, which requires vast amounts of time for the nominating committee, determines not only the church’s main officers but well over 100 other positions.

Seven Serious Suggestions

In his article in Adventist Today 2015 General Conference Special Issue, experienced church leader Reinder Bruinsma says that given the enormous time pressure the nominating committee must work under, having pre-made proposals is almost unavoidable. Each time the discussion moves to the next position on the agenda, the committee asks whether or not “administration” has a proposal. “Many feel there is not enough opportunity to bring forward new names…One could wonder whether the new General Conference president who joins the nominating committee once he is elected, has (or is allowed to have) too much influence on the process” (“How Adventists Choose Their Leaders: Could There Be a Better Way?”, p 17).

Bruinsma goes on to suggest seven ways the process could be improved. We offer only a summary here—please see his article for detailed explanations.

  1. Ensure nominating committee members have prior knowledge of processes and potential candidates, even if that means a smaller committee
  2. Amend our constitution and bylaws to allow formation of the nominating committee prior to the start of the official session
  3. Schedule committee members to arrive several days before the session to begin their work, thus relieving extreme time pressures
  4. Transfer elections of division staff to their respective major division meetings held in the autumn of the year of the session
  5. Elect only directors of departments and services during GC Session; appoint associate directors during Autumn Council
  6. Study alternative election models, including presenting multiple candidates for top leadership positions (some interested parties have suggested that at least seven names be brought to the committee and at least two names be presented to the delegates)
  7. Investigate applying term limits

Bruinsma, who retired as executive secretary of the Trans-European Division in 2007, urges GC delegates to present proposals during this year’s session to amend our processes. These changes could then be voted in 2020 and implemented in 2025.

Yes, change often takes time and hard work. But if it serves to improve this important process, couldn’t it be worth the effort?