No matter the time or place, a General Conference Session is a thrill to attend and be a part of. This year’s GC Session was no different in the excitement that was generated, but it was unique from others in many ways.

As most of you know, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the session was delayed two years. In addition, instead of the GC taking place in Indianapolis as originally planned, it took place here in the Mid-America Union in St. Louis. The reason for this is that the convention center in Indianapolis was already booked for the summer 2022 and the St. Louis convention center had some open dates. As a result, St. Louis not only hosted the 2022 session, but will host the 2025 session as well.

Here are some of the ways this GC session was the same and ways it differed from previous GC’s I have attended.

How it was the same:

  1. There were outstanding worship times together. Some of the best presenters of the gospel that our church has provided devotional thoughts. It was very inspiring to be a part of these worship experiences. The church service on Sabbath morning was especially meaningful as you looked around the auditorium, knowing the attendees came from every corner of the planet.
  2. The music was also outstanding, with the opportunity to hear musicians from around the globe share their God-given talents with us. I am someone who loves music and this is an especially beautiful part of the session for me.
  3. The church’s business took place as usual. Changes in our GC Constitution and By-laws were discussed and voted on, along with updates of the Church Manual. As always, there was a healthy discussion over some of these issues but it was a courteous and thoughtful dialogue.
  4. A nominating committee was formed and the GC officers—along with other leaders —were nominated and subsequently voted on by the delegates. Dr. Lowell Cooper was asked to be the chair of the nominating committee. This was my first time to serve as part of that committee. Dr. Cooper was an amazing leader as he helped us work through so many processes and issues the nominating committee faced. When the committee finished its work, there was a spontaneous ovation given by the committee members to Dr. Cooper for his thoughtful and spiritual leadership.
  5. Seeing friends and fellow workers from across the North American Division and the world is truly a treat, and this session was no different. 
  6. As has always been the case with GCs I have attended, it is amazing to see how a world church operates. With so many dialects and cultures in this global church, the way we are able to work together and make decisions together is nothing short of a miracle. Through the use of simultaneous translation and very capable people chairing our working sessions, much progress is able to be made with the Holy Spirit’s leading.

How this session was different:

  1. Our time together was abbreviated. Normally we have a 10-day gathering for GC. This time, we only had six days together and only four days to conduct the business of the church. This is because of the two-year delay of the session and the availability of the conference center. Through careful time management and very capable chairmanship, we were able to get through our agenda, but it meant for some long days.
  2. There was no physical exhibition hall on site this time. As many of you know, in the past the exhibit halls have been quite the production, bringing in vendors and ministries from around the world. Walking through the hall and seeing the work of all those ministries always gave you goosebumps as you began to wrap your mind around the depth and breadth of this movement we call the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 
  3. Because around 600 delegates of the 2,700 delegates were unable to attend in person due to travel restrictions still in place because of the COVID virus, a hybrid meeting had to be conducted. I must say that this piece of the GC Session was one of the more critical areas that needed to be addressed and I believe the planners and technicians who made it all work deserve an A+ for their hard labor. All of us owe them a debt of gratitude. Can you imagine trying to figure out how people from around the world, in every time zone imaginable could attend the meetings virtually and vote confidentially in real time? This is what the planners had to tackle and they did so with flying colors. Every person— whether present in person or joining the meeting from say, Japan, cast their votes with a smart phone or tablet in real time using an application called Election Buddy. It was amazing to watch the votes adding up on the screen knowing the globality of how they were being cast. Those attending virtually also were able to listen to and join in on the discussions taking place. Again, the session chairs, which were mostly made up of GC vice presidents and the technical team, did an amazing job and we all were thankful for them.

Because this session was planned for Indianapolis and not St. Louis, much of the programming leading up to GC Session took place in Indianapolis and not in St. Louis. Programs such as ‘Your Best Pathways to Health” and other community service projects and many evangelistic programs and efforts were still carried out in Indiana. In three years, however, much of that type of programming will come to St. Louis and it will be a joy to be a part of it.

The Central States Conference and the Iowa-Missouri Conference are taking the lead on all that will occur between now and the GC in 2025, and they have already begun their planning and  preparation for it. What a thrill for Mid-America Union to be able to host the GC twice in a three-year stretch!

From what I am hearing, the 2025 GC Session will be an important one for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are many individuals at the GC who are planning on retiring at the next session, so there will be many new faces at the helm leading and inspiring our world church. In addition, we will need to draw closer together and work together more effectively than ever to continue our united mission of spreading the Three Angels Messages around the globe. 

I am thankful to be in Mid-America where I get to have a front row seat to watch how the Lord will lead His church!