For the second time in 10 months, members of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church's executive committee have voted to postpone the quinquennial session of the denomination, originally scheduled for late June 2020, due to challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The executive committee, whose members hail from around the world, attended the Jan. 12, 2021, session by Zoom videoconferencing. The members listened to reports from world church administration, health officers of the church, logistics coordinators and legal counsel. Leaders discussed the feasibility of continuing the planned business session May 20–25, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana, as previously approved by the same body.
The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its enduring impacts on public health, travel and the availability of international visas persuaded the international body to postpone the session until June 6–11, 2022, again in Indianapolis. The new plan voted by church leaders and laypeople postpones the date for the denomination’s quinquennial business session for nearly two years from its originally scheduled dates, as allowed by the Adventist Church’s constitution.
The world church's General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson, who chaired the executive committee, began the two-hour meeting by outlining the process of data collection and discussion that brought the recommendations to the governing body of the church. “A team of workers has been working diligently,” Wilson expained to the committee. “We have been carefully reviewing things, especially with those in session management and planning.”
Peter Landless, GC health ministries director, shared current COVID-19 statistics and concerns of moving forward with such a large gathering. Given the rising infection numbers, along with new, more infectious and aggressive strains, Landless said the health ministries department had to recommend delaying the GC Session.
“We’ve been consulting with international experts and taking into account the needs and concerns. The GC health ministries department believes it is prudent and practical stewardship to postpone the GC Session to 2022, given this difficult time,” Landless said. “And it is with a heavy heart one makes this recommendation. However, it is a recommendation that comes because it appears there is no alternative.”
GC meeting planner Sheri Clemmer outlined some of the current challenges to a large meeting of delegates from around the world. She mentioned visitor visa difficulties and quarantine requirements, especially for those who use public transportation and transportation hubs. She also explained standard COVID protocols surrounding mass gatherings in Indianapolis.
G.T. Ng, GC executive secretary, reported data collected from the division leadership about the likelihood of delegates being able to attend the GC Session if held this coming May. Major challenges include travel bans, quarantine restrictions and problems obtaining visas to the United States. The GC constitution does not allow for electronic participation in a GC Session.
Following the presentations and discussion, the recommendation to move the dates of the GC Session to June 2022 was put to a vote by electronic polling. The motion passed 185 votes to 9.