Welcome to Texas
The 60th General Conference (GC) Session was held from July 2-11, meeting for the first time in San Antonio, Tex. During those 10 days, tens of thousands of Adventists from around the world came together to hear reports of how the work is carrying on in other regions of the world, discover supporting ministries of the church, and participate in many of the ancillary activities taking place in the San Antonio area. Over 2,500 delegates were also selected to hear reports, elect world church leaders, and vote on world church policies.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC) sent 20 delegates to represent our union. Three were ex-officio delegates to the GC, nine were administrative delegates automatically elected by virtue of their position, such as conference presidents and SDACC administration, and eight were selected from among denominational employees and lay members who also evenly represented each conference and a diversity of ethnicities and genders.
Business meetings were held twice each weekday in the Alamodome, during which delegates debated and voted on business items such as proposed amendments to the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, updating wording to the Twenty-eight Fundamental Beliefs, and the official stance on the ordination of women in ministry. Though only delegates were allowed to officially speak and vote, all visitors were able to observe the business sessions from the stands of the auditorium.
Re-elected and Retiring Church Leaders
Another duty of delegates was to elect General Conference officers, department directors, and associate directors; and division officers, based on recommendations from nominating committees. Ted Wilson was re-elected as GC president for another five-year term amid overwhelming support.
Dan Jackson, a native Canadian, was also re-elected to the office of the president for the North American Division (NAD). Prior to serving at the NAD, Jackson, an alumnus of Canadian Union College (now Burman University), was the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada from 2002-2010.
In other news, two notable Canadians who had been serving at the General Conference, Orville Parchment and Bob Lemon, both announced their retirements from service shortly before the GC session. Parchment served as president of the SDACC from 1994-2001, and moved to the GC as assistant to the president in 2003. Lemon has served as treasurer for the GC since 2002.
Canadians in Concert
Aside from official SDACC delegates, a number of Canadians travelled to San Antonio to participate in various musical presentations occurring throughout the session.
Pam Lister, director of Quiet Hour Canada, was interviewed on air by Hope Channel on their live stage in the exhibit hall. A church choir from Red Deer, Alta., performed three songs on the Mission Spotlight stage in the exhibit hall. The Chitan family from Whitby, Ont., sang at a Chapel Music concert in the Lila Cockrell Theater. They also sang a few impromptu songs at an NAD meeting, to great applause.
At every General Conference session, the place to see and be seen is the exhibit hall, and this year was no different. The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which is within walking distance of the Alamodome in San Antonio, featured some 600 booths in 100,000 square feet. Organizations large and small from all over the world shared the tools, resources, and publications they offer as ministries of the church.
A tour around the exhibit hall was like taking a tour around the world. Displays from each of the denomination’s 13 divisions were impressive and informative. Visitors had opportunities to travel through time and space to take pictures with historical figures of Adventism and exhibitors dressed in traditional attire from around the globe.
SDACC entities ADRA Canada, Burman University, and It Is Written Canada also presented appealing displays. ADRA Canada executive director James Astleford proudly shared the work that ADRA Canada is doing around the world, complete with a miniature model of a Cambodian village that portrays their most common projects. Burman University’s booth was popular with both young and old, as the exhibit also boasted a miniature model of the university campus that was hand-built with over 26,000 Lego bricks. There was nothing small about the It Is Written Canada booth, which distributed literature on the gospel message that they are sharing to Canada and the world.
The social media buzz surrounding this session reached a record high. Several hashtags were used by those attending and those watching from afar, and some, such as #GCSA15, even trended on Twitter. The day after the session officially ended, when many had their first chance to take a breath and reflect, a new hashtag began to emerge, #FeelingProud.
Exhibit halls and business sessions aside, the true appeal of the General Conference session is the reminder that we are members of a worldwide church. Despite differences in language and culture, over 18 million people all over the globe are united in love, serve the same God, and believe in the same truths. For those fortunate enough to spend any length of time at a GC session, this global unity is truly awe-inspiring. And that is worth celebrating.