The pandemic has changed many things in our daily lives. Since the first lockdown in 2020, there have been drastic transformations in the way we study, work, shop, or experience church.
The impact on many local congregations has been noted. We have all seen how attendance has drastically decreased. Members have migrated “digitally” and follow church programs in other parts of the world.
In the case of the recent General Conference Session, the pandemic has not only been responsible for two consecutive postponements and significantly reduced visitor attendance but also forced the implementation of a hybrid format with face-to-face and remote attendance.
Monday afternoon, June 7, much of the work of the Session focused on changes to the Working Policy and the Church Manual. They were technical discussions that we were wisely invited to interpret through “mission glasses.” After all, policies and procedures are established in conjunction with the rest of the world family to order the life of the church and better define its function.
I found it extremely enriching to recognize the impact that a simple word in the Church Manual can have in different parts of the world. It was very interesting to listen to delegates from places as distant as Norway, the United States, Colombia, the Philippines, or Nigeria explain their vision on the drafting of some proposals and the effects that their modification could imply in the local churches of their territories.
Something that really caught my attention: some of the delegates participated by Zoom videoconference in the Session late at night from their homes with exposed brick walls, poor lighting, and connection problems, and yet they made important contributions to the Adventist Church from their mobile phones. Theirs were interventions intertwined with professors and administrators gathered in a modern convention center, with an impressive display of technology and a digital voting system.
A church of contrasts, without a doubt.
In the midst of the contrasts that a worldwide church represents, however, with a presence in widely different contexts, it’s easy to see that the administrative reality of the church, reflected in the delegates present, has a wide margin for improvement with respect to its diversity.
Perhaps converting the contrasts into elements of institutional wealth is still a pending issue. Statistics for the 2,680 delegates to the recent Session show that 25 percent are more than 60 years of age. The vast majority are more than 50 years old, and only 3 percent are under 30 years old. Likewise, less than 20 percent of the delegates were women, even though the majority of church members worldwide are women.
Perhaps we need to internalize that the more varied and representative the church is at all levels, the more receptive, creative, agile, sensitive, and capable of dialogue we will be to engage a complex world that still waits to be reached.
I believe that we can achieve a better integration of the contrasts that our church shows, as a strength that allows us to be a movement that reaches every “nation, tribe, people, and tongue.” We can then take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Daniel Bosqued is president of Sagunto Adventist College in Sagunto, Valencia, Spain.
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