Deciding the next set of leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a process that occurs every five years at the General Conference (GC) Session.
Maintaining transparency and following procedure are paramount to ensuring that decisions are made objectively and that the needs and interests of the worldwide church and its members are upheld. As electing leaders is something that most Adventists are interested in, it’s important to understand this process.
At its core, GC Session is a business meeting where important decisions are made about the future of the Adventist Church. While delegates have the responsibility to vote on recommendations from previous executive committee meetings, the nominating committee is responsible for recommending nominations of church leaders — such as the president, division leaders, and GC ministry directors.
So how is the nominating committee formed, and how does it work?
How the Nominating Committee Is Selected
To understand how the nominating committee is selected, it’s important to understand what Session delegates are and how they are selected. You can read an article here for more information on this process.
Since the election process begins with nominating candidates, the nominating committee is formed on the first day of Session. All delegates separate into their own divisions, into groups called caucuses, where they each choose a proportion of their delegation to join the nominating committee.
While each division selects 10 percent of its regular delegates, the General Conference selects 8 percent of its delegates at large (those employed by the GC or its institutions) to form the remainder of the nominating committee. This year, based on calculations outlined in the Adventist Church’s Constitution and Bylaws, there will be 268 people on the nominating committee.
Who Can Be on the Nominating Committee
There are only two requirements for a delegate to be allowed to join the nominating committee. First, they must be an accredited delegate in attendance. Second, they must not currently be serving in a position that is up for election. This means that GC and division presidents, secretaries, treasurers, auditors, and department leaders are excluded from joining the nominating committee.
“Technically there are only two categories of delegates at large that can be on the nominating committee. The first are those who serve on the GC executive committee. The second are the 20 staff who are appointed as delegates at large from the GC,” Hensley Moorooven, GC undersecretary, said. “The rest will be regular delegates.”
When the Nominating Committee Begins to Work
Once all 268 members are selected, the nominating committee will be directed to a private room where it will select its own officers, beginning with a chairperson. Once the chair is selected, he or she will lead in selecting the three remaining positions: vice-chair, secretary, and associate secretary. Once all selections have been made and members briefed on their responsibilities, the group will begin selecting nominations for the church’s leaders.
“For this 2022 GC Session, the nominating committee must elect 113 positions,” Moorooven said.
This year, due to the GC Session being only six days long, as opposed to the regular 10 days, the nominating committee will be working overtime to ensure that all crucial appointments are made by the end of the week.
“We are hoping that the nominating committee will be voted in by Monday at around 11:00 a.m.,” Moorooven added. “Once it’s voted, we will listen to the president’s report from 11:30 to 12:30, go for lunch, come back, and welcome a new sisterhood of unions. And then the nominating committee will begin its work at around 2:45 in the afternoon, God willing.”
How the Nominating Committee Operates
Due to the importance and magnitude of the task, the nominating committee operates independently from the remaining delegates at Session.
“They work until late, have their own food, [their] own room,” Moorooven said. “But they are members of the general Session as well. When there is a recommendation to the floor, they will stop their work and vote on that recommendation, in addition to their nominating responsibilities.”
This year, due to the hybrid nature of Session, there will be monitors set up in the nominating committee room that broadcast what’s happening on the floor. Instead of having to leave their business and file into the main hall and cast their vote, the nominating committee members will be able to vote remotely.
“They’ll be able to stay in the room and see everything through screens. They will be able to vote electronically whilst in the nominating committee because they have limited time this year,” Moorooven said.
What Happens When a Leader Is Voted
The first position considered by the nominating committee is the GC president. Once elected, the president makes recommendations about fellow leaders to the nominating committee for the remainder of the election process. Following the president, they recommend nominations for the GC secretary and treasurer, then officers, and then remaining positions.
When the committee votes on a name, an officer will notify the candidate being considered. If an incumbent leader is not being re-elected, they will notify him or her first, before notifying the person who will take their place.
Once the candidate has been notified, the officers will visit the main business hall and interrupt what is being discussed to announce the nomination. This is also called a “report.” It’s rare for delegates to reject a report, but if a delegate has concerns, they are invited to share them with the nominating committee as a guest. After these concerns are expressed, the delegate is dismissed and the committee will decide whether to let the nomination stand, or reconsider their decision.
What Are the Challenges of the Nominating Committee
As the nominating committee consists of delegates from the 13 global divisions, its members will all speak different languages. This year, translators will be in the nominating committee room to translate the main business (in English) into Spanish, French, and Russian.
While the system is already complex, another added complication this year is that more than 600 delegates will be joining Session remotely.
“For some divisions like the Southern Asia Division (SUD), they have 60 percent of their delegates who will join online. So there is no way that their quota of delegates who will find themselves serving on the nominating committee can all be on-site,” Moorooven explained.
Having nominating committee members joining online also adds another layer of complexity when it comes to confidentiality and privacy.
“This is why each one of them will be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement,” Moorooven said. “If one isn’t able to keep the nominations a secret and reveals it ahead of time, they will be removed from the committee, and we will vote on a substitute to replace them.”
How to Know God Is Directing the Selection of Leaders
Before the nominating committee meets each day of GC Session, its members share a prayer and devotional thought together, asking God to lead the decisions being made.
In addition to this, Moorooven explains that for the past four months, GC Session organizers have met with the GC executive committee and prayed together, specifically asking the Holy Spirit to baptize them. There has also been a 40 Days of Prayer leading up to Session, where members across the globe have been praying together for the future of the Adventist Church.
“I am very much involved in all the logistics and preparation,” Moorooven said. “There is a lot to do. But I have always been inspired by the story of Noah. God tells Noah to build the ark. That’s our job, to do that well. But there is no way for a human being to make the animals enter the ark two by two. We need to rely on God to do His part.”
“We want the Holy Spirit to be involved, because there are things we can do, but there are also things we cannot do. We need to rely on the Lord,” he said.