When it comes to facilitating official church business, more than 2,500 delegates are tasked with the responsibility of voting at the General Conference session, the largest business meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that is held every five years and will open next week in San Antonio, Texas.
However, when it’s time to select church leaders — including the denomination’s president, leaders of the church’s divisions and leaders of the church’s ministries — 252 delegates are chosen to form the nominating committee.
But who are these delegates? How are they chosen? What exactly are their roles?
The 252 members of the nominating committee include 233 delegates from the church’s 13 divisions, and 19 delegates from the church’s world headquarters, also known as the General Conference.
Since the election process begins with the nomination of candidates, the nominating committee is formed on the first day of the 10-day General Conference session, or July 2, said Myron Iseminger, undersecretary of the General Conference.
Delegates separate to form caucuses for their individual divisions. Each division is allowed to send 10 percent of its delegates to the nominating committee. The General Conference, on the other hand, is only allowed to send 8 percent of its delegates.
There are other factors for the caucuses to consider when it comes to selecting representatives for the nominating committee. For example, anyone chosen must be a duly accredited delegate in attendance at the General Conference session.
Officials of the General Conference who are up for reelection cannot be selected to serve on the nominating committee. These officials include General Conference and division presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, undersecretaries, associate secretaries, undertreasurers, associate treasurers, division officers, officers of the General Conference Auditing Service, and leaders of the General Conference departments.
In other words, if a delegate is currently serving in a position that is up for election at the GC session, he or she cannot serve on the nominating committee.
You may ask, “Who is left to serve on the nominating committee?”
Nominating committees are comprised of delegates such as union presidents and officers; local conference leaders; lay members; top leaders of General Conference institutions, including schools, hospitals, sanitariums, and the Ellen G. White Estate.
Once all of the 252 openings for the nominating committee have been filled, the committee is directed to a private room where it immediately begins fulfilling its duties, starting with the selection of the nominating committee chair, vice chair, secretary, and associate secretary. The nominating committee selects its own officers, beginning with the chair.
Once the chair is selected, it is suggested that he or she lead out in the process of selecting the remaining three nominating committee officers.
After the officers have been briefed with their responsibilities, the group, under the direction of the chair, begins the process of selecting the church’s top leaders.
Bob Kyte, president of Adventist Risk Management, who served as the nominating committee chair for the 2010 General Conference session, said one thing to consider is all of the diversity in the room, not just in terms of multiple languages, but also different perspectives for the best methods the committee can adopt for the process of selecting names.
“One of the biggest challenges was trying to mix cultures from all over the world in how they do business as a church,” Kyte said.
While English is the official language of all the church’s business meetings, translators are present during the committee’s meetings to ensure that information is effectively shared to committee members who speak other languages.
Two other key staff of the committee include the managers of the electronic system, through which the votes are cast during the meetings. The managers document every nominated name and all of the tallied votes for every position. Their records are kept in the church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
At the start of every day, one of the officers shares a devotional thought. Leaders also invite the presence of God to guide the decision-making process.
“We prayed before every vote for God to lead in the voting,” Kyte said.
The first position the nominating committee considers is the president of the General Conference. Once the president is elected, the president serves as an adviser to the nominating committee for the remainder of the election process.
After the president is elected, the committee selects names for the General Conference secretary and General Conference treasurer. After the General Conference officers have been elected, the committee selects names for the remaining positions to be filled during the GC session.
Once the committee votes to nominate an individual, an officer of the committee, or a designated officer from the General Conference, notifies the candidate of the nomination. The officers also notify incumbents if they have not been nominated before they notify the person who has been nominated to take his or her place.
Sometimes the nominating committee officers do more than just notify nominees.
“In some cases we encouraged nominees to accept the nomination,” said Cindy Tutsch, retired associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate. She served the committee as its secretary during the 2010 General Conference Session, and later functioned as the committee’s vice chair, after the delegate who served in the position was elected to serve the church as a vice president.
Once the candidate has been notified, the officers of the nominating committee are escorted to the venue where business meetings are held. The chair of the current business meeting interrupts whatever is being discussed on the floor to hear the nomination, also known as a report. Sometimes a report consists of a group of nominations.
While the nominating committee’s report is only to be viewed as a recommendation, it is rare for the delegates to reject a report from the committee.
If a delegate has reservations about the report and makes his or her reservations known after the report is delivered, the delegate is invited as a guest to the nominating committee to voice his or her concerns. After the concerns are voiced, the delegate is dismissed so the committee can decide whether to let the nomination stand.
Though relatively small compared to the church’s global membership of 18.4 million, the nominating committee’s role is vital to the operation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Church leaders said it is important for the group of 252 delegates selected to serve to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and to be disciplined to fill all of the positions during the GC session.
“It was an absolute privilege to see the interworking of the church,” Tutsch said.