Updated on May 20, 2015, to include link to GCsession.org's agenda.
, news editor, Adventist Review
The 60th General Conference session will offer several firsts: electronic voting, a mobile app called GC Session 2015, an electronic agenda for delegates, and, most crucially for the rest of us, an opportunity to review the agenda in advance.
Usually the General Conference Secretariat, which sets the agenda, provides the information only to the delegates. But for the first time it is making details of the plan available to the world church before the July 2-11 business meeting starts at the Alamodome stadium in San Antonio, Texas.
“Normally only the delegates would get this,” Myron Iseminger, undersecretary of the General Conference, said in an interview in his office, holding up a sheaf of papers with the session’s agenda. “But it doesn’t cost us any extra to put it up on the website and this gives the non-delegates an opportunity to better understand the proceedings.”
The agenda, which was published on the official GCsession.org website on Wednesday, May 20, contains items to elect world church officers and vote changes to the Fundamental Beliefs, policies for the Church Manual, and changes to Constitution and Bylaws. Attendees also hear reports from each of the 13 divisions, or administrative regions of the church.
With the exception of Sabbaths, the daily public meeting starts with worship (8 a.m.) and is followed by two business sessions (9:30 a.m. to noon, and 2 to 5 p.m.). A 2 ½-hour evening program consists of a 30-minute musical concert (6:30 to 7 p.m.) and division reports, ending at 9 p.m.
The following agenda schedule, shared by Secretariat, is preliminary and could change if discussions on some items last longer than scheduled. A steering committee will determine the final items for the daily agenda early each morning during the session.
Watch the "What Might Have Been" short film that delegates will view on the opening day of the General Conference session on July 2. Only the first half of the film will be shown, up to the point where the interviews begin.
Morning worship: “History’s Glorious Climax: The Promise of His Return” by Janos Kovacs-Biro, secretary of the Ministerial Association for the Trans-European Division
The business session will open with a series of brief formalities: an official call to order, a check to make sure that all the constitutional requirements of the meeting are met, and the formal adoption of the daily program.
Attendees will watch a new Ministerial Association-produced short film, “What Might Have Been,” about church cofounder Ellen G. White’s 1903 vision on what could have happened at the 1901 General Conference session if delegates had humbled themselves and allowed an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“A lot of people are praying that this session will not be only about business but a time for revival and spiritual renewal,” Iseminger said.
Delegates may vote on a resolution on the Holy Bible and a statement of confidence in the writings of church cofounder Ellen G. White. If time doesn’t permit, the vote is to be moved to an undetermined day.
The first major item on the agenda focuses on church mission. Delegates will vote to officially approve the record 35 unions that have been organized since the last General Conference session in 2010.
“The high number of new unions is unprecedented in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the General Conference. “It is a reflection of the church growing with breakneck speed around the world, particularly in Latin America and the African continent.”
Many of these unions are new, being created from a larger union with huge membership. Zambia, whose membership passed 1 million in April, is an example of this. Others have advanced from union mission to union conference, indicating maturity in finance and leadership.
The Adventist world church now has a membership of 18.5 million compared to the 16.3 million reported at the 2010 General Conference session.
A total of 22 unions were added in 2010, while 22 unions also were added in 2005. Only nine unions were added in 2000.
After lunch, the focus will shift to the leadership of the Adventist world church for the next five years. A nominating committee will be appointed to choose church leaders, starting with the General Conference president.
In the evening, General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson will give his “President’s Report” about his five years in office.
Morning worship: “Tomorrow’s Headlines Today: The Signs of His Return” by Sikhu Hlatshwayo, a Zimbabwean missionary in the United States who helps lead public campus ministry.
The business session will begin with General Conference executive secretary G.T. Ng giving the “Secretary’s Report” summarizing his office’s work over the past five years.
He will be followed by David Trim, director of the General Conference’s Office of Statistics, Archives, and Research, who will crunch the numbers with his “Statistical Report.”
After that, General Conference treasurer Robert E. Lemon will offer an overview of the church’s financial state with his “Treasurer’s Report.”
At some point during the day, the nominating committee is likely to interrupt the business session to announce its nomination of the General Conference president for 2015 to 2020. The candidate, like all nominated candidates, must be approved by the delegates in session.
“The nominating committee starts its work on Friday, and we should have at least their nomination for the General Conference president sometime on Friday,” Iseminger said. “If they are really ambitious, we might get one or both of the other executive officers as well.”
At the 2010 session, the election of the president was announced on Friday morning, while the General Conference’s other two senior positions, executive secretary and treasurer, were announced in the afternoon.
The nominating committee interrupts the business session whenever it has a major decision to announce.
“As soon as they get a block of names, they come into the business session and give their report,” Iseminger said.
The afternoon business session will wrap up early, at 4 p.m., in preparation for Sabbath.
Following a sermon by executive secretary G.T. Ng on Sabbath morning, people will be invited to attend an afternoon program titled, “The Church in Mission.”
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the North American Division (NAD) and the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENA).
Morning worship: “The Amazing Event: The Manner of His Return,” by Neale Schofield, CEO of Adventist Media Network in Australia
The day’s business sessions will likely be dominated by a discussion and vote on editorial changes to the Church Manual, most significantly to the disciplinary protocol for sexual misconduct.
No changes have been recommended to the 13 reasons over which church members can be disciplined, including disloyalty to the church and physical violence. But delegates will consider expanding the section dealing most closely with extramarital relationships to include details on specific definitions relating to sexual conduct.
Also on Sunday, delegates may vote on technical changes to the General Conference’s Constitution and Bylaws.
Discussions on the Church Manual or Constitution could start earlier than Sunday, Iseminger said.
“If we have time to work them in on Thursday or Friday, we’ll start on them then,” he said.
The nominating committee is expected to stop Sunday’s proceedings to announce its nominations for the General Conference’s general vice presidents, associate secretaries, and associate treasurers.
“By the end of Sunday during the last session, we had all these General Conference officers,” Iseminger said.
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) and the Euro-Asia Division (ESD).
Morning worship: “Faithful End-time Living: Preparation for His Return” by Shian W. O’Connor, president of Cayman Islands Conference in the Inter-American Division
The entire day’s business session will be dedicated to proposed wording changes to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“We expect that to be a rather lengthy discussion. It’s an important one,” Iseminger said.
One significant proposed change is the addition of the phrase “a recent six-day creation” to the statement on “Creation.”
The fundamental beliefs have remained unedited since their unveiling at the 1980 General Conference session, with the exception of the addition of a 28th Fundamental Belief in 2005.
The nominating committee will be in recess during the discussion on Fundamental Beliefs. But it may have time to recommend its nominations for division-level presidents, secretaries, and treasurers, and possibly several General Conference department directors.
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the Inter-European Division (EUD) and the Inter-American Division (IAD).
Morning worship: “Never Alone: The Promised Comforter Who Precedes His Return” by Mathilde Frey, former professor of Old Testament exegesis and biblical languages at the seminary at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines
The day’s business sessions will consist of a general business meeting and a corporate meeting — legal gatherings that the General Conference is obliged to hold as an organization and that have been announced in the pages of the Adventist Review and Adventist World, the official magazines of the Adventist world church.
Also Tuesday, the nominating committee is expected to name the majority of the General Conference department directors.
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) and the South American Division (SAD).
Morning worship: “Through Trials to Triumph: The Advent Movement and His Return” by Alain Coralie, associate executive secretary of the East-Central Africa Division.
The entire day’s business session will be dedicated to the question of whether divisions should make provision for the ordination of women in their respective territories.
The question that delegates will be asked to vote on is:
“After your prayerful study on ordination from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and the reports of the study commissions, and; after your careful consideration of what is best for the church and the fulfillment of its mission, is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.”
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, has appealed to delegates to read what the Bible says about women’s ordination and to pray that all will humbly follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the matter.
The nominating committee will be in recess during the ordination discussion on Wednesday.
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID), South Pacific Division (SPD), and the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD).
Morning worship: “Into All the World: The Proclamation of the Gospel and His Return,” by Taj Pacleb, evangelist for the Central California Conference
The General Conference session is expected to start wrapping up on Thursday. Any unresolved agenda items will be discussed at the morning and afternoon business sessions.
The nominating committee is expected to name General Conference auditors and the leadership team for the Ministerial Association.
In the evening, reports will be delivered by the Southern Asia Division (SUD), Trans-European (TED), and the West-Central Africa Division (WAD).
Morning worship: “Home at Last: The Joy and Fullness of His Return” by Ron Smith, president of the Southern Union in the North American Division.
This last day of business sessions will be left open to any outstanding agenda items.
“If we finish the business items early, we may choose to have a prayer session,” Iseminger said.
Watch a video about the GC session mission offering. It starts with a 30-second spot ad and then provides an explanation about the offering from three General Conference officers: Gilbert Cangy, youth director; Linda Koh, children’s ministries director, and Robert E. Lemon, treasurer. Churches are encouraged to show the video before the General Conference session and can download it by clicking here.
A special mission offering will be collected during Sabbath worship services to fund thousands of youth-driven mission projects around the world.
The Sabbath morning message at 11 a.m. will be delivered by the elected president of the General Conference.
People will be invited to attend an afternoon program titled, “The Church in Mission.”
The closing evening program is “Mission on the Move,” formerly known as the “Parade of Nations.”
“It’s always been the climax of the session, with delegates representing their countries in colorful costume,” Iseminger said. “The name change at this session represents a change in focus from patriotism for one’s country of origin to a focus on mission. The program will review by decade when the first Adventist believers were baptized in each country and highlight the continuing mission challenges.”