The Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (EXCOM) votedMarch 19, to postpone the 2020 General Conference Session until May 2021. The vote comes after a March 17 recommendation from the General Conference Administrative Committee (ADCOM) to delay the 2020 General Conference Session (GC Session) by up to two years due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 General Conference Session will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is currently scheduled from May 20 through May 25. It was originally scheduled from June 25 through July 4, 2020.
The Impact of COVID-19
The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has spread globally since the end of 2019. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global health emergency and on March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As of now, the virus has infected more than 230,000 people. There have been more than 9,300 associated deaths.
“The Church has consulted with senior representatives of the World Health Organization structure and we are recommending that the Church take a careful approach to large gatherings including the General Conference Session,” said World Church Health Ministries director Peter Landless. “We also recommend that each region adhere to the proclamations of their local health organizations to find ways to maintain local church operations and mission through alternative means.”
Meeting from around the world via teleconferencing technology, the Executive Committee considered two recommendations that emerged from a series of official conversations and meetings at World Church headquarters. General Conference Session planners, health professionals, legal advisors and administrators explored possible alternative plans for the 2020 General Conference Session in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Conference Crisis Management Committee considered the possible alternative plans and made two recommendations to the ADCOM, including postponing the 2020 General Conference Session.
“After taking into account both the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world and the uncertain nature of how it will develop over the next few months, the Crisis Management Committee considered postponement the safest and most prudent route to take,” said Geoffrey Mbwana, chair of the Crisis Management Committee and the Session Planning Committee.
The two ADCOM recommendations can be read here.
For the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the General Conference Session, held every five years, is the largest and most important business meeting of the World Church. During Session, delegates elect officers and handle clarifications to the Church’s Fundamental Beliefs, discuss adjustments to the constitution and bylaws, and vote changes to the Church Manual. The GC Session is also significant because it allows for spiritual visioning, mission focus and what Adventist World Church president Ted N. C. Wilson described as a “super camp meeting and homecoming” for up to 60,000 Adventists from around the world.