General Conference — What We’ll Miss

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has announced that its quinquennial session will be postponed a year due to COVID-19. It will be a session reduced in size in days and participants, to focus on just getting the business done. And this, they say, will be a model for the future.

It makes sense, from a budget-cutting perspective. But they don’t seem to realize how much they will lose.

I was a graduate student in church history at Loma Linda University in 1984-85, studying with and working for Paul Landa. One of my responsibilities was to serve as “Assistant to the Managing Editor” (who was Paul) for Adventist Heritage: A Journal of Adventist History. My name is on the masthead with that title for the two issues we worked on together. The Spring 1985 issue was a special edition for that summer’s General Conference session. We looked at the history and meaning of GC sessions past and present, and at the lives of the men who served as GC president.

What they will lose in truncating the GC session is something we captured in an essay in that issue that bore the names of Gerald Wheeler and Paul Landa (I had my fingers in it, too, but Paul didn’t think it proper to add our names to all the articles we substantially rewrote, so he put his name on that one and my name on the biographies of the presidents).

You can read the article below; I have done three screenshots to cover it. (You can find the whole issue here: https://scholarsrepository.llu.edu/advent-heritage/16/).

The GC sessions has been more than a business meeting; it has been a celebration of God’s people, a sacred convocation, a pilgrimage festival (that was the imagery I added, and why I remembered this, and why I feel a sense of loss as we look to the future). It brought together the whole world church, and gave us all a sense of who we are as a people, where we have come from, and what our mission is.