Voices from the Dome: Bert Beach
hortly before the General Conference session I was asked to be one of a number of “Voices From the Dome,” commenting on some aspect of the General Conference experience. As the first “voice,” I begin with a backward look.
This is my fifteenth GC session, a sort of record I am told. I was active at the past sessions, first as a “messenger boy” for Secretariat, and subsequently a translator for several languages from the platform, introducer of government officials and non-Adventist religious leaders, a host for Protocol VIPs, to mention a few. At this session I am a “special guest.” I appreciate this honor. In the letter of invitation I was told twice that I do not have the right to speak or vote. But now, lo and behold, I have been given the “right to write” about the session!
When we met in session 64 years ago in the newly built Sligo church in Takoma Park, Maryland, the Adventist Church had less than 600,000 baptized members. Most leaders were North Americans, many of them trained in what we called the “mission field.” Today, the small 1946 church has become a significant player on the world religious stage. Growth has become a distinguishing mark. As a Christian world communion we are playing in the “major leagues.” And yet, here, I feel the presence and warmth of a family. Even when I meet leaders I haven’t known before, we are family, not really strangers.
Like many things, accommodation of delegates has become more complex and more costly. In the Takoma Park area there were no large hotels. Many delegates in 1946 were able to stay in the homes of GC staff, including my parents.
We can rejoice that for the first time, in my memory, the delegates and many others met in the Georgia Dome prior to the session to pray and implore God to turn the round sports stadium for the next 10 days into God’s hemispheric house for worship and decision-making, in keeping to His will.
Without claiming to be a prophet, I am going to stick my neck out and say that the Atlanta fifty-ninth GC session will mark a watershed in Adventist witness. No longer need we focus on the “burden” of mission sponsored by the Western world, nor even the responsibility now being claimed by developing nations. We will yet acknowledge a global Adventist mandate to gather God’s “great harvest” and finish the work in a blaze of glory.
Bert Beach is a retired director of General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department.