Voices From the Dome:
William G. Johnsson

While General Conference sessions are occasions of celebration and joy as God’s people gather in festive fellowship, they also have a bittersweet tinge.

These convocations are primarily business meetings, and chief among the business is the election of leaders of the world church for the ensuing five years. But this means that General Conference sessions inevitably mark change, a leaving of office and a coming into office.

Old, familiar faces depart. New faces take over. Some of those moving on have chosen to do so, because of planned retirement or for other reasons. But for some others the change is not planned, is perhaps jarringly unexpected.

The change is breathtakingly abrupt. From the moment the person is voted by the delegates and accepts a position, he or she holds that position.

So fast: leader today, history tomorrow.

Even when the change is voluntary, it is at best an unsettling transition. At its worst, it is brutal. Loss of office can feel like loss of identity, loss of face.

The elective side of General Conference sessions is their most interesting part. All other business comes to a halt when representatives from the Nominating Committee appear on the platform with the latest slate of recommendations of new leaders. Those selected by the committee appear before the assembly to be introduced as their names are read.

Nothing, or almost nothing, is said concerning those who vanish from the limelight. The session returns to its business.

It’s not that we Adventists are ungrateful. And certainly not that we view the elective process in political terms. It’s that the sheer rush of events, the pace of the session, makes it easy for us to overlook those for whom the session has turned bitter.

I think we can do better. I think I ought to do better.

So, on behalf of all of us, delegates and visitors at the fifty-ninth General Conference session, let me say a word to anyone who right now is feeling a bit down—or way down—as a result of the elective process. We love you, we appreciate you.

Thank you!

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