Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN

Seventh-day Adventist Church delegates today defeated a motion that would have altered the timeframe for choosing associate directors of departments at the church's world headquarters.

The motion would have moved the appointments from the General Conference Session to the first business meeting afterward, held in October.

Church officials initiated the item to give newly elected department heads more time to shape their respective departments by choosing complementary associates. In the past, some delegates have suggested that, given the volume of elections voted on at Session, the process of choosing associates is conducted in a cursory manner, lacking in discussion and consideration.

"Are we asking the Nominating Committee to do too much, too hurriedly?" former world church President Jan Paulsen asked delegates, while introducing discussion of the policy issue in the Georgia Dome this morning.

The church's Constitution and Bylaws must permit church business to run in the "most efficient and effective manner," he said, challenging delegates to consider whether adjustment was needed to best serve the church's mission.

After lengthy, opinionated discussion, the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional motion was not garnered. Delegates for and against the proposal respectively lifted their yellow vote cards for a physical count, revealing that 828 of the necessary 1,028 votes were collected, defeating the motion.

Many delegates opposing the motion cited representation and logistics. Some seemed to resent that the item threatened the authority of the Nominating Committee to choose associates, while others questioned its practicality.

"The director will bear the burden of two until the associate can come to serve," said Heather-Dawn Small, world church Women's Ministries director, who speculated that an associate elected in October might not arrive in office until eight to 10 months later, due to issues related to immigration visas for oversees nominees.

Those in favor said operating for a few months without an associate could ensure that the best possible candidate was chosen.

"Our departmental activities are specialized; we need experts to do that work," said Kone Allah-Ridy, who represents West-Central Africa.

Why not just begin the work of the Nominating Committee earlier during Session, one delegate suggested, faulting time constraints for the majority of pressure members feel in electing associates during the 10-day business meeting.

"If we can choose the president of the world church in less than four hours, surely we can choose associates within a similar timeframe," said Gina S. Brown, a member of the Nominating Committee representing North America. She questioned whether time was really the issue at hand.

The motion's defeat leaves the Nominating Committee members with just 15 minutes to select each remaining church officer, given the number of outstanding elections and the amount of time remaining during Session, said Robert Kyte, chair of the Nominating Committee.

If delegates had passed the item, committee members would have had 21 minutes, Kyte told delegates.

Several delegates debated whether deferring the decision to the world church's Executive Committee meeting in October really made much difference in representation. Kevin Jackson, of the church's South Pacific region, said the "key difference" was the inclusion of the presidents of each of the church's 13 world regions on the Executive Committee.

"I would suggest that their inclusion actually brings rigor to the process, enhancing the quality of the decisions," Jackson said.

Church officials moderating the discussion confirmed that the Executive Committee, with 305 members, is a larger body than the Nominating Committee, which has slightly more than 200 members.

However, delegates pointed out that approving the motion would effectively block the votes of the approximately 2,400-member delegation. Session delegates can vote to accept or reject any recommendation made by the Nominating Committee, broadening the input, while at Annual Council, there is no body to check or balance the decisions of the Executive Committee.

But Session delegates elect the world church's Nominating Committee, so why wouldn't they trust its decision, asked Gideon Chimaeze Nwaogwugwu, representing the church's West-Central Africa region. "Have we lost confidence in the church's Executive Committee? If so, that means we have to scrap the whole structure of the church," he said.

Notably, many departmental heads from world church headquarters, including Small and Garland Dulan, who directs the world church's Education department, expressed opposition to the motion. Much of the support for the measure seemed to come from delegates representing other levels of administration.

There were exceptions, however. Richard Osborn, a delegate representing the General Conference, who previously served on a Nominating Committee, said he and colleagues felt "enormous pressure" to make swift rather than thoughtful decisions. "The chaos that developed toward the end of the week led to some very poor decisions," he said.

"We take more time to choose an elementary school teacher than we do to choose some of the church's top leaders."