Though it's nearly a year away, some 2,400 delegates are already being selected for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's top business meeting, scheduled for next June in Atlanta, Georgia.
Last week, the executive secretary's office of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists sent each of the church's 13 world regions, or "divisions," their quota of voting delegates for the 10-day GC Session.
Secretary Matthew Bediako said each division will select delegates and submit names to his office by the end of this year.
Held every five years, GC Session is the international business meeting of the Adventist world church. The denomination now has roughly 16 million members in 207 countries.
Though the denomination began in the United States in the 1860s, the movement has spread; about one-third of its members now live in Africa and another third live in South and Central America.
Voting delegates for Session represent world regions both by church population and the self-sustainability of administrative regions.
For example, a self-sustaining group of churches in a territory is classified as a "conference," whereas a similar group receiving outside funding is referred to as a "mission." The distinction is also similar for "unions" -- groups of conferences across several states or provinces. A self-sustaining region is referred to as a "union conference" versus a "union mission," which is not.
Conferences and union conferences each send their president and two additional delegates to Session, whereas missions and union missions each send only one additional delegate besides the administration's president.
All delegates must be Seventh-day Adventist Church members in regular standing, the Adventist Church's Constitution states.
The Constitution also states that at least 50 percent of delegates shall be laypersons, pastors, teachers, and nonadministrative employees, of both genders and representing a range of age groups and nationalities.
"That's to avoid the GC Session delegation being all church employees," Bediako said. He added, "Out of that 50 percent a good portion should be young people."
The Session is the forum for electing world church officers for the next five years. Positions up for re-election are the president, vice presidents, division presidents, the secretary and associates, treasurer and associates, as well as departmental directors.
While department associates have typically been up for re-election at Session, the 2010 Session could be a departure from tradition. In 2008, the church's Executive Committee approved a measure that would delay departmental associates' election until the first Annual Council after Session, which is usually held in the fall. This would allow more time for newly elected departmental leaders to select their associates.
World church Associate Secretary Rosa Banks said it's expected that the measure will be on the agenda at the 2010 Session.
Constitutional items to be voted include an adjustment of the Church Manual and approval of a change in the organization of church unions.
The Church Manual is currently being rewritten by a subcommittee to simplify the writing and eliminate redundancies, Bediako said.
Also, in 2007, the church's Executive Committee approved the wider use of the "unions of churches" distinction, in which the local conference is eliminated and a group of churches relates directly to the General Conference. The management structure is already in use in some small countries in Europe. If approved, it would likely have wider use, especially in smaller countries in Africa where another management structure below a union would not be practical.
Bediako said the meeting is also a spiritual gathering. The first day will feature a time of spiritual emphasis. During the business portion of Session, Divisions will also deliver reports on ministry in their territories.
Session is scheduled to meet Wednesday, June 23 through Saturday, July 3, 2010.
For more information, see www.gcsession.org.