Delegates' expectations include youthful leadership in future Sessions

Session highlights to include policy issues, Sabbath worship with world family

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Arin Gencer/ANN

Involving more young adults in leadership should be a priority for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said delegates interviewed at the start of the 59th World Session this afternoon.

"If we can get any youth in leadership, I think it's time," said Michael R. Bankhead, a delegate for the Southern Asia-Pacific region.

"We've got a lot of things that we've been doing the same way for a long time," he added. "There's a lot of potential to reach young people in the world right now, and it may take young people to do that."

Including young adults on the Executive Committee is among several on the Session agenda that delegates weighed in on as they, their families and scores of other Adventists milled about the Georgia World Congress Center.

While many emphasized the importance of letting God lead the way in the days ahead, they also shared their views on subjects such as women's ordination, education and proposed guidance in the Church Manual for appointing church employees and volunteers who work closely with minors.

But for most of those interviewed, the proposal to include more young adults and lay people -- such as pastors, teachers and missionaries -- on the world church's Executive Committee is long overdue.

"There are many capable young people that can lead, and they have good ideas," said Daniel Dial, a delegate and president of Mountain View College in the Philippines, who was walking with his grandson Jurell Dial. "Times have changed -- they need to be more involved. Otherwise, we'll lose them."

Other delegates had more contentious issues on their minds.

For Mexican delegate David Pacheco Cocom, the idea of ordaining women pastors -- discussed at length in previous sessions -- is still up for debate.

Even though it's not officially on the agenda this year, Pacheco said in Spanish, "I hope it won't be a source of division."

The subject was also on the mind of Delegate Eugenia Weaver, who said she's eyeing a proposal to include the ordination of deaconesses in the Church Manual.

"I think that's an important one -- they have so many women in leadership in the church," said Weaver, who is representing the North American region and supports the idea.

Despite the various discussions and decisions ahead of them, several delegates said they had their sights set elsewhere.

"It's not the agenda -- it's the experience of Sabbath at General Conference that is the most exuberant exhibit of the richness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church," said Charles Sandefur, a delegate and president of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International. For Sandefur, the snapshot of diversity on Sabbath morning "is more important than any specific agenda item."

Delegate Daniel Uzoije Oriaku, of the West-Central Africa region, said prayer comes first for him.

"So far, the Lord has been leading," said Oriaku, who traveled from Nigeria with his wife to attend Session. "We pray that leadership will lead rightly and followers will follow rightly."

Zelna Wright, a delegate from Pretoria, South Africa, echoed that sentiment.

"This is God's work, according to His plan -- we accept what He has set out," Wright said. "If you come here with your own agenda, you're going to be disappointed."