General Conference

Indianapolis Returns as 2020 Adventist General Conference Session Location

Thirty years after last hosting, Indiana's capital celebrates 'quality' convention

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Mark A. Kellner, Adventist Review

Thirty years after its last stint at hosting a Seventh-day Adventist Church world business session, Indianapolis, capital of the state of Indiana, will welcome the 61st General Conference Session in 2020. The Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts football team, and the Indianapolis Convention Center, will host the event.

"It's important to have groups that are quality people come into Indianapolis," declared Leonard Hoops, president and chief executive of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. He led a delegation of Hoosiers, as the state's people are known, in making an earnest presentation before delegates to the 2011 Annual Council at the movement's Silver Spring, Maryland, headquarters.

Hoops, a Presbyterian, was born in Trinidad and said he has Seventh-day Adventist relatives, including an aunt who is a church member. "I know enough about Adventists to be dangerous," he quipped.

The convention is expected to bring approximately $45 million in revenue to Indianapolis, a 372 square-mile city with a 2011 metro area population of 1.7 million. It is the 34th largest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the federal Office of Management and Budget.

A similar team from Atlanta, Georgia, site of the 2010 GC Session, also presented and asked for delegates for a repeat visit.

After world sessions in Utrecht, Netherlands (1995) and Toronto, Canada (2000), the last two General Conference sessions have been in the United States -- St. Louis (2005) and Atlanta (2010). The 2015 General Conference Session will also be in the U.S., in San Antonio, Texas, July 2-11. According to Sherri Clemmer, the world church's top meeting planner, several factors come into play in recommending that the 2020 General Conference session again be held in a U.S. city.

Members of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrate after being selected by the Adventist Church's Executive Committee to be hosts of the 2020 General Conference Session. Their signs read

Members of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrate after being selected by the Adventist Church's Executive Committee to be hosts of the 2020 General Conference Session. Their signs read

To have a successful GC Session, she said, it's important to have a stadium staff that is fluent in English; a location where food safety can be assured; a nearby airport large enough to handle delegate travel; hotels close to the convention venue, and an enclosed stadium with seating for 70,000 adjacent to a convention center. Very few venues can meet all those requirements, Clemmer said, and they tend to be in the United States.

The session, held once every five years, is expected to draw as many as 100,000 people on the peak convention days, as well as approximately 3,500 voting delegates, their family members, church employees and others during the event, in which world leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are elected and policies are decided.

A "Parade of Nations," in which Adventists march in national costume, carrying their country's flags, is seen as a highlight of the meetings. These meetings also usually feature service projects in the local community, cultural and musical events for the public, as well as outreach programs offering educational services on health and other matters.

Combining business with a general celebration of Adventism, the 2020 convention will have both official business meetings and exhibits for Adventists and those interested in the church. It is anticipated that the convention will also operate, for the 11-day duration, as the largest vegetarian restaurant in North America, feeding tens of thousands of meat-free meals.

Adventist Pastor Van Hurst, president of the Indiana Conference, was on stage with the convention bureau staff, holding one of a number of multi-lingual placards asking for a "Return to Indiana." Hurst, who said he is excited about the Session's return, prefaced the Indianapolis presentation with a prayer.

For Hoops, divine intervention may well have been a factor: "We have tried for the Session in 2005, 2010 and 2015 - this is the first time we've got it." Indeed, the "Circle City," as Indianapolis is also known, was a losing finalist for the 2015 selection, which was made at the 2006 Annual Council.