Annual Council 2021: Making History
by Derek Morris | president, Hope Channel International, Inc.Silver Spring, MD
Each October, on years when there is no General Conference Session, Seventh-day Adventist church leaders from around the world gather for a strategic meeting known as Annual Council. Since Hope Channel International, Inc. is an evangelistic media institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I was privileged to attend this historic meeting. Delegates at the 2021 Annual Council were making history for several reasons.
The First Hybrid Annual Council
This was the first hybrid Annual Council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church ever conducted, where only approximately 25-30 percent of the delegates were on site at the World Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. Most of the delegates participated via Zoom. Due to the large number of remote attendees, and the diversity of languages, there were five Zoom rooms: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, and English.
Remote attendees had full voice and vote, like those attending in person. This hybrid event may well be a micro-version of the General Conference Session to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in June 2022. If a revision is made to the General Conference Constitution at a specially called GC Session on January 18, 2022, allowing virtual attendance at GC Sessions with full voice and vote, we can expect a similar hybrid situation in June 2022.
This 2021 Annual Council was historic for another reason. Never before have I heard so many powerful testimonies of lives transformed by the power of God and believers remaining faithful to God despite hardships and persecution. I was particularly blessed by an account of the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffered persecution in the former USSR:
and an account of a young Seventh-day Adventist physician in China who was sentenced to more than ten years in a labor camp simply for being a Christian:
We were also blessed to view a Hope Channel TRANSFORMED testimony by Ed Incle, along with a live interview to hear “the rest of the story.”
Prayer has always been an important part of Annual Councils and General Conference Sessions throughout the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and this year was no exception. In fact, there seemed to be a more earnest pleading for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit than ever before. Delegates met 30 minutes before the morning sessions, both in the GC Auditorium, and in Zoom rooms, to cry out to the LORD, claiming His promises for guidance and blessing. The LORD has promised, “Call to Me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV). And the apostle James reminds us, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him/her ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5 NKJV). At this Annual Council, delegates were taking the Lord at His word.
Though the challenges ahead are varied and greater than ever before, we move forward with optimism, trusting in the strength and wisdom of our Leader.