Who has thought, “I’m glad the Nazarene General Assembly wasn’t in 2020″? Probably most globally connected Nazarenes watching the cancelations of every large group gathering in 2020. But will 2021 be better? Of course, no one knows the future. I’m fairly certain there are no crystal balls at the Global Ministry Center. But it seems the question should be asked (as it is being asked by the IOC concerning cancelling the already postponed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo) should we cancel or postpone the 30th General Assembly in 2021?
I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet (to steal a line from Amos), but it’s sensible to presume that by June of 2021, in Indianapolis the worst Covid-19 troubles of 2020 will have passed. But will the virus be completely contained worldwide by June of 2021? What if there is a second wave in the United States in January or February of 2021? What if there is not a vaccine? What if there is a vaccine but it has not been delivered globally to the 160+/- countries that the Church of the Nazarene operates in? Will the U.S. government allow entry into the country from those countries that have had no access to a vaccine? Obtaining a visa into the US was not easy in 2017 before the pandemic (just ask those delegates from the Philippines or Guatemala who did not have their visas approved in 2017). It is reasonable to assume that it will be even harder for international delegates to obtain visas in a post-pandemic, but still weary United States in 2021.
Postponing the General Assembly for a year might not be the worst decision. In the last several General Assemblies resolutions have been proposed to move General Assemblies to a five year cycle. At the 2017 General Assembly, if I remember correctly, all of the General Superintendents (and a few formers GSs) were in support of moving General Assembly to every five years. I believe their endorsement was based on the increasing cost of holding a General Assembly (the actual cost of a General Assembly is held tighter to the vest than nuclear launch codes, but I think it’s a lot). I voted against the resolution because of two big reasons: 1) The world changes so quickly. Waiting five years is too long to address our changing culture and subsequent changing challenges; and 2) General Assembly is like a family reunion. If we are serious about being an internationally connected church, the four-year gathering is essential to those relationships. I think it’s too late to change my vote, but in light of the pandemic I wish I had voted differently.
The question should be reasonably asked can we have a family reunion if half the family is denied entry into the United States? Can we afford a General Assembly in a year when the World Evangelism Fund (WEF) will probably decline because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? It may be time to ask if the 30th General Assembly should take place in 2022.