Cindy Gregorson on faith and life

General Conference Day Six

I need to do a little research on my United Methodist history.  Last night one of the presenters stated that the earliest delegated general conference was held in 1808.  That was the first time people were elected and seated as representatives from their annual conference.  But I am not sure when Robert’s Rules of Order and passing legislation as a way to structure the Book of Discipline became the order of the day.

I have been sitting in plenary session today.  We are amending and referring, and substituting, and spending hours working on a petition to ultimately defeat it.  I keep thinking of the deep issues facing us as a church, and just wonder if this method of being the general conference is becoming outdated and if there is a better way?  I am presuming we have not always done it this way, even though it seems like it.  But I find it to be slow, tedious and it becomes a procedural game.  We are spending lots of time…but what are we actually accomplishing?

Congress has the same fault.  There is a fundamental conversation about the role of government in our country, and we are attempting to have it through legislative policies and practices and it is not working.  We are frustrated that in our nation no one seems to be leading and we cannot make headway on key challenges, and winning is more important that working for the common good.

Similarly, I see the church needing to have a fundamental convernsation about what does it mean for the United Methodist Church to be a global church, and how will we live that out together?  How will be a church that is inclusive and welcoming to all, how will we be relevant in a rapidly changing world, and how will we face the financial challenges facing us.  We are trying to solve these issues in plenary sessions of 1000 people debating and voting.

I just have to wonder about what God might be thinking about all of this and when did Robert get to be the order of the day instead of prayer and discernment?

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Comments on: "Is It Time For Robert to Leave the House" (4)

  1. Victoria Rebeck said:

    So . . . what’s the alternative that makes sure everyone is heard and everyone understands how to be heard? And that we know what we agreed upon? I’m not saying Roberts’ is the only way . . . just that its purpose is to make sure everyone has a chance to speak and vote and that the speaking is relevant to the topic at hand. I’d want to be sure those values are upheld in whatever system we use.

    Some folks advocate for “consensus,” but sometimes the way I’ve seen that played out is the quieter folks get railroaded.

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments during General Conference. Being a delegate is arduous work!

  2. But does Roberts rule really allow for full participation. I have seen it used to control conversation through actions such as tabling or referring and it really limits the ability to have substantive conversation. It creates winners and losers. So is there a way to use dialogue more and save legislative process for when we finally need a vote.

  3. Mickey Olson said:

    I agree that Roberts can be manipulated. Eric Law’s book about the Lion and the Lamb and inviting discussion so that all are heard would be a good read and discipline for the conference gathering. Unfortunately there is no allownace for movement of the Holy Spirit when we come with our minds already made up.

    • Jim Perry said:

      I’m a little behind. Just getting to this week’s blogs. Cindy has challenged us daily. I am also brought to comment on our arcane rules which we tried to amend in significant ways eight years ago in Pittsburgh that would prevent some of what Cindy is talking about above. Several of us on the Commission on General Conference worked with others to do this. In 40+ years of ministry this attempt to streamline how we conduct business provoked more hate email that I have ever received before. Generally they suggested I was trying to destroy the very fabric of the UMC by making it less democratic. All points of view need to be heard, but when has the church been a democracy? If every disciple had a vote the gospel would have had a very different message — if it had ever been written! I have a slanted view in my retired status. Sometimes debating and debating some issues keeps us from getting to the mission we all need to be involved in. Nuf said.

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