Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rule 44

In the United Methodist Church, we are going to be trying a new thing at General Conference in May. It’s called “Rule 44.”

Rule 44 is an attempt to define a way for the General Conference to dialogue about particular questions. It is a group discernment process intended to be used when the questions on the table are particularly emotional or sensitive. The hope is to infuse the General Conference with the spirit of “Christian Conferencing,” gracious and respectful conversations in which we might manage to “be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion.”

I for one love the idea! I'm all for that "grace-filled, respectful dialogue!" It’s a good idea to try something different than what we are doing now, which is essentially following a modified version of “Robert’s Rules of Order” to discuss, amend, and vote on bunches of wordy resolutions. I am so grateful for people who are 1) astute enough to name the need to change, and 2) bold enough to actually propose a way to change.

This year, if we pass “Rule 44,” the idea is to apply it to all of the resolutions about human sexuality. In the future “Rule 44” could be applied to any set of issues. All of the proposals would be taken out of legislative committee deliberation and instead the issue will be discussed in small groups. Each small group would have a trained facilitator, and would create a report of recommendations on how best to proceed with the proposals around the given issue.

These written reports are then given to a facilitation group comprised of six delegates. Their job is to study the reports from each group, looking for trends or patterns, and then make a recommendation to the body as to how to proceed. This recommendation might be a single petition or multiple petitions. The body then deliberates and proceeds on the facilitation group’s recommendation using the rules of order of the General Conference.

It’s pretty bold, isn’t it? It’s very different, and apparently a lot of people are scared of it. Our Missouri delegation had a chance to speak with Judi Kenaston, the Chair of the General Commission on General Conference, and she told us that there have been some pretty negative online responses. (But you know how “bloggers” are, right? A bunch of opinionated blowhards, thinking everybody wants to read their words and stuff. Sheesh!)

One of the reasons for the idea is a request from the 2012 General Conference for a proposal that would shift the tone of General Conference “from issues of governance and towards building consensus on ministry,” an admirable goal and worth pursuing, to be sure. More voices can join the conversation under Rule 44, rather than a few louder ones dominating the discussion. Rule 44 goes a long way toward easing the artificial US v. THEM divide that seems to permeate everything these days. And the final decision(s) that will be made will have a deeper sense of ownership, as each delegate is given an opportunity to express her- or himself in the process.

As a first alternate delegate, I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to vote on Rule 44 or not. If I did, I’d definitely be voting in favor.


bthomas said...

Just a sham effort to manipulate, restrict and manage debate to accomplish a desired outcome by limiting the ability of conservatives to speak to issues.

Andy B. said...

Thanks for offering your perspective, bthomas. How exactly would Rule 44 limit anyone? It would allow for more voices in the mix, by ensuring that every single delegate is free to offer an opinion, rather than limiting the conversation to committee work and floor debate. At least that's how I interpret it.

Life Long Methodist said...

I did not know it was a requirement to be heterosexual in order to be a Christian.