Friday, July 10, 2015

Final Day of Business

First, sorry . . . I have no more pictures!  Just a lot of words.

Today, Friday, represented the last day of official session business, and, as true for most of the week's sessions, it was interesting!  I attended the Atlanta GC Session in 2010 as a delegate, but, for some reason, perhaps owing to the drama of the women's ordination issue, this one has proved more engaging in terms of the 'business' side of things. This session also seemed to have a longer list of revisions to the fundamental beliefs and to the Church Manual then in Atlanta.

Yesterday, it was shared that the last of the Nominating Committees work was over, but, indeed, that was not the case as today, the committee had to return to work - briefly - and present an officer in the Japan area of the world field for the delegates voted support.  That passed easily.

More interesting, at least to me, was the return today of a number of items that had been sent back to committee for consideration to be revised, AFTER, they had been presented to the delegates earlier in the week.  The delegates had been waiting for this as most were aware that a number of items had, as per delegate vote, been returned to committee for further review.

So . .  how does that take place and why?

The process on the floor - for delegate review - is that revisions to the Church Manual are crafted by the GC's Revisions committee, the proposed wording changes are brought "to the floor," and, the delegates can approve the revision, OR, vote to return it to the committee for further work. If voted to return to committee for revision/review, that work must be accomplished before the last of GC business session ends -  today.  When returned to committee, the committee must convene,  and its members give consideration to whatever  expressed concern or opinion was expressed/ suggested. It can be something as simply as one word, OR, a significant change in the intent and meaning of the original proposal.

Importantly:  No item can be returned to committee without the vote by simple majority of delegates on the floor . . .
(by the way, did I mention that on Sunday, it was proposed by one delegate that NOTHING would be passed except by 2/3rd majority vote?  THANKFULLY that motion DID NOT pass, and had it . . . there may have been many issues that could not have been addressed as on many items brought to the delegates,  there is not a 2/3 majority.  Back to the process of revising issues brought by the committee to the delegates . . . 

What is NOT allowed by GC rules, is revising the document/proposal offered by committee from the floor, or, even making any meaningful "new agenda item" decision from the floor via a motion. 

 I think with wisdom, the GC rules demand that ANY  revisions, or, almost any motion that is something other than a parliamentary procedure issue, MUST be returned to committee.  This prevents 'blocks' of individuals, or single individuals for that matter, proposing some "new initiative" or striking down an old one, directly from the floor without the issue being vetted by the respective committees.

Without this 'safe guard" the potential for extremely problematic and not carefully thought out issues being voted into policy would be the reality.

So . . .  a number of issues were presented to the delegates in todays session that had been 'returned to committee' earlier in the week.  8 issues to be exact!

I'll comment on only two. Several were very minor, but these two, perhaps were more significant.

One has to do with the 'right' or 'process' of a church or organization to appeal to the "next higher level" of organization when the unhappy entity (an organization like a church NOT an individual) feels that their concern, or issue, was not properly addressed by the local field, generally meaning a local conference, or, perhaps a "governing board." This proposed 'new wording' on an already existing policy, was being returned to the floor for a final vote, and this time, as before, was STILL significantly debated, for probably, two hours?  

The parts of this that came up for vigorous debate included, "why can an individual appeal all the way up to the GC, but this wording limits an 'organization' such as a church, to appeal ONLY to the next level in the ecclesiastical structure, and it can never go to the Division or GC UNLESS, those organizations, in successive ascending order, would agree to hear the issue being appealed?" In other words, if the Union Conference replied to an appeal, that they WILL NOT hear the appealed decision of say, a local conference?  Then, that concludes the matter.

What I just wrote may not even make sense to you, but in my view, having been in administration for almost 14 years now in two organizations, I've never seen even ONE church attempt to 'appeal' an issue to the next level of ecclesiastical authority, meaning the Union Conference. IN fact, I never saw ANY church desire to appeal anything even to the local conference (that's not to say that we have not had congregation/church issues that needed to be brought to Executive Committee)!

Some concerns expressed today included, IF you opened up the appeal process too broadly, the GC could be flooded with frivolous appeals .  Again, not seeing how that's possible as an "appeal" from a  church, a school, an institution, that feels it's issues were not handled appropriately by the local organization, with this policy,  as in the past, can "appeal"  ONLY one level up, IF, that next level agrees to hear the appeal.  GC reps., had already expressed that they are NOT inundated with appeals.

Not sure why this was so widely debated though I suspect that in the world field, this is perhaps more common than in the U.S., and, it has certainly happened here in the States possibly with media ministries, publishing houses, and occasionally, even local congregations. 

I learned many things this week, including . . . "Hot topic" issues, as reflected a number of times this week, issues when individuals/delegats feel their 'rights' are being marginalized or ignored . .  when that feels like its happening?   GREAT debate usually follows!

The 2nd item that I'll mention, which was voted on right before we closed the morning session today before lunch, was, quite frankly, a surprising but welcome outcome.  In a previous post, on the 2nd day of business (last Sunday), I mentioned an item that was being presented for revision that would have deleted the "male exclusivity" language and used more "gender neutral" wording,  in the context of recognizing BOTH men AND women pastors.

Here's the beginning of the old statement "When MEN have given evidence of a call to ministry . . .  (then it goes on).  Thats the old wording.  The NEW wording was proposed, Sunday, to include men and women, recognizing of course that both genders are pastoring, and, we were reminded this week, that in China in particular, women pastors are extremely common, and, possibly with no exception, every Division has women serving in some pastoral capacity, some divisions of course, with more women than others.

Well, in my first post, I mentioned that this 'inclusive' wording was voted down, meaning, to be sent back to committee, after one delegate commented that it was not biblical. I am assuming that his concern was that women should not be authorized to perform pastoral duties?  I don't know as he did not give detail only mentioning "not supported by Scripture." 

After this delegates brief expressed concern on Sunday, the wording was voted to be sent back to committee,  by, I thought,  a rather surprising majority vote, but, it "was what it was."

 I fully expected that today, as this issue was returned to the delegates from committee, with really no revision to the original revised, "gender inclusive" language submission on Sunday, (which is often the result of the committees review; they feel that their original work needs no revision, so, they decide to return the 'proposal' again, the 2nd time, with no changes or, perhaps some small clarifying word change). My concern was we were going to have another contentious debate over this wording today . .  but . .  that's not what happened.

The new wording, again, striking out the old language of "when men give evidence of their calling . . ." was being proposed/changed to "when PASTORS give evidence of their calling .   . ." and, then the rest of the policy changes the word  "ministers" to "pastors."  I suspect the changed wording had some tie to eliminating 'pastoral male exclusivity' language, again, something not all delegates supported.  Back to what happened . . . 

When it was brought to the floor today to be considered the second time . . . it not only passed, but, maybe only a dozen or so"no" ballots were waved in the air as I could see?  Maybe 1900 yes, votes, and maybe, maybe, a dozen or so Nos? . . .  In other words, a 99% supportive vote?  I turned to Elder Don Livesay, president of Lake Union,  and his wife, who were seated beside me and said, "That was unbelievable!"  What happened between Sunday and today?

The only difference in the vote was that it was, today, unlike Sunday,  moved and then given support, by the delegates, to IMMEDIATELY present the item for voting by rather than allow for debate.  No one had a chance to get to the mic. But that was what the delegates seemed to desire. Did that in turn, make the difference? ( I can't imagine almost ANYONE wanted to return to the drama of the speech making on this  issue again today, but, there are some interesting delegates here for sure!)

Were the delegates weary of fighting the "women" in pastoral ministry issue?

Did God simply perform a miracle that avoided the possibly of a very divisive and lengthy debate on the floor  - again - between the delegates over the issue of recognizing women in pastoral ministry?

I don't know.  I do believe, with welcome relief probably on the part of maybe all?  The item was simply voted  as returned by the committee, by an enormous majority, and perhaps, if nothing else, while the ordination issue on Wednesday did not pass, for most of the days' debate, extremely passionate speeches were given sometimes with great emotion, and almost entirely from men, advocating for women to be affirmed in ministry. Did that "soften" some of those most opposed to women serving pastorally?  I really don't know . . .

Again, I just think God, wonderfully, got us past this so that the Sabbath could be welcomed in without another long day of contention over this issue. So, we are coming to the end of the 60th GC Session.  60 sessions, in the past 150 years.  What to make of it? Only time and history will tell.

Thanks for tuning in to my posts . . . while not a LOT of people have read them, I know several of you have expressed appreciation for these personal reviews.

This is my final post as I must return to Nashville before heading out on another week of meetings with the Southern Union.  Appreciate the prayers of many this week; I believe God has been present in a real and meaningful way, these past ten days, in San Antonio.

Gods' church, meeting in world wide session IS amazing, and, I hope my little blogs help you feel as if you were a part of it .  . . . and perhaps you heard?  an 18 million dollar event? But perhaps, every five years, for the purpose of bringing the world church together and hopefully building some sense of mission and unity, money well spent.

God lead and hopefully, w'ere ALL home in the kingdom very soon,  and there will be no more GC constituencies!  (the 2020 event is planned for a return to Indianapolis - instead, may it be in the Kingdom of God!)

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