Skip Navigation

Whose Voices were Silenced and Whose Were Heard?

by Rebekah_Miles
April 29, 2012

There was no plot to weaken our democratic process. I don’t believe anybody planned it that way, but it wasn’t all that difficult to predict. It was so easy, in fact, that I did just that in my Wednesday night post when I wrote that changes in the rules (many of which we were never able to discuss) would likely privilege large packages of legislation sponsored by boards and agencies.

This is one of those times when I so wish I had been wrong. No such luck.

Let me summarize a few changes in the rules:

For the first time in my memory, the legislative committees did not have to consider and vote on each piece of legislation.

The new rules also mandated that plenary and legislative committees sessions end by 9:30 in the evening at the latest and that legislative committee work had to be finished by Saturday.

Put those rules together and you have the reality we faced last night at 9:30 when we were forced by the rules to stop our work. If the committee as a whole had not considered it, the petition died. End of story.

Some committees were able to finish before the mandated closing time; other committees – especially those with lots of petitions or very complex or controversial petitions — had to stop before their work was done. It was reported that in one case, a General Conference official literally came into the room and insisted that the committee cease its work.

This evening I sat down for several hours with the legislative tracking guide to see what petitions were not considered by the full body in my legislative committee – Ministry and Higher Education.

I found a lot of good ideas that were recommended by a sub-committee but were never considered by the whole committee simply because the time clock ran out.

Doing this quick review, I noticed a pattern. Major petitions sponsored by boards and agencies appear to have had a better chance of being considered that those by individuals, churches and annual conferences. It seemed to me, also, that petitions related to local pastors were disproportionally represented on the “not-considered” list.

I’m sitting here reflecting on all those petitions that were never considered because we were mandated to stop at 9:30. I’m thinking about some great ideas that made it through the subcommittee but died in committee for lack of time. I’m thinking too about the churches and individuals who submitted petitions and had every reason to assume they would be considered.

Ironically, I have a lot more time to think about this than expected. I’m sitting in a plenary session that should have ended, according to the rules, 1 hour and 10 minutes ago . (Yes, you read that right, we are 70 minutes over our mandated closing time.) We are listening to people from all over the world give reports about various missions and agencies of our church and we are honoring people who have done great things. Its important stuff, but all I can think about it is the legislation we failed to act on because they made us stop at 9:30 last night.

The crowd has lost its enthusiasm. But as much as we want to go back to our rooms right now, it wouldn’t be right to stop the program when all these people have come from so far away to do what the church asked of them. I wish we could have shown the same good sense last night.