Theological Reflection, national reports, amazing music, meaningful & engaging worship make up most of the "business" of our plenary gatherings. And then there's the voting. As a delegate, we are randomly assigned to a committee whose task it is to learn the background and content of a Resolution that is being submitted for consideration to the General Synod. The first phase of the process is to attend an Education Intensive meeting to learn about the background for the issue that the Resolution is focused on. I began my process by working around the rules....of course. I didn't feel like I needed much preparation for my committee, so I attended a different topic, one that I actually felt like I needed to know more about.
The second phase is where the committee gathers in one, of up to three, meetings to debate, wordsmith and consider more deeply the breath and scope of the resolution (without changing it's original intent) and to think through the implications for the local church, association, conference and Synod settings. At the conclusion of the committee's work, the amended Resolution is presented on the Synod floor for debate and vote by the whole body.
The process of discussion and debate is where the good stuff is. Roberts Rules are used fairly effectively to allow for all voices to speak and to work together to weigh in on the important issues contained in the Resolutions. One of the most powerful and encouraging elements of this phase, for me, was the way that any time there were a group of youth delegates (who don't have vote) who wished to weigh in, they were granted voice. And they usually made me cry.....I digress.
Finally, there's the clicker. When they hand you your electronic device used for voting, they right away tell you that if you lose it, you own them $100. In fact, you are told that more than once. The clicker looks like one of those mini-calculators clipped to a lanyard so you can tie it around your neck, so you don't lose it and owe $100. I confess that often while I was listening deeply, but looking for something to do with my hands, I was frustrated that there weren't any games offered to keep us occupied. A little minesweeper, or solitaire, or tetris, doesn't seem like too much to ask. In fact, since we only used buttons 1, 2, & 3 (yes, no, abstain), I made the argument that all of those other buttons could be mobilized to help us stay engaged. Seems reasonable, doesn't it? But alas, that technology isn't incorporated.
So, after those in favor speak and those who oppose speak, and those who are making amendments speak, and we listen to those who favor the amendment and to those who oppose the amendment, and we vote on the amendment, and listen to those who have points of order or questions for clarification.....then we get to vote. The moderator tells the body when the vote is going to take place that the time to vote begins now. You have 15 seconds. The results in bar graph format then appear on the screen. Cheering is discouraged, as they are trying to facilitiate a climate of there being no winners or losers. I'm not quite sure if there is concensus on that point or not!
If the Resolution passes, it is referred to all of the settings of the UCC for consideration. If it doesn't, proponents regroup and often come back at the next General Synod.
While all of this may seem cumbersome and formal....and while there are no games on the clicker ...and if we lose it will cost us $100.....there's good stuff in this process. The Holy Spirit shows up and the faithful body tries to discern what She is saying to us. It's a lot of work to be a delegate. But I feel blessed to have had the opportunity.
One more plenary left, then closing worship. The 2019 General Synod will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Perhaps one of you will want to go?
To be continued....