Although the original vision for this blog is the discussion of legislative proposals, the current pandemic as called us to looked a some new church related issues. To keep the discussion off of a totally public forum, I am privately engage through the blog.
This is the original post on Facebook.
The Rejection of Virtual Gatherings
Jeffrey N. Leath, 128th Bishop
The Council of Bishops and the General Conference Commission have summarily rejected the notion of a connectional virtual, computer-generated gathering. The Council of Bishops and the General Conference Commission not only went beyond expressed displeasure with the concept, they also refused to research the issue and the efficiency of holding and conducting virtual meetings. The failure to even study the possibilities is the most disappointing of their actions. Is there due diligence for these uncharted times when we ignore options?
All of us have concerns about virtual gathering these days (Zoom, Go to Meeting, and private platforms). Security. Equal access of all members of the deliberative body. Mixed participation (some onsite while others are virtual). The list goes on. Complexity and novelty is no excuse for disregarding feasibility.
Here is the reality. The world is already different. If we do not at least think about new ways of doing business, we will be caught behind the curve in expensive, antiquated processes. The current social order is a warning bell. Why are we dreaming and waiting for the return of the “good old days?”
We understand the health interests for our members. There is special concern for the most vulnerable. We are also sympathetic to the need for fairness for our international institution. However, there may be more equity in a virtual gathering than we duplicitously deny.
Where is the fairness of representatives from Districts 14-20 having to spend over $2,000 just to get to a point of entry where they will get the same travel allowance as American representatives to meetings like the General Board? Where is the justice in observers traveling to any connectional meeting having access by auto, bus, or airplane with unrestricted movement, while persons outside the United States are burdened with the costs (and often the disappointment) of securing visas and forced air travel.
We can maintain our integrity with digital presence, that is, online face-to-face meetings, just as easily as in-person. Better stewardship of fiscal resources and creative strategies may open new horizons of excellent service. Can’t we look at it and give it a try?
We are wasting precious time and opportunity. The Connectional Lay Organization is already using a virtual format for their Executive Board. Why are we still riding the conference call pony while other institutions, as noble as ours, have jetted into the video age?
By implementation on a smaller scale NOW in anticipation of the inevitable, The Council of Bishops, General Board and Commissions should engage in virtual meetings NOW. We can learn the technology; iron out the wrinkles, secure the systems; and assess the benefits and the liabilities.
During World War II, international travel among civilians was severely limited, and even during war, the General Conference met. What if there is no international travel in the summer of 2021? Will we still postpone the General Conference because of disease and travel restrictions, no matter the extent?
Perhaps, The People need to say to the Leaders, Let’s live in the technological present and consider ALL our options for doing God’s work through our Zion! Do justice, Love mercy, walk humbly!