I am elated at the overwhelming response of bishops, and persons at every level, to the notion of a virtual General Conference. I argued for the same months ago. I am concerned, though, that the move toward a virtual meeting will become the occasion for the abrogation of rights through the creation of rules by unauthorized and unethical individuals. We cannot brazenly disregard the laws of the church…even in a pandemic.
Critics of a virtual General Conference raised some months ago, two primary concerns:
- A virtual general conference is illegal because the Discipline requires that it meet in a specific kind of facility (therefore only “in person”). A convention hall type building is always to be used, and the General Conference is not to be held in large athletic arenas. (Discipline, page 260, Kindle Locations 5917-5919).
- Overseas delegates should not be dealt with differently than anyone else.
With that in mind, we should should demand of the process that
- A physical majority of delegates gather in a convention hall to establish a quorum and to adopt rules for the convention.
- The Rules must include authorization for virtual participation of ANY delegate regardless to the annual conference they represent.
- All sessions must be projected through a digital format for both delegates “in the room” and those who participate remotely. ALL delegates should be watching through a device, so there is no less advantage to remote participants.
- All voting must be done through the same application, whether the person is on location or remote.
- All Committees must have digital/remote access for members.
In upcoming posts, I will suggest a few rules we should bend to make a “hybrid” general conference a greater success. Nonetheless, I am afraid when we “overreach” choosing laws we keep and those we circumvent. One of the great critiques we face is the way those who preside (clergy and lay) “rule” with bias rather than reason and without regard to the will of the body.
Let’s charge up those tablets and get ready for the 51st Session!