Those who have held virtual annual conferences can attest to a universal lesson: Virtual Meetings Require More Extensive and Efficient Preparation than In Person Business Sessions. Although discussions may drag at a slower pace in virtual meetings, the business agenda often moves at lightning speed. Matters that were deferred to “overnight” consideration in former times needed to be resolved in hours as the clock governing the meeting ticked away. This will be even more important in a shortened, segregated or hybrid (if we develop a genuine one) session of the 51st Session of the General Conference.
Fewer sessions mean WE MUST ADJUST THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS, not just try to do the same old things in a way that compromises justice and democracy in an abbreviated process. There are two important steps we should pursue immediately: activation of key committees and open discussion on the most controversial matters in more transparent forums.
Two of the more important committees for an efficient general conference are The Rules Committee and The Revisions Committee. We cannot wait until days before an Orlando gathering to convene these committees. The 51st Session will require a totally fresh look at how we govern our meeting. If these committees do not organize and begin work before the end of January, we will be exposed to political abuse and administrative inadequacies. There will be no time to wade through a mountain of legislation, and virtual (or safe distanced) meetings of these committees will require time for research and deliberation. Even our process of “readings” requires review.
- The Council of Bishops should agree to convene the Rules Committee and the Revisions Committee to form a “temporary organization.”
- Those committees should begin their work with an eye to the modified meeting before us. Their results should be open and public. We do not need secret results revealed at the last minute to discourage reflection and amendment. Can’t we reason together?
- The Council of Bishops (President of the Council) should “officially” convene these committees at the time indicated by Discipline. The committees could then pass motions to adopt and authorize the work done in the preceding months.
- Conduct thorough discussions of key legislation and business so we can have limited debate and a definitive, quick vote in the general conference session.
- There is no reason why we cannot have personal general conference guides (produced by various parties) that will help us to know the candidates and issues in plenty of time to pray, reflect and ask Holy Spirit guidance on an official, final vote.
If the Council of Bishops, with the political will of the broader church, does not allow such bold, innovative action, we are heading for unnecessary trouble in July. Anyone woke?
Out of respect for the General Conference Commission, I will not give the details of sanctioned GC 2021 session plans before a formal release of information. It is a creative, safety sensitive, in-person plan. It satisfies legal concerns I expressed in July 2020 about convening the meeting in a convention setting with an in-person quorum.
I pray everyone who wants to show up in Florida in July 2021 will do so in safety. With the proposed plan every delegate from any place will have a seat at a table.
What about those who will not feel safe in a crowd come July? What about those who fail to satisfy visa requirements that may prevail in July?
To dismiss a VOLUNTARY virtual option is wrong at this juncture. The masses need to say so. The current plan is less than acceptable as
- It ignores the safety of ALL our constituency. The experts can tell us what is unsafe, but each person will weigh personal risks and advice to determine “their” reasonable security. We look forward to hearing our Health Commission’s response to the approved strategy.
- Technological aversions should not disenfranchise delegates or leave bishops and general officers without options. Bishops and general officers are required to appear. Why must delegates at personal risk forfeit their seat when we have the tools available to include them? I would like to think they are wise, experienced AMEs whose gifts make them an asset in our quadrennial meeting.
- There is no such thing as a safety bubble from your door to the door of the meeting site. We may take all of the known precautions at the hotels and convention center. We cannot travel without risk, and there is no guarantee the bubble will not be breached amid so many secular temptations.
- Are we disciplined enough to follow the COVID rules? Watching our gatherings, we see the masks resting beneath the nose. The good intentioned opening arms for hugs; extending hands for a shake; gobbling chicken and rolling on the floor in laughter in response to the latest joke. Will will come out of 15 months of separation with the requisite discipline?
- Leadership seems not to be keeping up with the times and not getting some fresh, progressive ideas. Using the “old” clickers; thinking that just because we don’t stream that our meetings are private and secure; glossing over important matters; rushing critical decisions with insufficient information; and shutting our loyal members out of sessions that once were public, are clear indications of addressable problems.
Clearly, money is important. The current plan will get a bunch of folks to Orlando, staying in hotels and eating Food & Beverage satisfying meals. Is it so important that we overlook the importance of both health and participation by many committed disciples?
Most Districts, if not all, have prepaid for the rooms. I am sure the paid reservations will be used by delegates, alternate delegates or observers. Those funds are already in the bank. You have that money already.
The offering is pre-paid in most instances. There are those faithful who will buy a ticket to the breakfast or dinner and let you send the meal to feed the hungry or sponsor an attendee.
Put the money facts on the table? Let the people tell you how we can/will respond, as we always have. Stop living in a former decade when we first used remote voting devices. Step into the virtual age with a voluntary, virtual option. That would be a true “Hybrid” meeting, not the approved “Segregated” we now expect.