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?