Mandatory – Voluntary – Process

One of the darkest days in AME history (for me) was when the General Conference rejected one of the most solid rulings of the Judicial Council. The church witnessed a unified episcopacy. (My apology for not researching the exact year/decision. It was in the 1990’s. Hopefully, an informed reader will supply the citation.) Many of the bishops strong armed annual conferences to reject the ruling before we even got to the General Conference for the final blow. The looming issues: mandatory vs voluntary assessments, the power to assess, and how to limit assessments. Without question, the existing legislation (then and now) was flawed and inadequate. The Judicial Council decided there was no proper authorization. The bishops argued (with some merit) we must have funds to administer the work. The people failed to use the opportunity to establish definitions, process, and the limitation of clearly abused power. Instead, the church affirmed, through inaction, the current state of oppression.

What constitutes mandatory versus voluntary? The Discipline unequivocally establishes the payment of general (connectional) budget as mandatory, along with the 12% annuity contribution for the pastor. There is good support for the required payment of the basic presiding elder support package. The bishops had a point on funds for administration of the episcopal district. Whether or not mandated by law, it made sense. A challenge: the interpretation of “administration” and the implementation of “assessment.”

Budgets. The first step toward a more just, transparent administration of church affairs is the requirement of administrative budgets for both episcopal districts and annual conferences. It costs money to run an office and support common expenditures to maintain leadership (such as housing, transportation, healthcare). These budgets must be written, publicly presented, and approved by secret vote in each annual conference. Even the episcopal district budget must be approved by the annual conference as it is the only equitably established forum. This is the vision, not the reality.

Mandatory. General Budget, Annuity Contributions, Presiding Elder Support, Episcopal District Administrative Support, Annual Conference (and Midyear, Planning Session AS BUDGETED) should be mandatory.

Voluntary. All other requests (under the current legislation) should be considered VOLUNTARY. This is where the disagreement begins. Districts/annual conferences which sponsor schools want to “assess” support. Additional life insurances are being “assessed.” Special projects often come with “assessments,” not to mention “events” like retreats, and various component conventions. “Offerings,” “roll call,” and the long list of items we put forward, should be voluntary if not part of the approved budget program of an entity. This is the “ought,” not the “is.”

Process. No assessment should be levied without a secret ballot vote of the general conference or the annual conference! Bishops, presiding elders, pastors and component leaders should not be authorized (de facto or de jure) to merely decree an assessment. Moreover, it is disturbing when a church official changes assessed values among churches without the knowledge and consent of the original body. In other words, a presiding elder should not be able to change the amount required for general budget after the close of an annual conference. If a church is in trouble, the presiding elder should make an appeal for the “voluntary” assistance of other churches on the district. More flies are caught with honey than vinegar.

Exceptions? Sure. Life is unpredictable. There will be unforeseen matters which require more than voluntary assistance. These should be few, infrequent, publicly discussed, and collaboratively addressed by both lay and clergy.

The current application of the power to assess is unjust, demeaning and choking the life out of the church. Until this blaze is extinguished, the house will continue to burn. Proposed legislation is on the way.

Transparency, Limitation, Accountability

The credibility, dignity, trust and effectiveness of the future episcopacy rests with reformation which brings transparency, limitation and accountability to the matter of episcopal compensation. The goal is not to make bishops poor. It is to reclaim the office as a calling rather than a lottery prize winning. There are a few basic steps which may get us there. Admittedly, I have been turning ideas on this subject for quite a few years. Sharing strategies with friends, I realized there is no neat solution…certainly none to which a majority of bishops would subscribe. If there are better ideas, please comment. Even if imperfect, WE MUST DO SOMETHING! The 1956 reforms failed. Some bishops rejected moderation in favor of choking life out of the goose which yielded the golden eggs. It is time for change.

Transparency. The process and sum of compensation must be clear, visible, and the result of general consensus. No more winking and grinning. Whether it be by way of offerings, fundraisers, or budgeted assessments, we must stop camouflaging compensation. Moreover, it should not be “as much as I can get,” or “whatever is left after expenses.” Meetings should be planned, budgeted and administered with a projected outcome which is reasonable, broadly known, and generally accepted.

Limited. Some bishops (and PEs/pastors) dread the idea of separating their compensation from “offerings.” Some pastors have gotten in on this regressive notion with a misappropriation of the practice of “class dues.” The very act of an “offering” represents a process without limit. In order to reveal and limit episcopal compensation, it must be funneled to a central point. In practical terms, all annual conference “gifts,” honoraria received from meetings, churches, or components must be paid to a single point. Even Christmas, birthday, and other seemingly personal gifts of love must be deposited to a common account. (The IRS says all of those gifts are taxable when coming from those whom bishops supervise–look it up!)

Once income is sent through a common point, it can be documented and limited. While a bishop who currently presides over a small district (1-13) may realize $75-100k of income above the church budgeted $63k, the average bishop is receiving $150k-$250k of additional compensation. Those who know, don’t tell. The rest of us make “experienced” guesses. The best paid bishops receive from $350k to a sum no one can number.

Where do we draw the line and establish the limit? That is a struggle. Too high, and we will miss the point. Too low, and there is no chance of implementation. The correct figure is somewhere between $350k and $500k. The rationale. Major pastors of other denominations in New York City (for example) are known to receive packages of $425-450k. National religious leaders of nonprofits have documented salaries of $400k or so. Psychologically, anything above $500k would be frowned upon both within and from outside the denomination. The standard is not to reach par with the multi-million dollar per year mega, media preachers. If our bishops want that kind of money, because they command such gifts and appeal, they should resign their office and take to the airways/revival circuits.

Accountability. Bishops should receive 1099s/W-2s for all of their official income. This is possible and verifiable by directing all income through a single point. The people will know the extent of their generosity. The environment of service will change. Attitudes should improve. We will shatter the image that leadership takes everything. We can heal the blemish. We can rise above the distraction to engage in more excellent service.

An Example of how it would work: 1. You establish an Episcopal Compensation Account. 2. Annual Conference, meeting, event “gifts” are paid by check/electronic transfer into the account. 3. If the bishop preaches at a church (in district), or appears at a function where there is an honorarium, the funds are paid by check/transfer to the fund. 4. Christmas, birthday and personal milestone celebratory gifts from persons in the district (IRS essentially says these are more obligatory than love) are deposited to the Account. 5. Disbursements from the account to the bishop are by check/transfer with proper tax accounting. 6. Funds received which exceed the established ceiling are diverted to the Episcopal District to cover the costs of housing, travel, and benevolence on behalf of the bishop. 7. Any remaining funds above the limit revert to the Episcopal District for projects/programming.

I may add some comments on other models considered. This one, though, could be the most easily implemented and transparent. Let’s talk about it!

Unspoken – Not Really a Secret

Episcopal compensation is a quirky topic among AMEs. We have an official salary for bishops which is unrealistically low. Then, there is the “other” compensation. I went through much of my ministry oblivious to both the magnitude and the process of the “other.” Colleagues continue to act as though no one knows. The truth is: most know…hardly anyone knows “how much.”

So, let’s outline the package. The official budget salary is $63,067. There are travel funds ($21,022) also budgeted. A district may provide housing, a car, and other normal amenities, including office/staff. The Ecumenical Officer receives a housing allowance ($16,404) and an assigned administrative budget ($74,705). Now, the unspoken-not really a secret items:

1. Gifts from the Annual Conferences

2. Gifts from Planning Meeting, Midyear Meeting, and Christian Education Meeting

3. Honoraria from preaching within the assigned episcopal district.

4. Special Occasion Gifts: Christmas, Birthday, Wedding Anniversary, Preaching Anniversary, etc.

5. Miscellaneous gratuities and occasions like shopping outings (not as common these days, but I can remember key pastors taking shoes, suits and other items to their bishop).

In most cases, the Annual Conference gift is the heavy piece of the package. Historically, Bishops Richard Allen and Morris Brown received a set amount when they presided over an annual conference. This practice continued for a while before matters got out of hand. Culturally, many bishops considered the annual conference gifts like “class dues.” Presiding Elders jumped on that train, and we allowed “meeting income” to become compensation/gifts. (Let’s not digress.) For the sake of the future of our Zion, we must get a handle on the matter of compensation.

The 1956 reformers thought they had the solution. One bishop was quoted as saying after 1956, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” It soon became clear that the power of appointment and co-conspiracy of clergy/lay leaders would nullify the intended reforms. The code of secrecy and nondisclosure has made the actual amount received by a bishop a mystery, with the exception (maybe) of a predecessor/successor.

As the demographics of our Zion shifted, so too, did the compensation gap between bishops of larger/smaller districts. The result is fierce competition among bishops to serve in a specific district where the rewards are greatest. It is an honor to be a bishop in our church, presiding over any district. If they all are the same, why the strife? This is not a critique of the respect for leadership, or the generosity of the AME Family. It is a commentary on a malicious feature of our church which detracts from our gospel proclamation, loving service and liberating activities. Remove (minimize) the dollar factor, and we will see a very different environment around episcopal assignment and episcopal ministries.

Can we equalize the compensation? Not easily, though we can lessen the gap a bit by allowing one bishop to serve two smaller districts. Can we limit the abuse? Absolutely! Next blog post.

ABUSE OF AUTHORITY IS A CULTURAL BLEMISH

“Abuse of authority is the improper use of a position of influence, power or authority against another person.”

There is extensive information on the hurt perpetrated in churches, by church folk, on church folk. It plagues both hierarchical and congregational polities. Church leaders (clergy & lay) have authority by position and/or respect.

Our legislation is clear when abuse of authority has a sexual element. It is less identifiable in other forms. Before listing a few, let’s acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with a highly nuanced situation like religious organizational work. Every bible genius is not suitable for preaching or pastoral care. An administrative savant may not command moral and spiritual prerequisites to lead a lay ministry or episcopal district. Discerning truly called and gifted leaders is not easy. Monitoring and policing the exercise of authority and respect challenges structures with the best intentions.

Look at some ways abuse of authority and respect manifest in our culture. Silencing critics. Hiding and withholding information. Manipulation of judicial process to ignore facts, evidence, common sense, and imposition of prejudice and political bias. Appointments (at every level by clergy & lay) which ignore qualification; with malicious intent; for personal gain; with favoritism; and, against the best interests of either congregation/group to be served or the effected person.

Most of our elections are hardly an improvement to the presence of consent. When respected and/or authority figures direct delegates in voting, the masses surrender consent to the powerful. Instead of the democratic process checking/correcting injury, a presumably “free” process reinforces the culture of abuse. Surprised? Hardly. The system is time tested and true to infamous design.

Control who is elected delegate. Use delegate status as the carrot to secure loyalty. Threaten the disloyal with denial of the elevated delegate status. Reward those who will be manipulated with position. A few rise to the top. The cycle/system perpetuates itself.

Respect for authority is an important feature of civilized society and effective organizations. The proper use of power is a virtue. Irrational rejection of structure and proper discernment of gifts and graces is not the way toward a better church. We have to care of what and how we resist. Silence and neglect of amended ways is complicity with the assault.

We groom the faithful from the cradle roll. We indoctrinate them with The AME Way through Lay, WMS, Boards of Examiners. The results are mixed. We have The Unsuspecting Sheep, The Knowingly-Quietly Abused, The Frustrated, The Angry, The Successfully In Charge, and The Used to Be… to name a few.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can/must do better – REFORM THE CULTURE! We need a few laws, but we need a lot of change of heart. Not easy! Not impossible!

65% is Not Acceptable – Funding Not Complicated

The 65% Restoration proposed by the Commission on Retirement Services is not acceptable. It borders insulting of justice and intelligence. The Commission on Statistics and Finance and AME, Inc. should not slow walk and overthink the obvious necessities for a just resolution to the AMEC Retirement crisis. The fix will be large, painful, and not loved by anyone. Let’s gird up our loins and DO IT!

Failure to consider the overpayment of benefits for the last 3 or more years was cavalier and irresponsible on the part of the Commission. It was shortsighted and regrettable on the part of the General Board as a whole seeming to go along. If the Fund was overvalued by as much as 70% for 3 or more years, those who retired or withdrew funds in that period received up to 70% more than than they were entitled. (70% of $4m times 3 is $8,400,000…do you not wonder what the actual figure is?) More egregious, those of us still in the program have lost some of “our” money in what was paid to the earlier groups of former participants. This looks to me like good, old fashioned mismanagement and negligence!

If the Commission wants a simple way to figure out how much the current participants are owed, I have one. Give us 100% of our June 2021 value. That puts us on par with the earlier withdrawals before we go into the new plan. That will avoid the costly, detailed calculations of loss and equity. Gather, the funds and commit to full restoration. Recover, Liquidate, and Re-allocate. Hard to swallow, not so difficult to figure.

Some questions to follow over the next few weeks:

Why 100% is the moral conclusion? How can the church gather the funds? Why should everyone share in the pain or restoration? How can we pay without raising assessments? Why is local church property not at risk? Why resorting to the legal system should be a last resort? What does it say about “our” church if “we” have to go to court to be heard, informed and justly restored? Can we avoid the tragedy of selling and/or the travesty of borrowing? Can the legacy pivot with both real estate and program? Can we really lose it all if we do not approach each other with love and reason?

The Retirement Program Crisis

Many grieve the situation with our retirement program. Down the road we may address the anxiety, fear, disgust, hope, and opportunity presented by the current predicament. The presentation at the General Board disappointed not because federal authorities limited the information that could be shared about what happened, but because of the attitudes, commitments, and priorities expressed for the way forward. We are hopeful that new information shared over the next few weeks will prove leadership commitment to do the right thing, no matter how difficult. Moreover, we pray for an entirely new structure with prompt resolve of this matter (at least with a fair plan) so the church can move on. Following are my offering of some general Goals and a Proposal. Let us not only discuss and refine strategies, but we must also help decision makers know our passion and thinking so we do not waste time pursuing unacceptable resolutions. No plan will be perfect. Let us lift wisdom, creativity and some compromise to help the best design become visible.

GOALS

  1. Make program participants whole based on the presumed value as of the 30 June 2021 statements.
  2. Create an environment that will encourage resolution without litigation. Let us show we can do right without going to court.
  3. Reform/Restructure the Retirement System

PROPOSAL for RESTORATION (explanations and arguments in footnotes)

  • Dissolution of current plan in favor of a denominationally negotiated plan where individual participants manage their investments with the assistance of the designated company.[1] The people want more control of THEIR investment.
  • Current program funds should be liquidated with proportional shares deposited to the accounts of individuals in the new program.[2]
  • A Restoration Plan be constructed to restore to individual accounts funds lost. Time preferred consideration according to age of participants must be afforded to assure wholeness by the time of scheduled retirement.  The oldest will be restored fully before the youngest to allow for pending retirement payouts and payouts to those whose retirement is imminent. All will be restored within 10 years.[3]
  • Restoration will be at a rate of 90% – 70% of stated value as of 30 June 2021.[4] In other words, participants will accept a loss of 10%-30% of 30 June 2021 value.[5]
  • Restoration will include up to $40m in asset liquidation[6] and immediate deposit of funds by the denomination.[7] The remainder of up to $40m will be deposited with annual payments of $3m – $4m by the denomination.[8]

There are many with over $100,000 of pending loss who are within a decade of retirement. Few can afford such loss. It is not reasonable, or acceptable, that new leadership can invest existing funds to make this right. As cooperative and peace loving as we can be, the masses must register an unwillingness to just “suck it up” and return to the old truck with a new driver and route. The people must affirm that they will not morally fail those who trusted an underperforming system for decades and now see the evaporation of poor returns.


[1] Central administration of “individual” accounts is outmoded.  Current workers are accustomed to having access and investment control over such funds.  Moreover, there is NO trust in a program where investment decisions are made for all participants.  It is ill advised for all participants to be invested without regard to their individual particulars.

[2] All participants are entitled to a proportional share of the liquid funds available in the current program.  Each should be given their share based on the proportional value of their share of the combined value as reported in June 2021.

[3] There must be a negotiated establishment as to what constitutes wholeness for participants.  Once this amount is determined, each participant should see a steady addition to their “new” account until the amount required for wholeness has been deposited.  Current retirees awaiting payment should be given priority along with those who will age out of the system within the next five years.  This will require the immediate infusion of “new” funds designated specifically for Restoration. All current participants must be made whole by 2032.

[4] Any loss more than 30% will be an open invitation to individual or class action litigation. While sidewalk pundits affirm that legal fees will be added to any judgement, there is no guarantee.  Litigation may result in a loss of more than 30%, but it will not result in a loss equal to or greater than the 70% loss currently projected.  Any Restoration must assure participants that they will not lose more than 30% of the funds they were told was in their account. The relevant question for a potential litigant is not “can we win,” but “what can I collect if we win.” The assets are not what many presume. We can do better with a fair blueprint than a court with an uncollectable judgement. Others should not be enriched by our disaster. Let’s start on high ground.

[5] The easiest loss would be 0%.  AME’s are faithful and would rather settle than litigate.  10% as a “tithe” contribution/loss on their part is palatable.  The amount of loss that will be endured without litigation is strained but certainly caps at 30%.  While it may be difficult for successful litigants to collect more than 50% of the $91m, anything will be viewed as better than nothing.  The folk must see an incentive to compromise rather than litigate.

[6] I do not see a fair settlement without the liquidation of some assets (cash and real). If we allow this matter to be litigated, not only could an adverse decision cause the loss of all, it may also bind the denomination with obligations that will crush us. We will not waste time, money and reputation on a bitter legal battle(s) if we just stand up and start walking the difficult road toward justice. Recovered funds will reduce the liability to church funds and help to preserve assets.

[7] The Retirement Services Commission and the General Board should demand that the Retirement Services Office move into the new building in Nashville.  The liquidation of the Memphis property would be a wise strategic move and signal to the church a serious commitment to doing that which is necessary.

[8] The COVID Budget expense approach be used to produce $3-4m per annum. This will yield $30-40m over 10 years to be used in the Restoration of individual accounts following the initial deposits made from asset liquidation.

Double Dipping

February 2021 seems so long ago. Nonetheless, since I committed to the next post on Double Dipping, let me say very little to fulfil my commitment in anticipation of a much more important matter on tomorrow.

Double dipping is like when you receive funds/reimbursement for the same expense from multiple sources. An example: you are reimbursed for travel expenses to the same meeting by more than one entity. Of course, the cure I find most convenient is to take the one reimbursement and give it to the other reimbursing entity and receive actual reimbursement from just one source.

Those who know what I am saying, know. Those who do not follow are not missing much for the moment.

The bottom line for our denomination is that we raise money for institutions in our General Budget, and these entities are then the beneficiaries of assessments and fundraising from essentially the same source. In lean, changed times, we cannot afford to raise funds for entities which are capable of funding themselves by various means. Failure to change will only hasten our decline.

Tomorrow, some ideas on the Retirement Program crisis.

1956 Budget to the Next Level

The Brotherhood fought hard in 1956 for a much-needed reform/innovation: The General Budget administered by The General Board.  Combining the various financial requirements (appeals) in one budgetary instrument to effect accountability and efficiency made a lot of sense.  While the policy may not have achieved all that was intended relative to episcopal oversight, it briefly reined in some systemic abuses.  There are major flaws to this approach which now call for revision.  We need to decentralize the budget.

For over a decade we waved the banner of a “zero based budget.” The concept is going nowhere as we have created sacred cows in the budget.  Moreover, the older thinking about “everyone getting something” is unsustainable in the current funding environment.  People want to support those projects that are most important to them.  The support of a “general” budget is anathema in a post denominational era.  The church can no longer provide major funding to subsidiary instutions beyond the strategic control of the central body.

Failure to decentralize will bring doom to both some of our important initiatives as well as the basic structure of the denomination. The General Budget should focus on the core administrative needs of the denomination with a different approach to the support of various ministries.  Ultimately, we must decide on the mission on which we can concentrate and adequately fund.  Most of our benevolence and ancillary groups can generate their own funding stream and relieve some responsibility from the General Budget.

Our most compelling projects, such as education, SADA, components and various district initiatives have the capacity to engage in major fundraising beyond the central denominational budget.  Most, in fact, do raise significant sums beyond the annual allocations.  If they did/do not, their mission and existence rightly come under scrutiny.

We need to retain the 25% reduction to the General Budget for the remainder of the 2020-2024 Quadrennium.  The proposed budget should reflect the same.  Two areas which should have funds restored to the 2016-2020 levels are the educational institutions in Districts 14-20 and the ecumenical relations section.  The impact of the reduction in school allocations has been far more negative among our global institutions.  Realistically, we cannot maintain leadership and influence in the ecumenical community if we are not going to take seriously the financial support of those entities to which we belong.  We cannot assert our “greatness” and cry broke at the same time.  We should Represent.

Another perspective to be addressed in the next post is Double Dipping.

Immediate Action – Authorizing Motions

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.

Proposal

  1. The Council of Bishops should agree to convene the Rules Committee and the Revisions Committee to form a “temporary organization.”
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Conduct thorough discussions of key legislation and business so we can have limited debate and a definitive, quick vote in the general conference session.
  5. 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?

Dollar over Safety/Regressive over Progressive Leadership

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.