Friday, September 01, 2006

Preparing for GC2009

Lionel Deimel and Christopher Wells have written an essay entitled The Church Faces a Foreign Policy Challenge. They discuss the process that unfolded at GC2006 regarding resolutions in response to the Windsor Report. They conclude with some specific recommendations for future Special Commissions charged with developing and presenting resolutions to General Convention:

1. The commission should be rigorously representative of various voices in the church, have adequate time to do its work, and act as the legislative committee at convention. This last provision would minimize the time needed to build trust and a spirit of cooperation within the group, and could discourage last-minute changes to proposed resolutions, which the convention can find disorienting.

2. The commission should incorporate into its work plan the model for developing a foreign policy response articulated above, requiring it to wrestle with the difficult particulars inherent in the interplay of autonomy and interdependence.

3. The commission should consider presenting alternative plans in its report, each with its own set of proposed resolutions; offering alternatives could facilitate agreement on resolutions without requiring agreement as to the policy to be implemented. To encourage clarity, the commission should produce as few resolutions as possible, however, and the commission members, ideally, should be willing to support the resolutions—or all of one set of resolutions, if alternative policies are presented—unequivocally and without amendment.

4. The commission’s report should appear sufficiently before the General Convention for interested parties to appraise it and for legislators to evaluate it against their own analysis of the questions, desirable goals, and means by which objectives might be achieved.

5. At convention, the committee might consider holding hearings before the Houses of Bishops and the House of Deputies in joint session, concentrating on strategy, rather than on the minutiae of particular resolutions.

6. The legislative houses should discuss the strategy recommended (or strategies offered) by the commission and whether it is the one the convention really wants to adopt. Participants, having had ample time to respond to the commission’s report, will have been prepared for this.

7. Final resolutions should be sent to the houses as early as possible—our recommendations are meant to facilitate this—which will afford the bishops and deputies ample time to put their stamp on the final result. Reporting out the resolutions as a group would facilitate coherent action.
These are all excellent suggestions for commissions and committees, especially the point of getting resolutions to the floor in a timely manner. One of the serious blunders of the last Convention was that few Windsor resolutions were considered until Monday, with adjournment scheduled for Wednesday. Time restraints were placed on debate, and parliamentary procedure became rather rigid, with results that did not sufficiently represent the mind of the House of Deputies.

It is not unusual in a board meeting for the proposed agenda to be amended at the beginning to allow a guest presenter or an important topic to be moved to the top. Not only is this good manners in regards to a guest, but it also assures that the members are still fresh when grappling with a difficult issue, and sufficient time is given to discuss it. One would think that a similar adjustment could be made at General Convention.

And to all deputies to GC2009, please remember this lesson from GC2006:

Forgive my shouting, but I wanted to make sure that one was clearly heard.


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