The Rev. Don Underwood, at his sixth General Conference as delegate and his ninth overall, stated in a morning briefing with the North Texas Conference delegates, “We are sinking further and further into the graveyard of procedural stuff. We can’t even get to the rules.”
The schedule of General Conference calls for a 6:30 pm dismissal. At the last GC, the dismissal time was 9:30 pm, leading to entirely too-fatigued delegates and presiding Bishops and may have been a cause for the series of poor legislative outcomes.
The first task to be accomplished at any conference, all decided by the famous “Robert” of the (to me) increasingly infamous “Robert’s Rules of Order,” is that the rules of the Conference have to be agreed upon.
For years, this meant about a 20-minute presentation/rote vote and then the business of the conference would move on. In 2012, agreeing on the rules took forever.
And yesterday . . . well, as 6:30 pm approached, there were motions, amendments, sub-motions, people lining up to speak, all sorts of parliamentary procedures that were submitted with the clear intention of creating delay. Eventually, the Presiding Bishop said something like, “Since the body has not been able to pass the rules for 2016, we are functioning under 2012 rules. Therefore, I am not able to dismiss the conference for the day. There will be a dinner break and the conference will reconvene again this evening.”
All of us with the United Methodist Reporter team had already been packing up our gear, ready after a long day to get back to our rented house, get something to eat and prepare for the evening podcast. (Trust me–you don’t want to miss the podcasts: a bunch of punch-drunk exhausted journalists talking about the weird things that happen during the day: indeed we are a bundle of MethoNerds talking about the UMC).We looked at one another with horror and anger plainly displayed on our faces over the level of exhaustion already aging those faces. Or at least aging mine, the most senior member of this team.
After a quick discussion, we decided to head back, watch the evening session by live-stream, and get on with the plans. But the delegates and other conference workers had no such recourse. The eating venues in the convention center had already closed up as they understood no one would be needing an evening meal. This meant the delegates had to race out, find some local open eatery, and race back.
At which point, they faced further “sinking into the graveyard.”
What’s the problem? The Rules Committee proposed, along with the 43 other rules that are to govern the conference, Rule 44 (a name that is rapidly taking on a life of its own) that would allow for more inclusive and less vindictive discussion over certain seriously divisive topics, particularly the ones over sexuality.
Those who don’t want Rule 44 to pass have used every parliamentary trick in the book to stop it. You see, delegates have to use Robert’s Rules to debate whether they can set aside Robert’s Rule for the sake of discussion. Seriously crazy-making. Finally last night, the first 43 rules got passed and the Conference was dismissed at 9 pm.
As for Rule 44 . . . here’s what this tired brain kind of understands. It came to the floor this morning and after extensive discussion, a tight vote tabled the discussion. A few minutes later, another delegate asked for it to come off the table. Which it did, momentarily levitating above the Conference floor.
Multiple amendments were offered, weighing it down so it landed with a thud back in the Rules Committee. They will take all the proposed amendments under consideration and then, probably tomorrow morning, bring it back to the Conference floor.
I have just heard the prophecy that this GC will get nothing done except debate Rule 44 for the next 8 days. Wanna take bets on that one?
But on the bright side . . . the Episcopacy address this morning by presiding Bishop Greg Palmer left me proclaiming, “There is no need for another sermon. Ever.”
Read all about it here.
Palmer drilled right into the pathology infecting the UMC, naming rightly the current policy of mutually assured destruction. Total winner and worth being here to be able to see and hear it in person.