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June 7, 2008

DAY 18 ON nFoG WATCH: Hey, it is 6-7-8 today (06-07-08, June 7, 2008) No, that has nothing to do with the nFoG, but no one has written about the nFoG -- and that's more interesting than anything else I was thinking about writing here.

Committee Survey: Committee 17, Youth

Last one.

This is an "experimental" committee. No business has been assigned; yet this committee retains the ability to send recommendations to the floor. It is a wild card. It is an unknown. There is reading material, but there is no explanation as to the direction or limits on the scope of the recommendations that could come out of this committee. It will be in a room with no intranet or internet capacity, so results will be delayed.

I suppose I should have mentioned this yesterday, but this committee also is going to be thick with "consensus" process. Committee 16 has an entire resource regarding the blessing of operating in "consensus" mode.

I am not a fan.

Why?

Well, the denomination publishes the best explanation and argument against it. Marianne Wolfe, in a little brown pamphlet entitled "Parliamentary Procedures in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" wrote,


The Will of the Majority Shall PrevailI 3 (G-1.0400)

Majority rule is not a mystical or arbitrary concept. It is highly pragmatic, reflecting the reality that the whole church, as it acts, can do only that which most of the church is willing to do. Hence, the majority vote is a function of unity. Decisions taken by majority vote do not reflect “truth” but, rather, the search for “truth.” Majority rule in this understanding need not be thought of as a “win/lose” situation. Recent moves to adopt consensus decision-making are antithetical to this principle and also to the basic rights of the individual as
listed above and should never be used except in the most routine of parliamentary transactions
. At its worst, consensus decision-making is manipulative and overpowering to the rights of the minority because it compels the minority to “break the unity of the body” in order to disagree. Most church members will choose to suppress their disagreement rather than risk this, and, if forced into this dilemma very often, will begin to harbor resentment toward the body. This latter is far more destructive to unity than open disagreementand the freedom of the right to disagree. (Page 4, emphasis added)

I encourage you to read that bold section over and over again. Marianne Wolfe is absolutely correct. I would and will object every time it is proposed. In a setting like the General Assembly, even if people are not familiar with Robert's Rules, going to a consensus approach is more likely to "harbor resentment toward the body" because they will feel like they've been used and abused. No matter how noble the intentions, people unfamiliar with the process will go along to get along -- then, later, they will be really frustrated and angry and disappointed and disillusioned. Under Robert's Rules, at least you have the sense that you could be heard and there is room for you to express your prayerfully considered decision, even in the minority.

Anyway, I digress from the Youth Committee. Here's the framework provided by OGA: "The focus is not on a national youth ministry program, but on young people and congregations. There is no prescribed outcome. The committee may choose to bring recommendations to the Assembly. The committee may want to share insights gained in the committee. The committee may want to create a new vision for youth, the church and/or youth ministry."

If I were a betting man, I would put money down that there will be some recommendations coming. What? Who knows? (Well, there are perhaps a few people who are putting together the agenda and leading the discussion... but that's not me and I am -- at this point -- not going to start guessing.)

An Invitation

That's it for the committee summaries. I hope they were helpful. Again, those were my reads of what I think will be important. Others may disagree or have their own. If your "most important" was not listed, sorry.

Now, for the invitation: we are about two weeks out from the convening of GA. If you have a question about the business, about how something works, or something I have written, please let me know. If it puzzles you, you can be sure there are lots out there puzzling with you. I cannot guarantee I will get to everything, but I will try to cover as much as I can. As it will be in San Jose, I will take up questions and comments from commissioners and advisory delegates first.

If you are a commissioner or advisory delegate, post me a note. I will look forward to seeing/meeting you in a few weeks.

(Not to worry: if there are no questions, I still have a few more topics left. Also, do you really think I can let you go without a few more thoughts on the nFoG?)