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December 12, 2007: New Dynamics of the General Assembly?

So, there I was, minding my own business and found a copy of the new Presbyterians Today (December, 2007) in the church office. I opened up to the Table of Contents and saw there was an article about the fires here in Southern California. I turned to the page and, lo, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a little sidebar entitled, "New decision-making models are explored."

Hmmmm....

"Gradye Parsons, director of operations for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), said planners of next summer's Assembly are weighing a number of options to give commissioners more time to talk and reflect in the midst of debating and voting."

The suggestions listed for (quoting in bold):

1. An earlier start on opening day. Yes, that makes sense.

2. "Speak-ins" - live interviews of people in the church to elicit perspectives not present at the Assembly. Um, wow. It's not confusing enough trying to figure out who is at the Assembly, we're now going to have people interviewed outside? What are they asked? Who picks? Who edits? Who presents?

3. Having one or two of the Assembly committees use discernment decision making. Bring coffee, you'll be there for awhile; make sure you are not in the minority.

4. Allowing unanimous committee votes to be the final action of the Assembly, thus freeing up plenary time for more extensive debate on weightier matters. Are you kidding me? Seriously, this is a joke, right? Any other ways to disenfranchise commissioners? "I'm sorry, you did not serve on that committee, so any objection you might have to their recommendation is not allowable. You are out of order even trying to raise it."

Think of this: Advisory delegates have voice and voting rights in committee. So, the upshot is that advisory delegates would have final voting rights and any commissioner not on the committee would be stripped of theirs?

Combine that with the "discernment decision making" and you create an environment hostile to debate and conducive for eliminating any non-conforming voices.

Combine that with the two-year workload that has to be handled by committees in less than three days and you make "rubber-stamping" the accepted means of discernment.

It sounds an awful lot like a train whistle.

(note: the link to Presbyterians Today is only to the front page on-line; I could not find the sidebar article on-line).