Thursday, July 02, 2009

Synod Final Thoughts

When I wrote on Monday that this General Synod seemed to be the most laid-back that I'd attended so far, I had no way to foresee what would happen on Tuesday morning.

During Tuesday morning's plenary, we discussed the proposed resolutions on the national setting adopting a single governance model to replace its current multi-board structure (they were submitted later, and thus weren't mentioned during my review of the other resolutions). I have mentioned this topic in general before, but a Synod resolution, if passed, would press the issue in a significant way.

There were nine resolutions submitted on this issue: most for, but also a few against. It was surely to be the most hotly contested issue this year, and plenary played that out, though not in the way one would expect.

The committee presented their report which, predictably, offered one compiled resolution from the many with which they were entrusted. There were amendments to the language discussed, which took up quite a bit of the allotted time. In fact, by the time we returned to considering the main resolution, we'd run out of time and were pressed to vote. The resolution was adopted, and thus the move toward a single board continues. The final draft can be viewed here.

Now, here is where I'm not sure that I can adequately represent what happened next. I myself was disappointed that the main resolution had not been given any debate time, but neither I nor anyone else had moved to extend discussion. That's point one. Point two is that there was someone standing at the microphone designated for proposed amendments, who wasn't recognized. I can only assume that the expiration of debate time had something to do with that as well.

Nevertheless, when it came time for the next committee to present their work, a small group of people, clapping and singing, made their way down the center aisle of the hall and gathered down front. After the singing grew louder, it gave way to one member of the group shouting about the "injustice" that had taken place. It wasn't until another member of this group was given time to address the body that it became clear that she had been the one standing at the microphone for amendments, wanting to introduce a substitute resolution. But again, time had not been extended. There were several attempted motions to revisit the issue, but they were ruled out of order.

Admittedly, I am not as aware of the issues surrounding opposition to this as I could be. One of the main objections seems to center around whether there would be adequate representation of minority groups, and there has been a concern raised that a single governing board should be comprised of at least 50% minority representatives. This objection was voiced in an unnecessary manner by Christians for Justice Action, a UCC justice ministry, that wrote in their Synod newsletter of the "great (white?) sigh of relief" after the vote, implying that the way this episode played out was motivated mainly by racism. Never mind that, among other things, it would be very difficult to truly see whether those who voted in favor of this resolution were only white. Never mind that the Collegium, who is accused of maintaining tight control of the process, is made up of multiple races. Never mind that the same voting body that is being called "racist" also just elected a black General Minister and President. Never mind that, from what I gathered from people present during the committee process, that there were repeated organized disruptions of that committee's work. And, again, never mind that nobody had stepped to a microphone and moved to extend discussion.

And never mind that I and many of my fellow delegates are now being called racist, assumed simply by virtue of our voting a particular way, and by virtue of being a certain race.

I truly feel like I've only been privy to half of a conversation. This is the tragedy of the entire single governance study process up to this point. But it's also illustrated the need for a sacred conversation on race that doesn't make assumptions about me the same way I am being asked (and have striven) not to make assumptions about others. That's what disappointed me the most about Tuesday's events and aftermath.

4 comments:

Songbird said...

Another blogger who attended got the impression there were personal feelings/conflicts involved about which the general delegate body would never know. On the one hand, simply be being white in a majority white denomination and country, we probably are guilty of unconscious racism. Sure doesn't feel good to be accused of it. i have to admit to having a more practical attitude about this whole thing. Clearly, we can't afford to maintain our existing structure, just like the church where I'm finishing an interim can't afford a fulltime pastor anymore. These decisions are painful, but they are material, not personal. The challenge is to make the changes while acknowledging the feelings of loss.

Songbird said...

You can read dancingrev's thoughts here.

Pastor Alex said...

On the other hand, Songbird, the so-called UCC Justice Ministry has probably learned that the way to manipulate liberal whites is to call them "racist." Preventing open dialogue and discernment is a threat to real justice.

Coffeepastor said...

"...there were personal feelings/conflicts involved about which the general delegate body would never know."

That's exactly the conversation I feel like I'm missing out on. I'm aware that issues of racial representation are wrapped up in this issue, but for the majority of the delegate body to be labeled racist shows that I and many others have not been privy to the full treatment of that dimension. And I'd certainly much rather hear that dimension represented calmly and rationally instead of jumping to that "racist" label.

I share your practical concerns on this issue. For me, and I'd suspect most if not all others, personal issues about race have nothing to do with it.