Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Business Meetings

General Synod 27
Monday and Tuesday June 29 and 30, 2009
Time for Business

Monday morning began with a caucus of the Wisconsin Delegation. Various members of the delegation reported on the work of their committees and we heard from two voices who are opposed to the Single Governance Board that will come before the Synod.

I was on the committee that dealt with the resolution entitled “Calling for the Support of H.R. 676 – Single Payer National Health Care Reform to Advance Health Equity for All and to Eliminate Health Disparities." There was overwhelming support for this resolution and recognition that we are currently at a crucial point in our Nation’s history during which we might actually succeed in our efforts to provide health care for all Americans. Our committee adjusted the resolution slightly to include a set of values and to ask the any legislation that might ultimately come to a vote in the Senat would include those values. We finished our business on Sunday evening and so after the caucus time was over on Monday morning I was free until 3:00 in the afternoon.

Our first order of business for Monday night was Amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws of the UCC that would bring those documents into line with action of the General Synod four years ago to affirm alternate paths to ministry.

Alternate Paths to Ministry means that individuals might be ordained, licensed or commissioned for ministry in the UCC by following a variety of paths of study, education and preparation not only a four year college degree and Masters of Divinity. There was residual discussion as we addressed these Bylaws and Constitution changes about affirming our history of an educated clergy. Nevertheless, we affirmed these changes to our Constitution and By-Laws.

We also passed these resolutions: "Calling on President Barack Obama to Revisit and Re-negotiate a More Humane, Democratic, and Ecologically Sound Version of the North American Free Trade Agreement" and "A Call to Awareness and Action to End the Practice of Trafficking in Persons."

Other business included voting to confirm Linda Jaramillo as Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries; Stephen Stearner as Minister to Local Church Ministries and Geoffrey Black as General Minister and President and recognizing folks and organizations and churches that have received awared and recognition during Synod.

Monday evening’s business session ended with a beautiful evening prayer service led by a quartet of dancers who took us through the wonder of creation in scripture, movement
and song. This was an unexpected highlight of Synod that I almost missed because it was 9:15 p.m. and we had had a long, exhausting day. I’m so glad I didn’t walk out when business ended!

Tuesday morning featured another 6:30 a.m. Caucus gathering during which we received additional committee reports and honored the youth delegation from the Wisconsin Conference who have been participating in service projects, attending business sessions and committee meetings and representing the Wisconsin Conference with great maturity and enthusiasm.

The first order of business for this morning was the 9 different resolutions addressing the single governance proposal and process. The committee that had the monumental task of bringing a recommended action to the floor worked through what sounded like an incredible process that resulted in submitting a resolution titled “Toward Unified Governance For the National Setting Of The United Church of Christ.”

This resolution’s most significant shift was in changing the words “Single Governance” to the words “Unified Governance.” It also recommended that the Executive Council and the Covenanted Ministries Boards continue holding sacred conversations on race and also continue the process to propose a Unified Governance Proposal for General Synod 28 in 2011. These conversations would be separate from one another but could take place concurrently. The resolution encourages local churches, associations and conferences to discuss the concept of Unified Governance so that the Church is prepared to move on this matter at the next General Synod.

After the resolution above was presented to the floor an amendment was offered that was ultimately defeated. When the allotted time for this business was up the moderator noted that unless there was a motion to continue debate she would be forced to call the question at hand and force a vote on the resolution itself. No one moved to extend debate, the question was called and the resolution passed. This was when the fun really began as there was one young woman who was in line to offer a minority report who was not allowed to speak because the question had been called and the chair had moved on to the next order of business.

The chair of the next committee began his presentation when a small group of those opposed to the resolution gathered in the front of the room and began to sing and clap disrupting the business. The Moderator ruled them out of order but they continued until finally someone gave one of the women in the group an opportunity to speak.

We did finally move on with the agenda to affirm the following resolutions: “An Economic Justice Coveannt;” A Call to be Global Mission Churches in the United Church of Christ;” “A Call for Study of Our Church’s Involvement in the Eugenics Movement;” and “Calling for Comprehensive HIV Prevention in Church and Community.”

Ken Medema, who has been providing musical interludes throughout the various business sessions did a masterful job of singing the pain, tension and hope of the events surround the resolution on Unified Governance.

Tuesday's afternoon business session included some additional tensions around LGBT issues as they were raised in a resolution affirming Diversity/Multicultural Education. Members of the Biblical Witness Fellowship raised objection to the idea of including education about LGBT issues as part of diversity education in the schools. Even in the UCC the question of inclusiveness and equality for LGBT people is not a completely settled question.

A complete list of resolutions that were presented and acted upon by the General Synod can be found at www.ucc.org for those who are interested.

Tuesday concluded with a worship service including communion and a party with the Wisconsin Delegation.

I am honored to have been a part of the delegation from Wisconsin and to have had the opportunity to be here at this gathering of the national church. I have been reminded this week of the many strengths and some of the weaknesses of our denomination. It is good to see both sides but ultimately to affirm that we are an important and vital witness to the love and justice of Jesus Christ in the world.

It will be good to be home.



  1. I've read a couple of different reports on the proceedings and still don't have a clear picture of what happened regarding Unified/Single Governance. I pray this all works out in ways that allows people to feel included, truly.

  2. I hope so, too. However, I fear that the wounds are so deep there are some who will refuse to feel included no matter what we do. One element running through the whole week was the sense that those who were claiming not to have been heard were claiming so because things weren't going their preferred way. I don't know if that is true - it was very hard to sort out the different voices and competing stories. I do know I've been in situations before where no matter what some people refuse to let go of their individual hopes and dreams to go with the movement of the group as a whole. They remain on the margins and try to wield their power from that position. I fear this dynamic is operating in this situation and that is never a healthy dynamic.

    I pray for healing and reconciliation - which is really only going to come from God, it seems to me.

  3. I'm puzzled as to why no one took the opportunity to move for debate to be extended. It seems like that was obvious, especially if the debate had been on the amendment(s) rather than the resolution. We do a lot of hiding behind and maneuvering within parliamentary procedure with the argument that it's fair, but so often it seems to cut off rather than open up conversation.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts. I've posted a few of mine at my place as well. It was an odd morning where it seems to me that group could have done more using the process and avoiding the protest, but as you said, sometimes people like operating from the margins.

    We had to have run into each other via the 2030 group at some point.

  5. It is unfortunate that there was no one (including me) who stepped forward to move to extend debate. It honestly didn't occur to me to do it - I was ready for the matter to be over, to be honest. I felt like we were being drawn into a family fight and it was very hard for me to figure out where to stand, who to believe, what to think.