Sunday, April 27, 2008

Contact High

I am sick. Friends confirm it.

I actually enjoy the legislative committees.

When the legislative committee that I'm observing broke into sub-committees, in the name of transparency, observers were allowed to come and sit right next to them (so we could hear). I chose and sat next to a committee that was looking at several petitions related to chargeable offenses--in other words, actions for which clergy can be put on trial in a church court.

The discussion was fascinating. For all those of you out there who were pretty sure there was a latent lawyer (maybe Pharisee?) in me, you may be right.

But the really fascinating part, besides following the logic (or what I thought was a lack of it) of the arguments that each person made for or against the petition, I could see all of the hypotheticals moving across their faces. All of the situations into which clergy could be put into unfairly, all of the ways in which the new legislation (or lack of it, if they chose to reject it) could be used or misused...they were all there.

When you send someone to General Conference (or to Annual Conference, for that matter), they carry not only their stories, but the stories from the rest of the church. And those stories have an impact on them in the committees where they are doing their work. Whenever they make a decision, those stories weigh on them.

But I tell you, I could barely hold my tongue sometimes (also not surprising to a majority of you!). I could see where a key fact was not being lifted up because people were making assumptions about the writer's intent on the petition. Sometimes they weren't even making assumptions because the writer of the petition happened to be in the sub-committee! But I think it's all a question of angles. Is there a way to come at this issue from a different angle and perhaps crack it open a bit more?

It reminds me of nuts. Sometimes you just get a nut that falls open pretty easy and you can get the meat out without damaging the meat itself. Sometimes you're pressing on the wrong place and it cracks and splinters and you just get little pieces of nut all over the place.

I want to find the place to press on legislation where what's inside of it comes out whole.

The other image that kept coming to mind was this incredibly intricate jigsaw puzzle--or perhaps the bringing together of pieces from about 1500 jigsaw puzzles and trying to figure out the pieces that are supposed to go into this one. Sometimes if you put one piece in, it will automatically change a lot of other pieces. Sometimes a piece may be excluded if other pieces around it don't change first.

And I confess that it can be tedious. It can be convoluted. But jigsaw puzzles can be fun too. And this is a jigsaw puzzle that, when finally worked, is a map to guide us. It's a picture of who we want to be as a denomination. And it's really cool to me that lay people and clergy people--not just bishops and denominational leaders--get to hash it all out.


No comments: