Saturday, April 26, 2008

Look out! It's a committee!

As I'm writing this (on Saturday night), I'm not quite sure if the legislative committee that I've been sitting in on has gone home yet. Several of the committees stated the need to go almost until 1:00am in order to finish work on petitions that could then be brought to the whole body.

Is anybody having flashbacks to a Texas Legislature session?

What could be taking so long?

Some of the petitions are controversial, but even when a committee agrees, sometimes they're not quite sure how to agree. I can see positioning even now to bring something to the floor of the legislative committee and then to the floor of the General Conference that will "pass muster," and everyone has a different idea on how to do that.

But I promised I would let you know what the committees are! Once petitions are sent to the General Conference, they are divided into legislative groups, so that similar petitions can be grouped together and areas of the Discipline (our book of order) can be covered by the same committee.

The thirteen committees are:

Church and Society 1
Church and Society 2 (these two committees deal with what the church looks like and acts like and believes about the wider world...this is usually where the questions of what we believe regarding homosexuality, the death penalty, the environment, war, and immigration fall)

Conferences (how the various conferences--Central conferences outside the US, Jurisdictional conferences inside the US, Annual Conferences--relate, their purposes and how/who we elect to be at them)

Discipleship (anything to do with worship, education, age-level ministries and some racial/ethnic ministries)

Financial Administration (like the Finance committee in a local church--they have to figure out how to pay for everything and how much each Annual Conference's share will be)

Faith and Order (ministry standards, how we will "order" the church and how we will treat each other)

General Administration (exactly what it sounds like!)

Global Ministries (many resolutions and a concentration on how our worldwide agencies are in ministry)

Central Conference (legislation having to do with the Conferences outside the United States)

Independent Commissions (Archives and History, Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Religion and Race, Communications, Status and Role of Women, United Methodist Men, etc.)

Judicial Administration (procedures for how we hold people accountable--both lay and clergy)

Local Church (how we structure the local church, especially as concerns membership and committees)

Ministry and Higher Education (the ordination process, our colleges and seminaries, campus ministry)

Superintendency (legislation relating to our district superintendents and bishops)

So there you have it. Our delegation has a voting member on each of the committees except discipleship. Our voing members each selected a committee to be on, and that just happened to be the one left out. But we still have people sitting in on the discussion.

I wonder what it would be like to be from a conference where we only had 2 voting members, though. You might not hear about important changes in legislation until it came up on the floor of the General Conference. But, given the amount of work that each of the committees spends on its issues, I can't see how you would want to divide into any fewer working groups. If I had taken the time to write a petition, I would want it to have serious consideration.

Which is the beauty that I have seen in the system, really. Even things that I might have regarded as silly need to be looked at in terms of the frustration or hope that led someone to write a petition at all. We are a fully participatory body, asking for input from everyone.

And I think that's actually a good idea. I acknowledge some pitfalls to it (too much input leads to logjams of legislation), but I have seen ideas that help us move more fruitfully and can lead to creativity in discerning the Holy Spirit.

I know these posts aren't meant to be long, so I'll close for now. I'm so full of everything I want to explain and everything I am experiencing, it's a bit of a logjam for me too!


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