The Rules of Order is a riveting document that governs the nitty gritty of day-to-day business during meetings of the House of Deputies (HOD). In 2015, The Rev. Gay Jennings (President of the HOD, ie PHOD) brought us an adeptly revised and streamlined version of the Rules of Order, which set the HOD on a path toward greater efficiency. We are still grateful.
This year, the proposed changes to The Rules of Order, see A059, have far more to do with the aftermath of General Convention than with the day-to-day of the HOD. The question arises, What is a deputy when the House is not in session? We know that between sessions of the House of Bishops, a bishop is a bishop, with all the responsibilities of a bishop. We know that between sessions of the House of Representatives, a Representative is a Representative – someone who goes home, listens to their constituents, and discerns what legislation to support or write on behalf of those constituents. But what does a deputy do between sessions of the HOD?
A059 has some suggestions – well, they are more than just suggestions:
1) Deputies shall write a Gen Con Book Report: Within 60 days, “deputies shall prepare a report, in an understandable format, outlining passed legislation and other topics of importance to the Diocese and shall disseminate this report to all congregations within the Diocese”:
2) Deputies shall submit diocesan-level resolutions in order to implement GC legislation in their dioceses and a report back to GC on the status of that legislation;
3) Deputies shall be the institutional memory in the diocese about GC until new deputies are elected;
4) Deputies shall communicate to their dioceses “items of importance” from the PHOD.
Let’s consider these tasks one at a time before looking at some bigger questions:
- I love writing book reports. I love it so much that this is exactly the sort of task I would volunteer to do for our deputation, and then I would come to regret my decision in early August. This is a time-consuming task best done once in each language as needed and shared, instead of 109 times over. Maybe this sounds like cheating, but I would pay Scott Gunn to do my book report for me. Wouldn’t you? Forward Movement might be the best resource for putting this “So What? Guide to General Convention 2018” together.
- Deputies to GC are well-equipped to be part of the resolution-writing process for diocesan conventions. However, I am trying to imagine how it would reshape our diocesan convention if we were debating resolutions on socially responsible investing, fossil fuel divestment, evangelism charters, and planting trees to remind us of the Paris Accord at our diocesan camp. Lord, have mercy! Let’s just say, this would mean a big change for my diocese.This item forces a larger question about the alignment between what General Convention is willing to resolve and what dioceses are interested in putting into action at the local level. It would be interesting for the Office of General Convention to track what filters down, but I don’t think that the best way to do this is to track parallel resolutions. Much of what might filter down to the diocesan level would filter through the system in other ways. We do not need to tell our diocesan camp to plant trees and do environmental education by resolution at diocesan convention. That is just not how we do business. Instead, we could take a look at our institutions and see whether they are aligned with the intent of this resolution (should it pass) and begin some conversations. Could the “So What? Guide to General Convention 2018” envisioned above come with some sort of Alignment Questionnaire for Dioceses and Congregations in order to give some feedback to the Office of General Convention and to get more local communities thinking about how they are putting GC resolutions, which reflect our good intentions, into action? As a deputy, I would be pleased to promote the guide and the questionnaire among circles where I have influence.
- Can do.
- This last item has the feel of some sort of end run around the diocesan office. Perhaps that’s unintentional. It’s not entirely clear what I as a deputy would be agreeing to do here.
Look, I get it.
How many people in your congregation have even a vague sense of why General Convention matters to them?
How do we align the GC resolutions which represent our good intentions for God’s people with our work at the diocesan and congregational level?
Deputies can and should play a role, not forgetting that they share in this work with their bishops and not forgetting that their “constituency” is not the body to which they have been elected, but rather those who elected them. The changes proposed to the Rules of Order go beyond the scope and intent of this sort of document, aiming to change the way dioceses receive the work of General Convention and the communications of one of the presiding officers. These questions of reception and relationship are too important to be dealt with through a change to The Rules of Order.