General Conference officials are seeking the opinions of church leaders about the views of their membership by doing a simple poll of division and union conference presidents. They are asking the presidents essentially the same questions that were sent back to committee for further review at Annual Council 2017, but this time they are asking that the presidents base their answers on their view of the opinions of their membership rather than on their own personal opinion.
The consultation being sought from the divisions and unions came to them in the form of a questionnaire from the Unity Oversight Committee that asked the following questions:
1. Should the General Conference Unity Oversight Committee appoint a team to listen sensitively, counsel and pray with the presidents of unions not in compliance with voted actions of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee?
2. Should there be further organizational consequences for unions that do not comply with voted actions of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee?
3. Should church leaders be asked to sign a document saying that they will follow voted actions of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee?
4. Should presidents of unions not in compliance with voted actions of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee be allowed to speak (i.e. have voice) at meetings of the GC Executive Committee?
5. Should presidents of unions not in compliance with voted action of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee be allowed to vote in meetings of the GC Executive Committee?
6. Should presidents of unions not in compliance with voted action of General Conference Sessions and of the GC Executive Committee be allowed to serve on standing committees or ad hoc subcommittees of the GC Executive Committee?
The first question in the survey is a rephrasing of the action that was voted by the Annual Council in 2016. Questions 2-6 are a reshaping of the 2017 document that was sent back to the Unity Oversight Committee for further work. At that time, much was made by Executive Committee members of being asked to vote on a 14-page document without time to consider what was in the document. Now church leaders are being asked to project the opinions of the entire church membership who have never been given any explanation about why the questions would be asked in the first place. Re-asking the questions could be seen as doubling down on the proposed actions. Or, is this the action of an administration that is not used to losing a vote on a major issue asking the questions again, hoping to get the answer it wanted to hear originally?
Recently, there had been some indications that advisers to General Conference President Ted Wilson were suggesting that the whole process be slowed down, that he retool his tactics and strategy and not bring an action to the upcoming April Spring Meeting, because the 2017 Annual Council vote was being read as a message that the proposed action was punitive and vengeful rather than helpful. Will this survey revive the punitive proposal? Will it give the Unity Oversight Committee any new information about how to fulfill its assignment of reshaping the proposed action? How will unions and divisions figure out the views of their membership on these questions? The survey seems to create even more questions about the proposed actions.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
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