Original post at http://urbanecclesiology.me/2012/05/04/holy-conferencing-vs-51/
The General Conference machine is built to grind out majority, not Holy Conferencing. There were some GC attempts at small group dialogue around tough issues. These were rushed by the agenda, poorly attended, and not well moderated. In short, dialogue is not a priority. The committees offer the best hope of consensus building under the current system, but any consensus found in this first week can be thrown to the wolves when it hits the General Conference Plenary. We need to re-build the machine.
The General Conference actually has broad consensus on most of our polity and practice. But when we cannot reach consensus on divisive issues, rather than taking the time to work towards consensus, we digress back to majority rule. The results of these decisions have left the church fractured and broken. 51% is the kiss of death for church ministry. Successful leaders know that consensus is much healthier and much harder. Consensus is not unanimity (which is impossible and even suspect). Consensus is building broad agreement under which we can all live and work. No pastor would launch a capital campaign with a 51% majority. During the debate yesterday around “agreeing to disagree” on the issue of homosexuality, Adam Hamilton spoke eloquently when he said (paraphrased), if any pastor had 45 percent of his/her church struggling with an issue, he/she would do something about it.
We need to do something: we need Holy Conferencing. When the only forum for dialogue is legislative, majority voices become harsh and minority voices become shrill. The paradigm of 51% does not give the majority any motivation to listen and dialogue. The paradigm of 51% does not give the minority a real voice to express pain and suffering—because these are messy and do not fit easily into a 3-minute speech for or against.
I believe the General Conference needs to set aside two full days at the opening of the next General Conference for Holy Conferencing around human sexuality. Why? Because 45% of the church is broken—and even if it were 10%–the brokenness is so deep it demands action. It needs to be well structured. It needs to be well moderated. It needs to be unrushed. It needs to be artfully translated. It needs to be built for consensus.
If we can build relationship and trust in these holy conversations, we can delegate any lost work to staff who are better informed and better equipped to operate the church. Our legislation takes too long because of the lack of trust between the majority and minority. This dialogue could begin healing the church.
What are we waiting for? Mark