Points of Order and Parliamentary Paralysis

Shortly after the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, I wrote a post called General Conference: Four Reflections. Recently that post popped up in my Facebook feed as a memory that I might like to share. Reviewing the post, I was reminded of the difficulties we had in moving the ball forward on almost any point of legislation in 2016. Instead of “Therefore, Go,” the theme of the conference could have been, “Point of Order.”

During General Conference, we have a limited period of time in which to complete our work. Additionally, we’re paying for every minute we spend there. A few parliamentary hiccups are understandable, but in 2016 at times it seemed we were almost in parliamentary paralysis.

Look… I’m not blaming anyone for this. Presiding over conferences is an aspect of each bishop’s job, but it isn’t something they do every day, or even every month. At times I felt sorry for the presiders navigating the minefield of “points of order.” And, of course, not all those points of order were legitimately… well… in order. Sometimes those raising the points of order were simply mistaken. I suspect at other times their intention was to distract and deflect. Whatever the case may be, we have to do better.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of our work together in 2019. We need to get this right. We will receive the report from the bishops’ commission, and we will spend millions of dollars in an attempt to act upon this report. Parliamentary paralysis will not do. There is simply too much riding on this conference.

If we are serious about dealing with the matters that are weighing so heavily on our denominational life, we will take parliamentary procedure more seriously in 2019 than we did in 2016. We need to hire a professional parliamentarian and empower him or her to direct traffic in the legislative mixmaster of our general sessions. There is, by the way, a National Association of Parliamentarians. That might be a good place to start. A great deal is at stake in the 2019 General Conference. Let’s take the necessary steps to make sure we deal with the serious, substantive issues at hand.

4 thoughts on “Points of Order and Parliamentary Paralysis

  1. I agree. Parliamentary procedure is designed to facilitate the rights of the minority and the rule of the majority. It is chronically misused at General Conference to avoid allowing the majority to rule. A professional parlimentarian would streamline the process and declare those maneuvers to obstruct the majority’s decision out of order. General Conference is a deliberative body designed for decision making and the misuse of Parliamentary proceedure has been amazing to me.

  2. Excellent suggestion. Perhaps UTS could sponsor your idea and see it through as a gesture for the good of the general church. Of course, if not already allowed in the rules, I presume a motion enabling the gift with authority would have to pass first. Oh, the irony. Yet, the added value of an outside professional doing this would be the removal of involvement passion that any United Methodist member would bring. Wise idea.

  3. I had a friend who was a former Texas governor. His skill-set re: parliamentary procedure was legendary. Getting legislation passed or “killed” without the majority of votes. General Conference PLEASE get gelp!

  4. I sympathize with David Watson’s frustration and agree with his analysis. The caveat is that the advocates for sexual novelty are the cleverest minority ever to have hatched a coup of The United Methodist Church. Only orthodox minds “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” will be able to deal with what’s brewing for 2019. Nothing is going to be as it seems.

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