Tonight, I was trained to be a small group leader if Rule #44 passes and I had a lot of questions answered. I shared my perspective in another post, but thought it might be helpful to share the process as taught tonight by Terrance
This is the process we would actually use if Rule #44 is approved (pending changes brought to the floor after the referral back to Rules of Order)
We vote on approving Rule 44 (or not… the body decides)
We vote on whether or not to use the process this year for any given piece of legislation
If we choose to use it (no matter the legislation… although the materials are prepared for our conversations around human sexuality and the church) the following process will begin:
1) There will be an orientation to the process for all delegates in a plenary session
2) We will move into our small groups on Saturday and work the process. And guess what… for many, the small groups are the exact same small groups you were in for the conversation on the worldwide nature of the church (some were better organized than others, utilizing the group assignments, but that is a separate issue), which means that for many there has already been the establishment of a relationship and the beginning of trust.
3) Small groups are assigned based on a) legislative committee assignment, b) seeking diversity of cultural , geographic, gender, clergy/lay, etc. experiences, while at the same time c) grouping participants together so that ideally there are no more than two languages in each group (to allow for better use of translation).
The small group process (what I’m calling phase 1):
1) Centering with 2 questions: 1) As you come into this discussion how are you feeling? 2) What are your hopes for the UMC as it makes decisions about _______ (in this case, LGBT people in the life of the church)?
2) Here, we have conversation, but do not record answers. If instead of speaking you want to signal that you agree with what someone else has said, you can indicate that by raising a card.
The small group process (phase 2):
1) We examine a group of petitions about the same subject (or paragraph in the Book of Discipline) by focusing on ONE petition in that grouping that has been chosen as a focus petition. It was selected because it represented the most changes or issues to discuss given the varying petitions. Everyone begins with the same grouping/topic
2) Three questions are asked: 1) as you consider this petition, what is important to you and why? 2) Does this petition express what the church needs to say at this time? 3) At this stage, can you see anything that needs changed to make this more helpful for the church? We have conversation, but do not record answers and can again indicate that we feel the same as someone by raising a card.
The small group process (phase 3):
1) For each proposed change in the petition (deletion or addition) we ask the following two questions and answers are recorded: 1) Do you support the change? (no spoken answer, simply raise card to indicate yes,no, or abstain… the results are recorded), 2) Do you have an alternative to what is suggested? (this is where amendments can be made… and each is suggested and then the group records support via: yes, no, abstain).
2) This is done for each portion of the petition, then there is a final question: Is there anything that would be helpful for the GC to say to the church on this subject? Suggestions are recorded and we discuss and take votes of support: yes, no, abstain).
3) The report contains the record of yes, no, abstensions for every piece of the legislation as well as suggestions and their support. This is what is reviewed and turned in.
When the first topic/group is complete, the group decides which topic/grouping of petitions to address next and repeats phases 2 and 3.
1) The facilitators are elected by the General Conference from a slate and serve as servants of the delegates. Their role is to compile and to develop the focus petition into a piece of legislation that mirrors the will of the body and will bring forth a report based on what we have recorded on the small group sheets. This report will contain recommendations like: Keep the addition of this word because 68% of small group participants indicated support of the addition. Do not delete this phrase because only 22% of the small group participants favor deletion.
2) The facilitation group will also incorporate the suggestions of the small groups that were included on the sheets if there might be some ownership of that idea. One group might support a suggestion with only 30% yes votes, but if it comes up in a few other locations too, the facilitation group might include it. What they are doing is giving us the opportunity to test if that is the moving of the Holy Spirit by allowing the whole body to discuss the suggestion.
3) The goal is to help the whole body see the voice of the whole body. The focus petition might look different when it comes before the plenary because a) the pieces were not supported by the small group votes, b) suggestions were made and had some support (even like 15%, are incorporated, c) division in support in various parts of the pettion might cause the facilitation group to divide the petition into separate sections.
The Facilitation Group will present
1) They will bring the compiled petition to the body and it will come before us like ANY OTHER PIECE OF LEGISLATION, with the addition of the report including our % votes and rationale behind the inclusions or exclusions.
2) Like ANY OTHER PIECE OF LEGISLATION, we can vote to amend, discuss, table, divide, etc.
The four groups/topics if we vote to use this process on the topic of human sexuality are (based on a sorting of roughly 60+ petitions) :
1) Human Sexuality (paragraph 161.F ) – All groups will do this one to start.
2) Marriage – divided into three subgroups: Definition of Marriage ( paragraph 161.B), Unauthorized Conduct (paragraph 341.6), and Chargeable Offenses (paragraph 2702.1)
3) Ordination (paragraph 304.3)
4) Inclusion in the Church (paragraph 4)
The rationale behind allowing the small groups to choose which topic they want to discuss second is that it allows for them to determine focus. If no small group chooses to complete one of the topics, that says something about our willingness to engage in those petitions. The various small groups will choose the ones that are important to them.