We got into a couple of parliamentary snarls yesterday afternoon in the House of Deputies (HoD) of the sort that make Robert’s Rules geeks like me giddy. It’s like – how many levels of amendment and amendment to amendment, and how many levels of motion privilege (this takes precedence, no this does) can we get into at once?!
For instance, the committee on “structure” introduced a resolution eliminating part of a Canon that requires the Presiding Bishop (PB) to resign her or his diocesan post to take the PB job. We had discussion of the motion, then an amendment that would add different language back into the Canon. Then we had an amendment to that amendment that would also have added more language back into the Canon. After debate and then a motion to end debate on both amendments, which passed, we voted on both amendments, which both failed. Then there was a motion to refer the matter back to committee, debate on that, a motion to close debate, which passed, and the motion to refer then failed. When we finally got to the main motion it passed without amendment!!! (27 minutes all told) OMG.
The thing is, we had to pause several times and figure out where we were as a matter of parliamentary procedure, before we could continue. A deputy from the Diocese of Arizona (seated next to our deputation) started a game with me to see who between us could untie the parliamentary knots before the big shots on the platform figured it out. What fun!
To be honest, though, I had to sneak out at one point, make my way to a nearby hotel, and get a double Espresso, which might have made things a bit more fun than otherwise.
This deputy from Arizona is 30 years old, and he’s been to General Convention I think three times. We talked about how this happens every year. On one or more days of Convention, after the deputies have gotten warmed up to our style of meetings, the tedium just goes bananas. The President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) handles it all with aplomb for a while and eventually begins to lose her cool. Her frustration becomes more and more apparent – but she never really scolds anyone, or at least not directly. Well, maybe sometimes.
But by the final three days of legislative sessions (coming up next Tues. thru Thurs.), all the big stuff begins to come before us (including the budget). The folks running things get us to change the rules to speed things up. Scorn is collectively heaped on those who are still intent on mucking things up with wordsmithing and procedural wrangling. Then the question is whether we can get everything done – without either riding rough-shod over folk or making huge mistakes.
Right after that four hour session, bogged down, off and on, in tedium, I snarfed my “emergency meal” (curried tuna in a foil pouch, spiced soy beans in a foil pouch – yum!) and headed to my legislative committee’s big 7:00-9:00 p.m. hearing. It was held in a huge room, with the 51 members of my legislative committee arrayed in seats in front facing the audience. The hearing was on the resolution that proposes provisional use of a rite for blessing the lifelong covenants between same-sex couples. It went very well. We didn’t hear anything we hadn’t before, but 38 people got to make their voices heard on a matter about which many of us are passionate. Most of the speakers on both sides were not only impassioned but eloquent.
My legislative subcommittee dealing with this resolution met this morning at 7:30 a.m. We had a very productive meeting. One bishop and three deputies on the subcommittee, from socially conservative parts of the Southeast and Midwest, helped craft language that would make the resolution much more palatable to themselves and their folk back home, and a couple of the political heroes of the decades-long movement toward this very moment were completely agreeable to the changes. It was great.
I’m going to stop before I start getting all mushy about how much I love The Episcopal Church.