Part 2 of my Saturday coverage.
I'm not really sure where to start on this subject, and many other bloggers have covered most of the issues in a great deal of depth. Suffice it to say that, having just suggested in my last post that many delegates arrive unprepared, we were, ahem, unprepared. At first I thought we were just out of the loop due to having missed last year's GA, but as things progressed, I learned that pretty much the entire assembly felt blindsided by this.
Without rehashing the entire (ongoing) discussion here, let me just say that all of the angst, all of the confusion, and even all of the trouble the assembly had moving the matter forward comes from what I believe to be a simple but catastrophic oversight in section C15.1(c)4 of the bylaws. Let me explain:
One would hope that, in the normal course of the affairs of the Association, the assembled congregations would periodically undertake to review and perhaps modify Article II of the bylaws, which state the "Principles and Purposes" of the Association. One would also hope that "periodically" would mean that we would not let as much as a decade and a half to pass between such reviews.
Should we do that, the process of review and amendment is quite reasonable, and is described in bylaw section C15.1(c)1 -- any proposal to review or amend must come before GA to determine whether further review is warranted, at which point the GA may, by majority vote, refer the proposal to a commission appointed by the BOT to conduct such a review, which is to involve member congregations. Within three years, such commission shall bring the proposal and any amendments thereto in front of GA, which may adopt them by a two-thirds majority.
This process is open and inclusive -- congregations, through their delegates, will know of the proposal before study and review begins because it will have already come before GA, and the commission is specifically charged to include congregations in the review process. No one at the subsequent GA wherein the proposal is potentially adopted could reasonably claim to have been blind-sided.
The bylaws also include a "safety valve." Lest the "Principles and Purposes" stagnate and become credal without intentional thought by the Association, C15.1(c)4 requires the BOT to establish such a commission to review and study Article II -- note that this no longer requires or involves the General Assembly prior to the review and study process -- and may then, in its discretion, place any proposal resulting therefrom on the agenda of the next GA. That GA may then vote by simple majority to admit the proposal to the next GA, wherein it may be adopted by a two-thirds majority.
The problem is two-fold. One is that the first time the proposal appears before GA may well be the first time any delegate is even aware the issue was being worked -- that's the blindsided part. The second is that there is no provision whatever for any further work or amendment to be done to the proposal between the time it is admitted by majority vote and the time it is adopted by two-thirds vote.
The simple fix to this is to change C15.1(c)4 to, instead, charge the BOT, if no proposal has been brought forth in 15 years, to charge a commission to bring forward such a proposal, to then be submitted in front of the General Assembly in accordance with the already reasonable process described by C15.1(c)1, which ensures not only that the proposal appears before the assembly twice, but also allows for a reasonable discussion, debate, and amendment process in the interim.
Note that I've already prattled on for eight paragraphs about broken process and a frustrated assembly, yet I have not said even one word about the content of the proposed changes to Article II. It could (but will not) go without saying that there was some lively debate and discussion about several points in the proposal. There were enough contentious issues, in fact, that many in the assembly felt they could not get behind and support the proposal entirely as it stood, without amendment (for which, as I said, there is no allowable process within the bylaws).
I personally did not spend a lot of time dwelling on the content, as it became clear to me that there would be ample opportunity to get involved in that one way or another at a later time (remember, even a vote to "adopt" here would merely have placed the proposal on the agenda for the next GA, where a 2/3 vote would be required). What was immensely clear to me, though, was that enough people felt disenfranchised by the new language that there was no way I could, in good conscience, vote to have the matter languish for another year with no ability for discourse and amendment.
In the end, enough people were either against the content itself or, as me, the process by which things would move forward, that the proposal was defeated by the thinnest of margins. In a vote that required a hand count by the tellers, the motion failed by a mere 13 votes, out of 1,159 cast -- a margin of just 1%.
The mandate to the Association is clear and two-fold: we need to fix the bylaws so this does not happen this way ever again, and someone needs to come forward with another proposal for amendment of article II that will now follow the reasonable process of C15.1(c)1.
Several have suggested that such a proposal could not be considered by the Assembly until two years have passed, as that is the way it is so stipulated at the end of C15.1(c)1. However, my reading of the Bylaws suggests otherwise -- there is no such stipulation in C15.1(c)4, under which this proposal was brought, and the stipulation under (c)1 appears to me to be applicable only to proposals originally brought forth under that section. I see no prohibition on bringing any proposal brought under (c)4, but then defeated, immediately in front of the assembly under (c)1.
Of course, this is my reading in the calm light of day and after GA is over. My regret is that I did not see this sooner -- I could have brought a motion under C15.1(c)1 to refer the existing proposal right back to the BOT under that section for referral to a new commission for study, thus starting the clock immediately at this GA, while allowing the commission to consider amendments, which might then have been immediately forthcoming right here in Salt Lake. Oh well.