Associates in Advocacy now has two sites on the internet. Our primary help site is at http://www.aiateam.org/. There AIA seeks to offer aid to troubled pastors, mainly those who face complaints and whose careers are on the line.

Help is also available to their advocates, their caregivers, Cabinets, and others trying to work in that context.

This site will be a blog. On it we will address issues and events that come up.

We have a point of view about ministry, personnel work, and authority. We intend to take the following very seriously:


Some of our denomination's personnel practices have real merit. Some are deeply flawed. To tell the difference, we go to these criteria to help us know the difference.

We also have a vision of what constitutes healthy leadership and authority. We believe it is in line with Scripture, up-to-date managerial practice, and law.

To our great sadness, some pastors who become part of the hierarchy of the church, particularly the Cabinet, have a vision based on their being in control as "kings of the hill," not accountable to anyone and not responsible to follow the Discipline or our faith and practice. They do not see that THE GOLDEN RULE applies to what they do.

If you are reading this, the chances are you are not that way. We hope what we say and do exemplify our own best vision and will help you fulfill yours. But we cannot just leave arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance to flourish. All of us have the responsibility to minimize those in our system.

We join you in fulfilling our individual vow of expecting to be perfect in love in this life and applying that vow to our corporate life in the United Methodist Church.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you have any questions or suggestions, direct them to Rev. Jerry Eckert. His e-mail address is aj_eckert@hotmail.com. His phone number is 941 743 0518. His address is 20487 Albury Drive, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.

Thank you.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Accountability of Judicial Council members

The bishop who presided over the vote on the marriage petition asked the General Conference Secretary to read the decision of the Judicial Council on a request for their ruling on several petitions which could provide ways to hold Judicial Council members accountable if they violate judicial ethics.

The Secretary read the lengthy decision slowly and articulately for the translators to do their job for our foreign delegates.

In what appears to be self-serving, though I think they ruled correctly, the Judicial Council said that the General Conference could not pass any accountability system to cover misbehavior of the Council members. The Conference already has the right to not elect those Council members seeking re-election.

A careful reading of the constitution gives some powers to the General Conference and other powers to the Judicial Council and those strictures were clearly spelled out so that it was plain that the Council had done serious work.

But it still gave some of us a spooky feeling that self-protection was really at play even if they were right. I am sad that conflict of interest was built in to the way the Council had to operate.

The problems that the petitions for the General Conference sought to solve can be settled by how the Council views its rules of practice and procedure. Many of the concerns could be handled by appropriate rules changes. The new Council may do that as a sign of good faith to the General Conference.

They were not asked to rule on the legitimacy of the censure petitions as a way to call out a Council member for judicial ethics violations.

Dear reader, (I know of one who does take time every day to check out this blog), maybe let's not tell anyone about that.

One more observation: As the Secretary droned on giving the Conference the ruling word by word, a group of folks in the back started singing "Jesus Loves me, This I know." Visitors in the bleachers joined in. It was never loud enough to disrupt the reading. But it made for an unnerving time.


Re: the singing. It was begun by a California delegate, Randall Miller, a pastor who is pro-LGBT. I'm told he began it as a protest not to the Judicial Council Decision, but to the vote which gave the conservatives a victory over the liberals' effort to get "Conscientious Christians can disagree" language into the Social Principles. There had been an arrangement among the liberals to stand in silence, whether on the floor or in the bleachers, following that vote. I'm told Randy wasn't paying any attention to the decision being read.

I want to research it further but beginning in 1988, I was drawing attention to ex parte activities by Thomas Matheny, the president of the Judicial Council. In 1992, legislation was put into the Discipline to make it illegal. The 1996 Discipline further expanded the concept into more places.

I think the 2012 General Conference will find a way to keep a check and balance relationship with the Judicial Council if if members violate common sense.


Was I wrong!

Based on all the votes we have taken in General Conference in which the moderates and liberals routed the conservatives, I was stunned that they got an affirming vote for an amendment to the Social Principles that marriage is one man/one woman. It was close, about 100 or so votes apart.

The bishop who chaired the session seemed to favor that.

When questioned from the floor, he said that whatever the Social Principles said was binding on every United Methodist world-wide. That changed the complexion of the vote.

Only a handful of folks know that the Social Principles themselves in their preamble describe them to be for "instruction and persuasion." (See page 95 of the 2004 Book Of Discipline, third paragraph.) So a lot of good people, knowing our international delegates represent cultures which have become anti-homosexual based on Scripture (one African delegate even quoted Martin Luther's "Sola Scriptura" as his basis for believing homosexuality is a sin), may have voted for their sake.

Another opinion is that many foreign delegates were given free cell phones for use in the United States while they are at GC with the hope they would support the conservative group's proposals with their vote . . . .

The actual petition that passed was really a good one with the exception that it did not acknowledge that Christians may differ and that it restricted any understanding of marriage to one man/one woman.

The conservative coalition may know something about the new Judicial Council the rest of us do not but the consensus I hear is that the Council will not be tied in with the conservative coalition. If the presiding bishop is taken seriously by the new Judicial Council, that the Social Principles are binding, then we may find complaints against all kinds of people for their view on war which may be at odds with the Social Principles, just to mention one.

I don't know if I will go to First Christian Church tomorrow for an all day planning session to respond to today's events. Cool heads will need to prevail over there. But I am not sought out by them (nor anyone else) so I have not got the "street creds" to make a difference there.

I want to watch for the report on the censure petitions. Not making it to every minute of the plenary nor having spent time scouring the Daily Christian Advocate for actions that may have been taken to put them on the consent calendar (probably rejecting them) without any further floor mention about them, I will say no more. When I learn something definitive, I'll post it for you.

Plenary sessions

The most grueling part of being at GC has to be a toss up between handling petitions in the legislative committees and grinding out their results in the plenary session.

I've described one period in the legislative committee in an earlier blog that illustrates why they meet well in to the second week. Despite the rules, some legislative committees were still finishing up last night. Those long hours are exhausting.

The times I sit observing the plenary have been among the least productive times I've seen. The worst example was when the presiding bishop called upon the body to prepare to vote.

Each delegate has a remote voting device much like a simple TV remote control. Press the "1" button for a "yes" vote. Press the "2" to get a "no."

However, the device has to be activated so the bishop told everyone to touch any button to turn on their remote device.

That's when the crummy thing happened. Not all of the devices work. So the bishop asked those with faulty devices to stand so the pages could exchange for good ones.

Two were quickly taken care of in front but one man remained standing in the back, apparently unnoticed by the pages. He had on a white shirt and being a large man, was very visible to the bishop. The bishop directed a page to the man and then gave a running commentary on what was happening because no one else could really see so far back in the arena.

I could see from my vantage point near the front.

The man was seated in the middle of his row and the page could not get to him so he moved toward the page. That somehow did not settle the matter because the man continued pressing toward the side aisle through the narrow space between those seated at his table and the table behind his. When he finally got to the aisle, he engaged in a long conversation with the page, gesticulating, persisting over some unknown matter as the conference and the bishop waited for him to get a working device so the voting could proceed.

The bishop commented, "Brothers and Sisters, I am told that there are no electronic systems in heaven." The comment did not draw much of a laugh.

The man in back remained oblivious to the fact he was being allowed to hold up the whole conference. But he finally returned to his seat.

The second worst I observed was when a delegate rose to speak and withdrew an amendment he had made and requested the chance to make it in a different way at the right time. The bishop ruled the amendment had to be voted upon and then he would recognize the man. The motion was rejected (notice the term; we change vocabularies every four years!) and the man returned to the microphone. He made another motion much like the one just rejected but attached it at a different place in the main motion. The motion was several sentences.

On the screen behind the bishop was a text which I thought might be the man's new motion.

After a lengthy statement in support of the motion he had just made, someone sought the microphone.

The bishop acknowledged the second person who then asked if the text on the screen was what the man had put in his motion. The bishop turned and saw that it was the previous motion and asked the techs to remove it from the screen.

I was lucky. I could leave at that point and go home to supper. The delegates could not.

They had already eaten theirs so food was not their problem. Facing another three to five hours was what lay before them.


I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was driving to a nearby rail station to ride a train into downtown Fort Worth. I've left my rental car there while I was attending GC.

Because of the medical problems I had early this week, I drove the car downtown as often as I could. Parking on the street and in the lots was free Saturday and Sunday and after 6 pm other times. Yesterday, I tried to park on the street during the day to have the flexibility to leave if the pain got out of hand.

I found a space on the street which I could have up to four hours without having to come back and feed the meter. But no matter how many quarters I put in, the meter would not give me more than an hour.

So I came back an hour later and moved to another meter. It ate two quarters and two dimes before I realized it would only take nickels. After using the eight I had, I only got a half hour!

Today, I ride the train.


I spent much time last week observing in one legislative committee. On the first night, they got into a parliamentary snaggle. So the next day, a bishop walked in to help them out. He was to speak only if asked. And hopefully, his advice when requested would ease the group through any other snaggle that came along.

After the session in which the bishop was not needed but was still present, I walked with the chairperson and gave her a little historical background on that particular bishop. He had spearheaded the drive to have bishops control the complaint process ever since 1980. The committee I was observing dealt with the core of his best ideas. I implied that I thought his presence was especially problematic because of that conflict of interest.

The reference committee had moved a number of petitions out of that committee that had also been part of the bishop's contributions over the years. There remained one petition which still included the nugget that bishop had given. It was the petition from the general board which had shepherded the bishop's contributions over the years.

Two things happened when the chair persisted in having the bishop present the rest of the time.

One, the board's petition went through untouched despite a half dozen other related petitions offering a different approach which then were rejected (three were mine - what else is new?).

Two, the bishop offered an opinion which actually further confused the group's parliamentary situation, causing an hour's worth of unnecessary procedural discussions and further disruption of their work. The suggestion seemed plausible but it took two members of the group to ask the right questions and make the most helpful motions that finally unsnaggled the matter, not anything the bishop had offered.

The bishop was still riding "shotgun" as long as that committee met.

I am researching how many of the committee members were on the national board which sent the petitions in. I hope to check on how many became chairs of the sub-committees.

That may be my skepticism working overtime. But it does not appear anything is changed in the legislative committee from all those years I observed before.

By the way, since 1988, at least two of the chairs of that legislative committee went on to be elected bishops the following July.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Word about the New Judicial Council

In the past, the nominees for Judicial Council from the Council of Bishops tended to think that protecting the bishops was their first priority, if a case raised any questions.

Just because a group of Council members who made up a majority were not returned in the election yesterday does not mean that the new Council will be willing to treat the bishops differently than their predecessors have.

In the past, liberals have been as bad at deferring to them as anyone.

Arrogance is possible from any individual or caucus favorite.

Let's hope the new president (yet to be elected by the Council) has the whole church as her base and not just the institution and its leaders.

The most experienced Council member in the new Council is a woman. After watching President Sirleaf of Liberia, I would not be surprised to see a woman lead the Council during 2008-2012, historic first for the UMC.


The new president is Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe. She served for eight years 1992 to 2000 and was elected again in 2004. Vice president is Judge Jon Gray, elected in 2004. Rev. F. Belton Joyner, retired, was elected this year and was chosen secretary.

Sirleaf for President!

I just watched Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speak at General Conference. What a gifted person! If there was the office of President of the World, I'd vote for her.

She is people-oriented, has been imprisoned for running for office and being critical of her president some years ago. When Charles Taylor went into exile, Mrs. Sirleaf led the anti-corruption commission that helped the economic system of Liberia get its feet on the ground and end the patronage that had drained off wealth from Liberia's natural resources.

For her work, she was made a candidate for president of Liberia on a continent that is male-oriented.

She grew up in a United Methodist Church in Monrovia, went to Methodist College of Liberia, came to the US to attend Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and returned to Liberia to work to improve the banking system. Surviving the imprisonment and returning to the US, she became an active part of the United Nations, rising to a major position there.

We did not get nearly that much background and substance in the current pair of United Methodists heading up the US Administration. . . .

How proud I am to be a United Methodist to help someone like her to rise to be of service to her nation and her continent.

Other changes to be discussed

A friend at GC (I'm home waiting for my meds to kick in) says that on the floor right now is the discussion of cutting the number of bishops. The expense of having a bishop can mean an expenditure of a million dollars a year for office, staff, salary and benefits, and parsonage. And the general church finances are stretched out of shape right now.

Any plan probably will not go into effect until 2012. With the economy going down as it has, bishops may have to consider taking interim cuts in their income package to ease the burden on the denomination.


Coming up may be a resolution to change the denomination's constitution. A petition would drop the categories noted in the sentence that is the basic rights passage in Paragraph 4. That list has grown over the years: "race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition." Gender and sexual orientation haven't been added though there have been attempts on the latter the last two GCs, which the conservatives beat back.

By dropping the list completely, leaving the passage to read "every human being is of sacred worth," some conservatives suddenly would be left with no way to exclude homosexuals without adding "except for practicing homosexuals."

The argument that is brought by them is that if the issue is left completely open, then pastors could not exclude neo-nazis, murderers, swingers, and KKK from participating in and joining the church.

As if they were not already members . . . .

Anyway, by retaining the longer list, it can be pointed our that "sexual orientation" is not on the list and therefore allows for excluding them.

I'll try to let you know how that turns out.


GC dropped the extra words from that passage. Since it is in the constitution, that will require most of the annual conferences to pass on it. The conservatives have another shot at defeating it, only they will have to do it in the conferences.


A study group has been set up to consider regionalizing our global church so that each geographical segment of the denomination can establish practices and rules that are based on their cultures and not on Western or American culture.

The debate on the floor before passage addressed the issue of maintaining the distinctively Methodist character in diverse places. For example, should the Social Principles be maintained all across the world? I think that was upheld. But try teaching in some African and Central and South American countries that sexual orientation should be respected.

Changing of the guard

During the years I've been a clergy, seminaries have faced serious changes in their student bodies.

When I went to seminary in the late 1950s, we were almost all young men straight from college with no work experience of any length in the secular world. We followed a generation of World War II veterans and of conscientious objectors (and some not so "conscientious" but who chose ministry to avoid the draft). We had a few women who tended to be training for the mission field or for Christian Education.

Within ten years, the seminaries began to see the age of their students growing precipitously as second career people, a growing number of women, sought refuge from the secular job market, where they had no control over their jobs or futures, to the ministry where they at least could work on their own without a boss breathing down their necks. They also tended to be more contemplative, more individualistic, and less inclined to be collaborative. That led to a generation of isolated clergy content to be operate on their own but more vulnerable to bad administration of the complaint process.

More recently, young women and second career women have come into the seminaries, becoming the majority group gender. In my conference in Wisconsin, the groups being ordained contain only one or two men and the rest are women. The gender of our conference is shifting. Almost makes me feel like a "spotted owl."

Will making it easier to become a pastor bring more young men as well as young women into ministry? Will that change the demographics in the seminaries? We'll see.

"Spotted Owls"

Since the first day of GC, a number of young clergy have been seen wearing knit caps that look like owl heads.

They are seminary students and newly ordained clergy who are under 35. They are quietly demonstrating with that funny hat the reality that there are few clergy under 35 in the UMC. They say the reason for that is not a dearth in eligible persons in that age group, but because it takes so long and is so tedious to become an Elder in the church.

Consequently, most UM seminarians are simply going into the UCC or other mainline denominations.

The "spotted owls" are hoping petitions to relieve the excess of time and hoops will be passed by this GC.

They have not been disruptive in any way. They've actually been cute!

Despite taking time away from school to be there, many have persisted into this second week.

There is hope that the delegates from other countries will swing the vote their way because the third world clergy in particular are concerned about those endless requirements in places where their churches are growing at huge rates and clergy are needed.

Like the spotted owl, the young pastors and students are struggling to keep from becoming "extinct" in the UMC.

Judicial Council election

The delegates voted for moderates and liberals for the Judicial Council. By some counts, there may be one conservative left on the Council. The president, Dr. James Holsinger was not nominated by the Council of Bishops nor from the floor. I presume he refused nomination because of being a nominee to the Bush Cabinet. He recused himself from last October's Judicial Council's meeting for that reason. However, he did not recuse himself for the Judicial Council's session here at GC.

It appears that even among the alternates, people who would be called up to the Council if members were unable to attend the twice-a-year meetings, there are few of the nominees pushed by the conservative coalition very high on the list. One clergy and two laity from that camp became alternates among the ten selected. They were not among the first two lay or clergy alternates, so they will probably not be involved in future Council activities.

All in all, though, it appears the conservatives are not as strong this time as they have been in previous GCs.

There are several reasons given.

One, the conservatives on the Council "protected" a pastor from prosecution in his conference because he allegedly kept a practicing homosexual from joining the church (see Judicial Council Decisions 1031 and 1032). That made the Council of Bishops furious because they backed the right of the bishop to tell the pastor what to do! The liberals were upset because the allegation bothered them deeply!

Two, the large number of young people elected to GC from all over the world seem to be less concerned about sexual orientation than their elders.

Three, the spirit of Methodism which is far less interested in creeds and hard-line use of Scriptures is asserting itself.

Four, the conservatives have overplayed their hand with their arrogance in office and in tone, just like the conservatives in Congress, and the moderates are swinging back to the left.

As goes the United Methodist Church, so goes the nation . . . or is it the other way around?

Monday, April 28, 2008

More observations

I got to see General Conference from afar after seeing it from the cot in the first aid room.

I have a kidney stone lodged just above my bladder, just slightly too big to go through. It caused me enough pain in my side that I went to the emergency room at Harris Methodist Hospital here in Fort Worth.

I had intended to watch the election of the Judicial Council members. But I lay in some pain awaiting the results of a CT scan when my cell phone rang. A pastor from New York called to see if I knew the ones who had been elected. He named them. One's name was familiar but I don't recall meeting the man. I did recognize that two current members of the Council were not on the list. With those two gone and Dr. Holsinger not seeking re-election to the Council, three conservative voices for the last eight years will not return.

Anyway, my pain lessened somewhat while I was concentrating on the news I was getting about a General Conference happening two miles away, from a man who was 1,500 miles away.

That's the connectional system!


Each General Conference has a vote on something of modest consequence early in the plenary, sometimes in the first week.

I thought I saw such a moment when a rules change was proposed. (I will go into the back story and results of that rule soon.)

A referral from the floor of the plenary to the Rules Committee had asked for authority to be given to the petitions secretary to not publish petitions of censure against private citizens.

The rule placed before the assembly was to give authority to the Petitions Secretary to withdraw any petition from publication and consideration that was obscene or defamatory about a private person. The Reference Committee was to then review the decision about withdrawing or referring.

That was not a very strong rule because it was quite narrow. I figured that the conservatives would be against it and the moderates and liberals would be for it. That was my opinion.

The rule passed 600 or so to 200 or so.

Did that ratio portend a very different wind blowing from previous General Conferences?

By the time the Conference adjourns, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political cartoonist may revisit a theme used in 1988 when the General Conference "outlawed" homosexuality. That cartoon showed a caveman entering a cave with "United Methodist Church" scratched into the rock above the entrance, carrying a sign which said, "No homosexuals allowed."

This time the caveman would come out into the sunshine and tear up the sign. Stuart Carlson, take notice!


I meant to say it above that everyone was very helpful, considerate, and "Texas prompt." Sometimes it seemed like nothing was happening but I went down for help about 8:45, was in a room in the emergency section of the hospital by 9:15, had my CT scan and blood and urine tests taken by 10, learned my condition by 11, had a chance to rest while some administration was handled, and was on my way back to the General Conference by 1, and was warmly received by the friends who knew of my distress and by the folks who helped me.

That's community as well as hospitality.


I learned that Harris Methodist Hospital has set aside funds to cover the health needs of delegates to GC so there will be no cost to anyone who needs help.

I'm not a delegate so I took on costs which may finally use up my deductable on my health insurance. But it was worth it.

I also learned that in the past, emergency assistance to GC members involved maybe four trips in 14 days. So far here in Fort Worth, they have averaged four a day.


The hospital had to change its policy on caring for all GC delegates. If any had medicare or insurance, they like me had to pay.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lay Address

Whenever General Conference meets, some of the best talent in the country comes forward to help.

That occurred when the lay address was presented by a . . ., well, person of great eloquence and plainness and spirit!

Before us stood the lay leader of one of the Georgia conferences. The voice was that of a tenor. The suit was black, the white shirt was open, a small gold necklace sparkled and bore a modest cross, and the earrings were barely noticeable. When the audience gasped at a reference to Lynn speaking to the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, I would have laughed at the irony involved, but the speaker had me enthralled,

The message was hopeful and insightful.

Lynn urged the Church to evangelize in these ways:


One member one mission

Witness while in mission

On the first, Lynn said that more than half of new members joined because someone in the church invited them. No big questioning about being saved, no long testimony, no using the Biblical language, just a plain invitation with the addition, "I'll be there waiting for you at the main entrance of the church." That's something anyone can do.

I liked the second one a lot. After I retired, I committed myself to three missions. Locally, to give blood and support that effort; denominationally, to work for fair treatment of lay and clergy employees; three, study and speak out about the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Pastors should not just view new members or constituents as prospects for church jobs like ushering and committee work but should also ask what the person saw in her/his experience that needed attention, something s/he could do to help someone. It could be planting flowers to running for city council or encouraging people to give their hair for making wigs for cancer patients to being a lay chaplain at the jail, hospital, nursing home, or other venue.

I learned in my first year as a pastor that nearly everyone in the small churches I served was involved in doing something for others either through the women's group or in the community. I remember having a terrible time trying to persuade a man who coached little league baseball that he was conducting mission work!

Every church is a mission station and every Christian is ALREADY a missionary or on the verge of being one in their everyday lives.

The biggest mistake I see being made by pastors in our denomination is forgetting all the good our congregation is hard at work doing in their every day life. We tend to presume they are not being Christian enough mainly because they are not giving enough to the church or not taking part in the church organization.

Nearly everyone who attended church everywhere I ever served really had on their heart to do no harm and to do good, and to get the church, even the ones who tended to be hypercritical or even hypocritical on some things.

How gratifying it would be to have the pastor praying for us for strength and help in the ministries we struggle to do every day. How rewarding to be looked at as someone who was wanting to be better and hoped we would be, the next time we had a chance.

The pastor's job, our speaker insisted, was to help us be better, was to prepare us for our respective ministries.

If that was done, by sermon, by special study courses and training sessions, and by example, the spirit of the congregation would flow in new and exciting ways! The dominant view of the United Methodist Church as a sleeping giant would be shattered. We would not be sleeping anymore!

And "witnessing while in mission" (explaining what we were doing and why) would be so much easier.

I got all fired up and more hopeful.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Observations . . .

On the first full day of GC, as I posted earlier, I went to observe the Reference Committee.

When they were finished for the morning, I asked how we could get Fair Process petitions to Judicial Administration Legislative Committee from the Ministry Legislative Committee. The chairperson offered several alternatives.

I provided one, after some hours of looking through the petitions. The next day, the committee went over my request before I got there (they meet at 7 am and I can't get up early enough to travel there in time) and referred most of them to the legislative committee that will be most likely to deal with them fairly.


I had not forgotten how exhausting GC can be. From the arena where the plenary is held to Cokesbury's display and bookstore is four city blocks. My tired feet and shin splints felt all too familiar even though it has been twelve years since I last attended GC.


To get on the internet in the convention center, I would have to pay $12.95 a day. The hotels charge around $10 per day. There are no coffee shops or other stores with free wi-fi anywhere downtown.

The laptop remains at the parsonage where I'm staying.


The parsonage is about 10 miles from downtown so I have chosen to take the commuter train that runs between Dallas and Fort Worth via the airport. I drive in the rental car three miles to the station where parking is free.

I have taken time off in the middle of the day or in the early evening if I felt I was not needed. So I have seen Fort Worth stations from early in the morning to late at night.

This noon as I approached the station downtown to go home for a desperately needed nap, a ruckus began between a husky Hispanic girl of 16 (I'm guessing these ages) and a African American teenage boy who weighed "a buck fifty." She was screaming and pounding at him. He was pulling her hair and they were rolling around on the railroad tracks, having fallen the three feet to the track bed.

A tall, slender 40 year old gentleman of color jumped down and separated the two. They kept up trash talk and charging toward each other once they got up on the platform. The man stayed between them, facing the boy. But the girl stayed right there as the boy was gently pushed backward. I stepped in between the girl and the man. I said brilliant things like, "Be cool."

After lightly touching her shoulder, I decided that was not a good idea but I did put my 220 pounds in her way when she tried to follow the boy and man. My briefcase carries the GC work books so that added another twenty five pounds to what she'd have had to go through to pursue her goal of whatever it was she said in Spanish. I know some words but not those.

The boy walked away as an older woman of color let him know he was in trouble.

He may have been. Security officers finally appeared and both children were interviewed. Despite the fall to the tracks, the two kids seemed okay.

I spoke with the one who intervened. He said, "I don't go to church but I figured if God had pulled my card and I'd end up up there (pointing toward the sky), at least maybe I could keep those babies from getting run over by a train."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Opening Plenary

During the worship service, we sang Harry Emerson Fosdick’s hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

I have always liked that sung to the Welsh tune. But a different tune with a more meditative melody made certain words come out:

“From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to work and praise.”

“Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.”

On this one, I wasn’t necessarily thinking Iraq, though that sure felt relevant last night. I was thinking about a hand-out I got from one of the dozens who are on the rim of GC. It concluded, “If none of these work, then we must commit ourselves to disrupting the GC’s business.”

“Save us from weak resignation,
To the evils we deplore. . . .”

I try to avoid the use of the word “evil” because it is so hard to take back if you find out you were wrong about something or someone. But I am very concerned about the evil of “party spirit,” that frame of mind that we must separate if we cannot agree.

I am also worried about the evil of ignoring controversy instead of using problem-solving techniques to explore the parameters and depths of the issue and the people who are involved. Sometimes being nice buys time and maybe the problem will go away without us alienating each other.

But the problem has not gone away since 1972. We have to face it sometime.

So I wondered if this GC would face those two “evils.”

The opening plenary was geared to setting up the ground rules for the next nine days. I knew no serious issues would come to the floor in this initial session.

The parliamentarian issue was modified by the presenting committee so that it would apply to the 2012 GC. One delegate asked whether this GC could obligate the next one.

The parliamentary ruling was that the motion was to allow for planning and training (I laughed about that!) in case the next one upon vote of this recommendation accepted it for 2012. That bought it a pass.

I couldn’t get to anyone to ask the Judicial Council to rule on whether or not the motion violated the separation of powers between the legislative and the administrative branches of the church. But I was not prepared to send a note to someone in the plenary session.

The other major matter that was presented though not for action at this time was the idea that the GC cannot afford the expenses for a thousand delegates. So a petition has been submitted to make the maximum number 600 for our world wide denomination.

The delegates astutely raised excellent questions and brought some helpful motions. All the ones I would have voted for were defeated by wide margins.

If you know of any use a prophet in his own time can have, give me a call.


Update: “Human social problems typically don't get solved; they just become irrelevant. A prophet's usefulness is to keep alive the alternative for the time fifty years hence when the issue becomes irrelevant.”

A friend sent that quote from the 1960s as a reassurance that I should persist. Let’s see, I started working on church law issues in 1978. That means I have 20 years to go before I’m irrelevant. Here all this time I thought I was already irrelevant.

General Conference Opening

I was there a half hour before the opening worship of General Conference (GC) began. The place was quite full. I had to climb high into the bleachers to get a seat.

Across from me were three huge choirs, I presume three of the best from the largest churches.

There was an orchestra in formal wear, and there was an instrumental group which included drums of many kinds and electric stringed instruments.

I can’t count the number of golden voiced individual singers, men and women, between the bands or fronting the instrumental group.

The music was excellent. Most of the earlier music was choral in the more traditional style, including something from the Messiah, with the choirs taking turns. Between were arrangements of hymns I sang most of my career. And there were choral pieces built on southern gospel music. Conference members and others attending chatted, just like folks do during the prelude on a Sunday morning.

The bishop called us to worship (she reminded me of Hillary Clinton). That took a bit of doing. As she did, the three choral groups left and three new ones moved into their places.

The music went away from the various traditions with which I was familiar. What followed were songs sung by praise choirs and bands in “contemporary” services around the country, songs that were repetitive and included a lot of hand clapping.

Songs from other countries’ traditions were used, some meditative, some energetic. Where before I wore out my voice, now I didn’t know what they were singing at all. But the folks around me did.

At one point in the service, all the instruments stopped playing and the congregation sang a cappella. It was full of strength and energy (it was also an old familiar hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone”).

The amazing thing was that there was an almost seamless flow from one musical form to the next.

During the music, groups of young people dressed in flowing gowns moved gracefully along every aisle on the ground floor and into the lower rows of the bleacher area.

As they moved, the bishops entered is procession, sometimes moving to the more dance-like rhythms (imagine octogenarians grooving in a subdued manner) and sometimes just moving along to the more march-like tempos.

It was a long way from where they came in and every bishop still alive and ambulatory was in that processional. And they processed to many different songs, it took that long.

Forty minutes into the service, the bishops were finally in place and the presiding bishop started in with congregational prayers and Scripture readings.

She preached well. The theme was “Hope.” She received an ovation when she finished.

The voices of the writers’ group to which I belong came into my head.

“She dropped the flow she set up so beautifully and went another direction.”

“Great story but she’s stretching its relevance to the theme.”

“She took the best parts of seven different sermons and strung them together.”

“She really needed an editor to keep her on track.”

“She did deliver it well.”

“And that story stood alone no matter what its context. Good stuff.”

My writers’ group is both critical and supportive.

The musicians took over as the focus of the service switched to Communion. And the dance groups, including three “ghetto” young men in back slacks and open colored white shirts, made their moves to the music.

Suddenly this marvelous mature male voice sang the words of the bishop’s part of the “Great Thanksgiving.” And all the people read or sang their responses. It worked. The male voice was of a second bishop who led us through the Communion service.

The altar table was a small round table set in the very middle of the seated delegates and Communion elements were sent from there to the bishops who had come back off the stage and scattered along the outside aisles and up into the bleachers to distribute the bread and cup.

I realized that some of them stood in one place for over a half hour without moving. That included the retirees! You have to be physically strong to be a bishop.

All of this excellent use of the huge space and sound and liturgy was impressive. But when it came time to go down those stairs to get Communion through the long lines both going down and then coming back up the same stairs, my legs couldn’t do it. I felt disconnected, like an observer of foreign customs during that time.

But one of the women who sat near me, one of the last to come back up from receiving the elements brought a tiny piece of the bread that had been dipped in the cup. She placed it in my hands and I ate of it.

The taste of her kindness still lingered through out the beginning of the plenary and still gives me goose bumps this morning.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It is hard to talk about General Conference here in Fort Worth without talking about the saints that surround us . . . in blue and red vests, saying, “How may I help?”

No, I’m not talking about Wal-Mart!

The pastors and lay people of the Central Texas Conference have bent over backward to make everyone welcome. They don’t seem to care whether the name tags are in blue covers, green covers, black covers, or red. They treat everyone with a smile and an earnest wish to be helpful.

The ultimate hospitality I’ve seen so far was last night for a group from Africa who flew in around 9 o’clock. They arrived with no money and they had not eaten supper. They were counting on the per diem the General Conference offers to each delegate as their cash flow once they got here. And that office was closed by then.

One of the clergy in the group of volunteers found a translator and learned of their plight. His first step was to ask me to lend him four hundred dollars! He’d done me a number of favors already and I wanted to oblige him. I didn’t have close to that amount for the whole two weeks I will be here. He grinned and told me to go on. He’d “figger somethin’ aout.”

The way he said that last word, it was in three syllables.

When I saw him this morning, I asked how it was resolved. He said that he went to their hotel with them. The dining room was still open. They were allowed to charge their meals to their rooms. Problem solved and my friend didn’t have a funny looking entry on his VISA card bill to explain to his wife!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Surprise! Surprise!

I was worried about how the Reference Committee was going to be oriented and instructed. My past experience as described on the website (http://www.aiateam.org) has not left my understanding of how General Conference can be manipulated. So I made it a point to observe their session this morning.

The General Conference Secretary convened the group. He helped them elect officers and he left.

Because she was the only one on the whole committee who had been on a reference committee before, a former Judicial Council member that I know was elected to the chair.

She took charge, led the group through its tasks, and mentioned none of the potential abuses the committee could use at its discretion. The group tackled everything in as fair a way as I could have dreamed.

The Petitions Secretary then brought a bunch of requests for referrals of petitions to different committees and some requests for withdrawals.

The one that already has made news, withdrawing petitions to divest from Caterpiller, was funny in that the Reference Committee had the authority to not grant that request!

It did not, of course. It hopes that people learn that once a petition is published for General Conference, it is the property of the Conference, and therefore of the Reference Committee, with regard to actual referral of the petition for legislative action or not.

There were a few comments made in asides which indicate that the matter would have had a fiery floor fight. But those opinions were expressed after the vote to allow the petition to be withdrawn.

The committee and the Petitions Secretary seem to be doing their job in a straight-forward, fair way. I do not expect any political shenanigans. That shouldn't be a surprise given that we are a church. An old warrior like me who has seen it all sometimes does not expect that to be a factor when power is being shifted toward a smaller and smaller number of leaders.

The other surprise was definitely unexpected. I stayed on for the evening training session for parliamentarians, located in "The "Episcopal Enclave" (it is called that in a working conference document) next to the Bishops' lounge. I met a pastor from New York who was there to observe as I was, and learn a little more about parliamentary procedure. But there wasn't another soul around! The starting time came and went with no one showing up.

Finally, another pastor came along and reported she had overheard a conversation that the session had been called off. It seems that only two of the ones invited to be a part of the pool were willing and no one else was.

She thought they said something about amending the rules tomorrow night to try it again next General Conference.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Been there, done that

I spent the afternoon walking around the convention center where the General Conference meets.

I wouldn't have made it without the help of two "angels unaware." I went to the train stop but could not get the automated ticket dispenser to work. Just as the train was entering the station, a Hispanic fellow who had been trying to help me get a ticket took me over to the bus stop and told me to ask the bus driver for a ticket (tickets work for both train and bus). He handed me one without charge and I raced over just in time to get on the train before the doors closed.

A third saint awaited me at the downtown station where she was so pleased to hear a good story about the personnel in her transportation system that she didn't charge me either! She sold me the weekly pass for half-price (having a Medicare card gains one that advantage here in Fort Worth).

The convention center as about three blocks from the downtown station. Very handy.

But all around the center is construction. A new hotel and one trying to renovate were both supposed to be done by now They didn't make it. So several thousand beds that were to be available across the street from the center have been replaced by lodging further away. I have no idea how much further. I hope not too far, especially for the international delegates.

The center is a good size. I will get a lot of exercise just going from the plenary area to the bookstore set up by Cokesbury.

There are meeting rooms for all of the various committees, officers of the conference, special groups, etc. Most are still unoccupied today but by mid-day tomorrow, people will be coming in in large numbers to fill the place.

Some 6 to 7,000 are expected, only a fifth being delegates. The rest are guests, lobbyists, spouses of important personages, and support staff. I'm not sure how many visitors are expected and whether or not they fit into that number.

There were a few folks I wanted to see who were already there today. I saw a couple from Wisconsin (my home state). -- The Wisconsin delegation is seated way in the back of the hall. The presiding bishop will need binoculars to see them.

The local volunteers were already organizing their hosting tasks. All that I encountered were gracious and accommodating. As I am glad to be reminded, United Methodists can be extraordinarily kind and helpful. The folks I've met from the Central Texas Conference who are hosting General Conference that I met certainly were.

Hospitality is a major Christian value!

I found the meeting places of most of the groups and officers in whom I am interested.

The one meeting room I could not find is the room where the Judicial Council is to hold its meetings during General Conference. According to the convention center map, the only doors that would appear to have access to that room sound, smell, and announce (with small signs) that they are power plant rooms!


No. More likely I just couldn't find the right room!

But it will be interesting to see if the Judicial Council can find it . . . .


I rechecked the map. There was no number on any of the doors past the restrooms. The room assigned to the Judicial Council is in what is being called "The Episcopal Enclave." The men's and women's rooms separate the Council from the Lounge for the spouses of the bishops.

The Judicial Council will find their room. I just couldn't read that map.

Further update:

There are 994 delegates. Those who are absent may or may not have their alternates present Everybody else is staff, support, spouses, observers, and hopeful ones like me who think we can influence this huge rally.

Open Meetings

A number of years ago, I had the bad experience of being summarily run out of a meeting at General Conference after I started asking questions about the committee's responsibilities. The meeting I attended was related to the distribution of petitions to the respective legislative committees, with no real need for closing the meeting.

I learned too late that church law restricts the closing of meetings to anyone unless there are sensitive negotiations such as personnel matters, deployment of security, etc.

The current version of that law, Paragraph 721, is a little more elaborate than it was back in the 1980s. When I read it just now to be sure I knew what it said, I found an addition that I had never noticed before: "While it is expected that the General Conference, the Judicial Council, and the Council of Bishops will live by the spirit of this paragraph, each of these constitutional bodies is governed by its own rules of procedure."

The Judicial Council only opens its meetings when there is a public hearing. All of the rest of its deliberations are closed. Not all of their cases fall inside the categories of items for which closed meetings may be called. However, many do. Like most judicial bodies I know of, deliberations are closed by common practice.

The Council of Bishops, I am told, have their worship services open but somehow find ways to conduct the larger part of their business out of the view of the public, frequently by having their small groups meeting in hotel rooms during breaks. I have not tried to observe when the bishops meet so I cannot speak with any real authority on it, except to say journalists reported to me that they can never seem to find where the real work of the bishops is being done. What they do get to observe is pretty vanilla stuff.

After reading the open meetings paragraph in the Book of Discipline, I checked the rules of the General Conference. There was nothing about open or closed meetings in the rules about the particular committee I'm interested in.

Do they get to make up their own rules on the fly?

No, fortunately. I found the relevant rule right near the beginning of the "Plan of Organization and the Rules of Order."

The second to last paragraph of the Preamble contains the following as new material to be added upon vote of the General Conference on Wednesday night:

Trusting that God is at work throughout all of creation, the church invites the public to observe its deliberations by conducting its business in open meetings (consistent with P 721 of the Book of Discipline).

Often, such passages are brought over from another portion of the rules due to editing considerations. In this case, that passage is new.

It will not be in effect until Wednesday night, if it passes.

But it is nice to know it could be there for the rest of the Conference.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Agenda

I scanned the agenda again to see what the schedule is for the opening days. As I expected, there are some difficulties.

The evening plenary session on Wednesday night has eight items, all of which are usually perfunctory administrative tasks. One of those is “Rules Report and Adoption.” There is no use of the phrase “and Adoption” on two other reports. Look for the presiding officer to hasten the passage of the Rules Report so that the changes being sought are passed without discussion.

One of those rules changes is assigning retired bishops to be parliamentarians in the legislative committees. Bishops who are part of the administration of the church should not have roles as parliamentarian in the legislative committees nor of the plenary, the main legislative body of the General Conference. Many bishops are wonderful parliamentarians. But they are members of the Council of Bishops even after retirement. And they tend to rule in ways that are to the advantage of the bishops’ authority.

The agenda shows that training of parliamentarians is on the night BEFORE the vote that would allow the bishops to be parliamentarians.

Legislative committees are not organized until Wednesday afternoon after more than a day of mostly ceremonial stuff. General Conference has been reduced in length from 13 days to 11 days. The legislative committees face the task of doing their work in two less days because of the schedule change.

Then the agenda announces (I have not seen a rule on this) that there are to be no meetings of the legislative committees on Sunday night (April 27). My experience is that some legislative committees need to meet to do their work until they are done and some have had to work through Sunday night in the past.

This fits into the trend that the less legislative work done, the more likely the decisions are made by the administration. Most annual conferences now are barely legislative (too boring for the lay people, we’re told) and have become celebrations and special privileges for speakers.

I always wondered how autocracies evolved out of democratic institutions.

What One Thing Re: Fair Process

“I’ve already made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

The biggest problem I see in dealing with the troubles a minister may face is that few of us clergy really understand the difference between facts and opinions.

The greatest frustration of the pastors with whom I’ve worked as an advocate is that the officers of the church draw conclusions before they’ve heard the pastors’ side of the story. And no matter what the information is that would clarify the situation, the leaders do not want to hear it.

There are many reasons for this mind-set.

First and hardest, we have to admit that we do not have all the pertinent information. Admitting any weakness or mistake is hard but we must discipline ourselves to realize we have to withhold making a judgment (forming an opinion) with only one side of the story.

That’s not really that hard to do. If something is as bad as someone says, it is probably a criminal act and the police should be called in by the one making the accusation. They are better trained to perform an investigation into something that could cause great harm..

Second, once an accusation has been made, we can sometimes tell if the accusation is an opinion (perception) of the accuser (complainant) or a fact (includes times, places, and specifics of the alleged events) that can be verified some other way.

Third, no one said this would be easy. With everything that we have to do, following up on an accusation takes more than gut feelings. Gaining enough background information is an acquired skill that takes a patient puzzle-solving mentality that not everyone has.

Fourth, because not everyone can do it, church leaders need to give the task to those who can differentiate between facts and opinions. A leader always feels some measure of responsibility in any crisis but a good leader seeks to give responsibility to those who can best handle it.

Finally, coming to a reasonable judgment takes time. Haste makes waste! Rushing to judgment may be bearing false witness against your neighbor.

Do these observations, if followed, break the pattern of pre-judging that undercuts our treating one another fairly?

Put yourself in the shoes of the one who is accused. Would you want your leaders to make decisions before they’ve heard what you have to say? Would you want them to be lazy or careless or impatient about getting all the facts?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


The other day, a friend sent an e-mail that I found to be a most wonderful honor. He said the following post reminded him of Associates in Advocacy. By permission, here is what Rev. David Shearman* wrote:

"In some of my recent reading, Prof. Dave Grossman of the University of Alabama suggests in his book 'On Combat' there are three types of people on this world; There are sheep, which are the majority of us. We are productive members of society. We go about our business and build a better world.

"There are foxes; those who would destroy and tear down society. Often these are sociopaths. Sometimes they operate under the guise of religion. In this world, the sheep often blithely do not know or admit that foxes exist. The foxes, however, prey upon the sheep at every opportunity.

"The third group of people are the sheepdogs. They are not sheep but not foxes, either. They could easily be foxes, but are constrained by their innate drive to protect the sheep. They see the foxes for what they are and stand between them and the sheep they have committed to protect. The sheepdogs are a group of people we recognize as police, firefighters, paramedics and warriors. We often don't treat them well, because they see things differently from the sheep. Yet without them, we would all be prey to the foxes.

"The same parallel could be made in the church. There are foxes in the church. And there are sheep. But where are the ecclesiastical sheepdogs?"

Hey, I do not mind being part of a group of such sheepdogs! I wish it were only foxes and mostly sheep just focusing in their own jobs (until they are attacked) that we were up against. Those foxes seem more like lions and bears. Our attempts to see that Fair Process occurs is like wishing the shepherd were around even if all he has is a slingshot.

Who might the shepherds be? When Fair Process works, it is because of the bishop. When the bishop joins the lions and bears, we sheepdogs don't have much of a chance.

David's simile works for me.


*The original post came from the Midrash lectionary list. (For more information, see http://lists.joinhands.com/mailman/listinfo/midrash). It is written by Rev. David Shearman, pastor in the United Church of Canada's Central Westside congregation in Owen Sound, Ontario. His church's web page (which has a blog of sorts attached) is www.centralwestside.ca.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


NEWSCOPE has been publishing a series on the ten priorities which several leading UM folks suggest for General Conference. I think I’ll take a stab at it. My main concerns tend to be attitudinal but I believe good legislation can sometimes lead to better attitudes!

1. We need to be Wesleyan and seek to “go on to perfection in love” as a denomination, not just as individuals. The Plan of Organization and Rules of Order once included a commitment to perfection. The truth of the matter is that, like individuals, our systems also need to go on to perfection in love so that things like patience, respect, understanding, mercy, kindness, etc. can be better manifest to all. The church should show the love of God and neighbor in all its life and activities. That includes how General Conference operates!

2. Bishops and Cabinets must have as their highest priority the success of the pastors and churches to whom they assign them. When those leaders are so busy doing other things and presume that the pastors should be able to handle everything on their own, Cabinets are violating the covenant of the clergy in order to seek their justification in having power, in doing program, or in having the best salary package. When the Cabinet matches a church and pastor, they must take responsibility to do all they can help them both be effective. Nothing else is close to as important.

3. We must be clear that the United Methodist Church holds two conflicting sets of church laws and two sets of Biblical support on the issue of homosexuality. Thus, both sides are right and there can be no peace, only conflict. If we cannot find a concensus, then we must either agree to disagree or continue competing against each other. . . .”Open hearts?”

4. The complaint management system called Fair Process is being disregarded in favor of allowing Cabinets to fire pastors at will. Cabinets sometimes forget that we operate under the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

5. When Bishops and superintendents get out of line and disregard church law when it suits them, no one has successfully brought them to accountability under the current complaint procedures. Being accountable only to themselves has not worked.

6. We must recognize that the greater danger to our unity is not disagreement over theology or Bible interpretation but is really the gathering of all authority at whatever cost into the hands of the leadership of the denomination. The more concentrated the power, the more easily it is corrupted.

7. Finally (my gift to you is not trying for ten!), we must do as John Wesley, Jesus, and Paul did, look at the fruits more than at the beliefs of one another. Are those fruits feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, . . .? Are those fruits patience, kindness, forgiveness, . . .? In every local church I have ever served are Christians who live like this all the time and they never allow anyone to call them saints. When the denomination isn’t hard at work doing these things, we are letting down the strength of our church, those saints.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Plan of Organization and Rules of Order

(References in this article are to the Daily Christian Advocate, Volume I, Handbook for Delegates. I think you will see my argument even if you do not have a copy.)

For the 2008 General Conference, there have been some changes offered.


The presiding bishop will probably move the passing of these plans and rules to expedite the business of the General Conference. There are two changes that really require considerable discussion. There will be resistance to that discussion because the suggestions below will halt the incursion of episcopal power into the legislative process by the “Bishop Wanna-Be" Party.

At line 945, p. 62, a motion for parliamentarians has been added. It reads:

(c) Parliamentarians. Each legislative committee shall be assigned a parliamentarian by the Secretary of the General Conference. Retired Bishops nominated by the Council of Bishops shall be included in the pool of parliamentarians. It shall be the responsibility of the business manager of the General Conference to develop a pool of other people not currently delegates to serve as parliamentarians. It is preferred that these persons be members of The United Methodist Church and have training in parliamentary procedure. The retired bishops shall be given priority in being assigned to legislative committees. At the invitation of the presiding officer, the parliamentarian advises on matters of parliamentary procedure.

Let me suggest the following:

(c) Parliamentarians. Each legislative committee shall be assigned a parliamentarian by the Secretary of the General Conference. It shall be the responsibility of the business manager of the General Conference to develop a pool of other people not currently delegates to serve as parliamentarians. It is preferred that these persons be members of The United Methodist Church and have training in parliamentary procedure. At the invitation of the presiding officer, the parliamentarian advises on matters of parliamentary procedure.

Notice I plucked out references to retired bishops in the role.

Bishops are valuable resources to the church. But they are part of the “administrative branch.” This role belongs to the “legislative branch” of our denomination.

The proposal for retired bishops to be parliamentarians recognizes a talent good bishops have. But it presents a conflict of interest not unlike asking Al Gore or George H. W. Bush to be parliamentarian in the House of Representatives. Let them use their gifts elsewhere as both Gore and Bush Sr. have done.

Parliamentarians are valuable to a legislative group and the idea has merit, as long as they are fair and knowledgeable.

I urge deletion of the sentences that permit and recommend use of retired bishops for this role.

The second item needing attention is Rule 31 (line 1558, p. 85) that reads:

(2) When a committee presents a report, it shall also list the numbers of all petitions relating to the report on which the committee voted non-concurrence so that all related matters may be considered together. (See Rules 33.3, 34, 36.) Whenever possible, a legislative committee shall recommend for adoption only one calendar item for each paragraph or sub-paragraph in the Book of Discipline. All other related petitions shall be combined for rejection or referral.

This is intended to facilitate the work of the legislative committee. But what it does is permits the parliamentarian (!) or committee presider to accept the one petition on a subject that is allowed to be first presented and sold to the committee and then dump everything else on the subject into non-concurrence. This trick has been used in the past to prevent alternatives to the “party line” from being considered.

Keep old (2), the italicized part, and do not add the sentences in dark print.

These are things that jumped out at me as I read the handbook, pp.26-91. I’m a duffer at this stuff compared to the “Bishop Wanna-Be” folks. But they make mistakes too so don’t let them sway you away from fair procedures and reasonable decisions.

There are other organization issues and rules which should be brought up and discussed. I hope delegates will add my concerns to the rest.