NOTE: when I say “UM Amendments” I’m referencing specifically the Amendments dealing with the Inclusiveness of the Church and the Worldwide Nature of the Church.
Two days ago, this blog reported on a story published by USA Today that reported that the Amendments had been defeated even though not everyone had voted yet and some Annual Conferences had yet to vote. I wrote and called them “dumb” because the UMNS story it was based on didn’t say that. In retrospect of me and other bloggers, our ire perhaps should have been directed elsewhere.
Per my request, Daniel Burke from the Religious News Service (which syndicates to USA Today) contacted me regarding the accuracy of the article. He explained the UMNS had changed the article that RNS had referenced since publication. Further, he explained how the reported voting tallies yielded an impossible passage of the UM Amendments and thus the reported facts in the article are accurate. I thank him for his candor and response and apologize for my complaint against RNS.
In other words, UMNS had reported the Amendments defeat, RNS had reported on the UMNS report, UMNS had changed the story because of the Bishop’s concerns, RNS refuses to change the story even though the reporting by UMNS has changed, and now we are stuck with it all.
So let’s be clear about the facts regarding the numbers of the UM Amendments. I appreciate the work of HX reader Chuck Russell who posted a comprehensive evaluation of the numbers here. His work is fair and should be read. It basically says that even though the numbers are not all in yet, and indeed the total numbers are unknown, it would take a statistical improbability for their passage. I’m not a person who sticks their head in the sand, so I’m inclined to accept his conclusions. Done.
However, the result of all this reporting is that Annual Conferences (primarily international conferences) that are yet to vote feel a bit like Hawaii on voting day: unimportant and irrelevant because they vote late. For the caucus groups who take such pride in care and concern for the international community, it is unfortunate that their repeated requests for voting tallies have yielded that the international community feels again like they are at the kids table and irrelevant.
This situation didn’t have to take place. Before the voting began, the Council of Bishops agreed to not disclose the vote totals until after most of the conferences had voted. This was so that early voting didn’t influence votes in upcoming conferences. I publicly supported this because, like them, I didn’t want people to feel irrelevant in the process. Afterword, Bishops and/or annual conferences decided to buck this agreement and disclosed the numbers…at that time, I heard plenty of tweets and comments about a “lack of transparency” if the numbers were withheld. Those voices apparently prevailed at the annual conference level.
It makes me wonder how in a democratically-influenced church that this situation might have been avoided that the international community has been left out of important conversations. This will change in 2012 when the international conferences will have 40% of the vote rather than their current 20%, but for the moment, disenenfranchisement served cold. So I understood where the Bishops were coming from in promoting non-disclosure because of the presumed effect on the international community.
I write a lot about transparency and accountability, so it may come as a surprise that I supported non-disclosure on this. Here’s why: even though we are structured like the US Government, we don’t have to operate like them and value transparency above individual dignity. We don’t need to idolize transparency above all other concerns when accountability is in place. We can opt to non-disclose so that out of mutual admiration and care for one another that all feel welcome at the table. We opted not to do this, to our shame.
Is it any wonder that in the very process of voting down the inclusivity of the church that we expose that we are not inclusive in our voting process? Irony served cold.
Thoughts on this process, or ways that we can be better in the future?
- Maybe USA conferences should have voted last and let the international community lead us in voting?
- Maybe there should be an official counting service which tabulates the results rather than individual conferences leaking the votes to their glory?