Last weekend at our diocesan convention we passed the standing rules for the election of the next bishop of Minnesota. They seemed straight forward enough – I mean, I read them and they were okay but as the conversation unfolded at my table I realized that I had not read them nearly carefully enough. It was a lot of points, somewhat legalistic and at the end of a convention booklet. So when the discussion started, a paragraph jumped out at me that stated that once balloting has begun for election, the room would be closed to non-voters and the doors would be locked and voters could only leave the room in case of emergency.
How did I skim over that part of the rules?
So I was forced to do something that I am loath to do….go up to the microphone in front of the convention and ask a question. The reason I hate going up there is I always get nervous and say something that is not in order. So I came up and said, “Debbie, I have a question.”
The deep voice of our Bishop cut me off, “Michele, address your comments to the chair of convention, please.”
So I stood there trying to figure out who the bishop wanted me to address. I knew I was wrong in addressing the chair of the standing committee and I knew he did not want me to address the chancellor or the parliamentarian. So I looked at the chief executive officer and then the bishop … and then the chief executive officer and the bishop again. As I pondered, my head tilted and I realized I looked just like my dog Zack when he is puzzling something out. Having realized that time had stopped and I did not know the answer I plunged onward.
“So this point of not allowing anyone to watch the proceedings and to carry the voting on in a locked room seems counter to the openness and the transparency that the search committee is seeking to carry out. I am wondering why we are thinking about running the election that way.”
As Debbie, the chair of the standing committee, started to answer my question I scurried back to my chair. I sort of heard, “well, this is how we have done it in the past, and these rules have been drawn up by other search committees and we are following their lead.” I actually did not hear it all because I was trying to get back to my chair before anyone teased me about doing an impression of my dog.
Another priest got up and amended the language to allow visitors and then a new conversation started about who was allowed devices that could transmit information to the world. I let them fight that out without my help.
Later that day I had a conversation with a member of the standing committee who told me that the rules were written not so that it was a closed process, but to create a process where we could work together, vote, pause between ballots, have liturgy and pray together. The election was designed to allow the Holy Spirit to be a part of our community. The assertion was that allowing people to be in contact with others, to post results, or to write blogs before we are done with our process would not allow that to happen.
The question I have is where and when does community happen?
When and where does the Holy Spirit move in our communities?
How do we as a church define our community?
Does the Holy Spirit move through Anglimergent?
Our standing rules of how we do things in the church have been passed down to us with almost as much care as our Book of Common Prayer. It is the way we move through our business as a church. We vote rather then reach consensus and we are so afraid of technology affecting us that we cling to what we know. So our rules of how we do things are a lifeline that is now strangling us and I wonder how we move through this next part of our collective lives together.