The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly meets via Zoom on November 18, 2021.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly meets via Zoom on November 18, 2021.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly continues to open opportunities to expand the voices to be heard at the 225th General Assembly next year. During its monthly call, the committee approved a proposal aimed at giving more commissioners and advisory delegates an opportunity to speak up on issues before taking a vote.

“This would allow for greater participation, especially for those not familiar with church processes used by Robert's Rules [of Order],” said COGA member the Rev. Leon Lovell-Martin. “This would give us the opportunity to hear from people who don’t always speak in committee meetings.”

In August, COGA was introduced to the idea of “Choice Points” and “Equity Primes,” concepts that help committee leaders and commissioners take a pause before voting. Staff with the Office of the General Assembly said that participants don’t always think about the different options for consideration before voting and this would offer opportunities to hear the broader perspectives before making a decision.

The GA225 Coordination Workgroup made the recommendation in hopes that those who might feel intimidated by the rules and processes at the assembly will feel more comfortable sharing their views before votes are taken.

“It’s important to name some of the challenges of embarking on this. We would be very naïve to think this is easy. This will slow things down and will make a lot of us very uncomfortable,” said the Rev. Eliana Maxim, COGA vice moderator. “The discomfort of getting things done in a timely, speedy manner can be sacrificed in order to nurture relationships so other voices can be heard. “

Lovell-Martin says some minority voices aren’t heard or are often muffled by those more familiar with Robert's Rules and “want to dominate the meeting.”

“We are used to doing business in the church one particular way, but it doesn’t allow for equity,” said Lovell-Martin. “Do we just hear the voices of some and neglect to hear the voices of others?”

COGA agreed that it would begin utilizing Choice Points and Equity Primes in how it conducts its monthly and quarterly meetings.

The Standing Rules Working Group reported that it has begun to review the current Standing Rules of the General Assembly in preparation for necessary amendments or special rules for next year’s gathering. Among the proposals is one that would ratify actions taken at last year’s online General Assembly.

“The assembly took all of its actions outside of the full authority of the rules because it was not held in person,” said COGA member the Rev. Andy James. “It is necessary for us to be fully in order and adopt a motion to ratify actions taken by Zoom.”

The work group is also recommending an amendment that would allow the use of technology to enable all commissioners to join as needed by electronic means.

“The amendment to standing rules would take effect immediately and remain in effect through the adjournment of the 225th General Assembly. This provides the understanding that we are not setting out any plan for future assemblies, but only what must be done for the 225th to do its work,” said James. “It does not prohibit the assembly from later taking a different action for the future, but we are clear that this is about one assembly and one assembly only.”

COGA will take up all proposed amendments for a vote in February 2022.