As 2023 Synod prep begins, resolution deadlines and other rules are announced
Deadlines and new information are now available for people who want to submit business to the next General Synod of the United Church of Christ.
At its June meeting, the UCC Board approved standing rules for the 34th General Synod. The biennial meeting will be held June 30 through July 4, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. The rules guide business at the gathering. Key deadlines appear below. All 15 pages of rules can be found here.
The Board reviews the Synod standing rules every two years. Besides deadlines, the highlights of the new edition include these, said the Rev. Marsha Williams, who chairs the Board’s Governance Committee:
- A plea to anyone who wants to submit a resolution to consult early — that is, this summer — with a resolution review team.
- An enhanced description of “implementation conversations.” People who sponsor resolutions are required to lead these at Synod.
- A mention of the “behavioral covenant” for the exhibit hall..
- The elimination of the “proposed pronouncement” — and its companion, the “proposal for action” — as a separate category of formal motion.
Reviewing, discussing resolutions
Williams, who is transitional Conference minister in the New York Conference, said the updates were all about learning from experience.
She said having a review team that consults with submitters about resolutions in advance — even while they’re being drafted — has proven “very, very helpful” in the past. The GS 34 standing rules spell out, more specifically than in 2021, what that process looks like. The deadline list below gives more details.
The people on the resolution review team “are not gatekeepers,” Williams said. She said their job is “not so much to go into the content of resolutions, but to make sure they are in compliance with the UCC Bylaws.” This, she said, “cuts back on the time the Committee of Disposition has to use on deciding whether resolutions can go forward.” The Committee of Disposition, named in the Bylaws, consists of UCC Board members.
“Implementation conversations” were new at the 2021 Synod, which was held virtually. They were designed to “get the people who were submitting the resolution to provide some context about how it might come to fruition in a local church and Conference,” Williams said. “They went well. We think it’s a good thing that we want to hang onto.” The 2023 standing rules contain slightly expanded language about the conversations “to give just a little bit more guidance and direction to folks about what they should look like,” she said.
Exhibit Hall behavior
The “behavioral covenant” will receive its first test at an in-person Synod in 2023. It grew out of emotional debates at the 2019 Synod about whether to exclude a UCC-related organization from the exhibit hall. The group’s past Synod exhibits had contained language about LGBTQ+ people that did not match the Synod’s own longtime open-and-affirming stance.
The solution in 2019 was to refer the matter to the Board to develop a behavioral covenant. The Board did so, approving it in 2021. It calls the exhibit hall “a space where we honor the faith and recognize the humanity of vendors and visitors alike.” “We covenant,” it says, to:
- “Encounter all people with an attitude of Christ’s love, not belittling others’ faith or humanity in word or action.”
- “Respect the human rights of all persons and acknowledge the civil rights of all people or groups of people.”
- “View those with whom we disagree with compassion.”
Williams said the Governance Committee wanted the standing rules to formally call attention to the covenant. It added a single sentence to the new edition: “Exhibitors shall honor the Behavioral Covenant distributed to exhibitors in advance of the General Synod.”
Farewell to pronouncements
The Synod has used pronouncements and proposals for action to address sweeping topics over the years. Among their titles, to name a few, are:
- “Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church” (1993)
- “Christian Faith: Economic Life and Justice” (1989)
- “Affirming the United Church of Christ as a Just Peace Church” (1985)
- “Civil Liberties Without Discrimination Related to Affectional or Sexual Preference” (1975)
- “Justice and International Development” (1967)
Standards were high for these — including early deadlines by which they had to be submitted and a supermajority vote required for passage at Synod.
The main reason the Governance Committee eliminated that category of motion from the standing rules is that it had fallen into disuse, Williams said. “We haven’t used it in a probably a decade,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t come back for another Synod in the future.”
The standing rules spell out key deadlines, including these:
- Long before Oct. 31, 2022, people drafting resolutions and other formal motions should be in conversation with the Resolution and Committee Process Team. The person to contact is Kevin Peterson, email@example.com, who staffs the team.
- By Oct. 31, the texts of proposed resolutions and other formal motions must be submitted to Peterson for assignment to a review team. These don’t have to “be final” at that point. “Submitters are encouraged to provide resolutions in draft form to the Resolution Review Team as early as possible,” the rules say.
- By Jan. 2, 2023 — after the review described above — texts must be submitted to Peterson in final form. The Office of the General Minister and President will in turn distribute these to Synod delegates by April 3. The UCC Board, acting as the Synod’s business committee, will recommend the “disposition” of each motion and report these to the General Synod.
- By May 31, people offering resolutions or motions “that could not have been anticipated or submitted in conformance with the above deadline” must send these to Peterson.
The standing rules also detail types of resolutions and motions, who may submit them, how to ask for late-business exceptions after May 31, and much more.
The UCC’s Indiana-Kentucky Conference will host the Synod.
“We will need 300 to 400 volunteers to make this happen,” said the video, posted at the Conference website. It encouraged interested people in the region to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Whether it’s welcoming guests when they check into their hotels, helping serve communion or offering directions, you will be our go-to’s. We’ll need tech people, childcare people and snack people. Get your youth excited, because we need them, too. There’s really something for everyone.”
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