Robert and His Rules

Robert and His Rules


By Steven Savides
Pastor & Teacher, The Congregational Church of West Medford, UCC
General Synod Delegate

"Call the question" has become my a favorite phrase at Synod plenaries. Keep in mind that we only have two days to discuss and vote on the 13 resolutions (excluding other business) brought before the national body. Some resolutions appear more significant than others yet each speaks prophetically. The most controversial resolutions involve changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of the denomination.

But as much as I like the power of the people to end debate by calling the question, and that the body as a whole has this power and not just one individual, I can't help but feel badly that some voices and positions are being precluded. I don't think calling the question matters much in debate on amendments to amendments, but it does in conversations about the merits and perils of certain resolutions.

"Points of order" called at infamous microphone number 5 can stunt conversation and the momentum building around certain motions. This leaves me wondering about alternatives to Robert's Rules. The moderators have done a fine job navigating the complexities, but is there a better way?

At the end of the day I realize how essential the quality of trust is in the success of any model the church adopts: Trust that God is still speaking, that proponents and committees have opened themselves to the Spirit's guidance, that the process is honest and fair, and trust that the large prudential resolutions are the very best they can be - of only in the moment. Change is intevitable.

As a community committed to Christ, the body as a whole can be trusted to discern when a resolution is contrary to the spirit and ethic of our faith and order and I suspect it will be canned well before reaching the synod floor.

The level of trust that is on display at Synod is deeply touching and I have great hope that whichever system we use will be met with the same generosity of spirit.


Steven Savides

Rev. Steven T. Savides is Pastor Teacher of The Congregational Church of West Medford, UCC. He is a former journalist.

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