Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Assorted observations about G.A.
A few thoughts about the business portions of the UUA's General Assembly, which concluded last night:
'General Assembly for Dummies'? A delegate at the procedural microphone observed that it's hard to learn how the business at the General Assembly really works and joked that many delegates would appreciate something like an "Idiot's Guide to General Assembly." A good idea! Let's face it: The orientation sessions don't really prepare most new delegates for the complexities of what they're about to experience, and the bylaws and rules of procedure are hard to make sense of in the heat (or even the warm tedium) of plenary business. A humorous illustrated guidebook, however, would be fun and useful in a pinch. I'm thinking something more along the lines of Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill" and less like a parliamentary handbook, if such a hybrid could be imagined.
RealVideo or reports? It would be very nice to have the online video recordings of plenary sessions broken down to allow direct access to the, um, more content-rich portions of the sessions. I'm sure we'd each define "content rich" differently, but the reports of officers and some major presentations (such as the Commission on Appraisal's triennial report) also deserve much wider audiences than, say, the candidates' forum with its brief shelf-life. Some reports, however, no matter how vital the announcements embedded in them, would be more usefully disseminated in written form as press releases or simply the texts of the reports themselves. I'm grateful for the videos, but after they've been broadcast, wouldn't more users be more likely to access specific portions than to download the whole three and a half hours?
An aside about Saturday's candidates' forum, which preceded Sunday's election of denominational officers and board and commission members: Although Gini Courter and Bill Sinkford were running for reelection as moderator and president, neither made a statement in the forum. Sinkford's presidential report, which concluded the Saturday plenary, could be construed as his campaign statement, but Courter didn't deliver her report until Monday afternoon — the day after her reelection. Everyone involved in leading a congregation really must hear her speech, by the way — an outstanding call to good manners in the interests of congregational growth and flourishing. Here, incidentally, are the unsurprising election results.
Unwitnessed public witness? Buy super-wide black markers for your protest posters. I know, you have to use them in well-ventilated rooms or you'll get high, but effectiveness matters. A Sharpie just doesn't make letters that a citizen out for a stroll can read from ten yards. And wouldn't it make more sense to put the more professionally prepared banner right out on the street rather than letting it get lost in the crowd? Or, perhaps, make two so one shows up in photographs of the speakers while the other is apparent to passers-by. If we're going to go to the trouble of "witnessing," I'd think we'd want people to grasp what we're doing. (Why, look at that! Three hundred people are standing outside the convention center in the midday sun. Must be waiting to buy tickets to see Pete Seeger!) On the other hand, Ninth Street in Fort Worth is not a busy pedestrian thoroughfare at noon on Saturday. We could have been much more visible and still have been unwitnessed.
An aside: We were protesting the death penalty — which Texas practices in appallingly unjust ways — and the event included clergy from Fort Worth-area churches from several other denominations. I saw no one who wasn't a G.A.-goer or a guest speaker, however. And anyone passing by across the street would have had no idea what was going on. Happily, the Star-Telegram covered the event anyway (reg req'd).
Uh oh: Widespread agreement! Here's something: The first five Actions of Immediate Witness passed overwhelmingly. (Actions of Immediate Witness are social-justice resolutions prepared at the General Assembly by delegates; they have often been the most contentious resolutions at G.A.) Three — opposing torture, supporting a boycott of Gallo Wines, and supporting the Millennium Development Goal One in seeking to end extreme poverty — passed without verbal opposition, amendments, or more than a handful of dissenting votes. Only one person spoke against the resolution calling for intervention against genocide in Darfur. And delegates debated three amendments to a resolution in support of public-interest broadcasting, including federal funding for public radio and television, and eventually passed the resolution as originally written without significant opposition.
Only one resolution — calling for a fair trial for Sami Al-Arian, the University of South Florida computer science professor who was arrested, fired, and placed in solitary confinement on charges of supporting Palestinian terrorist groups two years ago — provoked much conversation. The resolution passed, unamended, with slightly more than the two-thirds necessary vote.
As a result of the rapid adoption of the resolutions, Monday's plenary session ended a full hour earlier than scheduled.
Announcements as liturgy! Wayne Arnason, the secretary of the Association who completed his term on the Board at the end of this Assembly, amused us by offering announcements as liturgical elements — drawing on the Commission on Appraisal's discovery that more UU congregations include announcements in their orders of service than any other element. Best example: He told us where to find the lost-and-found by chanting the directions as a Buddhist chant.
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 28 June 2005 at 9:15 PM