Something New is Coming to Convention
Every year, your ECCT Convention Planning Team hears the question, “Isn’t there something we can do about resolutions?” We understand the sentiment: the process for drafting, submitting, presenting, and debating resolutions seems convoluted. Even though it’s designed to be fair for everyone, it feels like you need to know a secret language in order to participate. Plus, you don’t get to talk about the ideas behind the resolutions, just the words and sentences on the page. We leave untapped the great wisdom present in the 600+ people who make up Convention.
How can we have those thoughtful conversations and still vote on necessary business matters?
Until recently, we didn’t have a good answer. But now we have something new, a different way of doing our business together in Convention, and you are invited to try it on with us.
How will it work?
STEP 1: Submit a question
What do you want to have Convention discuss? Any voting member of Convention may submit a single question/topic before September 7 that they would like Convention to work on together. It can be very concrete or it can be big picture—the sky is the limit!
Step 2: Refine the questions
In early September, everyone who submitted a question/topic will be invited to a half-day session. They will refine their questions and work with others who submitted similar questions, until we are left with a set of core questions.
Step 3: Vote on the questions
The core questions will be submitted to voting members of Convention as an electronic ballot. You will have one week to rank the questions in the order of your greatest interest/passion to your least interest/passion. The 4 - 6 highest ranked questions will move to Convention for discussion in workshops.
Step 4: Join the work
On the Saturday afternoon of Convention, we will break into 4 - 6 workshops. Each workshop will focus on one of the core questions, and participants will choose the workshop for which they feel the most passion. Workshop participants will dig into the core question, exploring and expanding it, until a course of action begins to emerge. They will then report back their work to the whole Convention, along with any actions needed from Convention. Any action approved by Convention will carry the same weight as a resolution.
Step 5: Celebrate!
As we leave our time together at Convention, you will be able to celebrate the fact that you, along with every other person at Convention, helped to discern and create the work of our church here in Connecticut, furthering our participation in God’s mission.
Will there still be resolutions?
Yes. Although we are trying on a new process for doing business at this year's convention, we will still accept any resolution submitted in the normal process, no later than six weeks prior to Convention, as per ECCT Canons. The deadline for resolutions is September 14, 2018. Resolutions will be debated on Friday evening and Saturday morning of Annual Convention.
You are encouraged however, as you think about possible resolutions, to consider submitting them as a question for Convention to consider in our new process. Such questions will receive meaningful dialog and conversation and engage participants in a way that is not possible in resolution debate.
What sort of question can I submit?
You can submit any sort of question that you feel would benefit from the attention of the collective wisdom of Convention. As you think about the topic, spend time considering what the true question is that you are trying to ask. For example, if you are thinking about the topic of Christian formation, you might at first think that the question want to ask is, "How can I increase attendance in Sunday School?" With further reflection, however, you may decide that the question you really need to ask is: "What are new ways to engage people in the world that leads us into a deeper understanding of our faith?"
What's more, you are strongly encouraged not to submit questions that can be answered with "Yes" or "No." For example, the question, "Should we continue to pay clergy?" is too easily answered with a yes or no. A better question, which will engage greater conversation, might be, "What does clergy compensation look like in a new missional age?"
What if my question isn't selected?
There are two parts to the answer of this question. First, the number of questions submitted will not correlate with the number of questions that appear on the ballot for ranking. This is because the refinement process will encourage questioners to examine deeply their question until they discover the deep question that they are really want to ask. As you may expect, there will likely be several people asking deep questions that are closely related to one another. The final part of the refinement process will encourage questioners to find related questions, and then bring them together into a single, core question. Therefore, the original question you submit will be refined and synthesized, while having an impact on the thinking and questions of other participants. You may discover that by the end of the process, your question is echoed in several of the final, core questions.
Second, due to space and time limitations, we will only be able to host four to six workshops. We will use a ranked ballot, sent to all voting members of Convention in mid-September to determine which of the core questions we will address. The more people who are passionate about the question, the more highly it will be ranked. If the core question you helped to write still doesn't get selected this year, don't worry! You can always submit it again in a future year.
What will happen in the workshops?
The workshops will be approximately two hours long. During that time, trained hosts will lead participants in a process designed to open up the question being considered, explore it in detail, and draw out concrete courses of action. The host will then help the participants to condense their work into a report for the whole convention, along with any necessary actions that Convention needs to take.
What are the outcomes of the workshops?
At the end of the workshops, each workshop is expected to give an oral report back to the whole Convention. The report should briefly capture the shape of the conversations that happened, the findings of the conversation, and any action steps that may have emerged. Generally speaking, there are three possible outcomes of a workshop:
- After extensive exploration and conversation of the question, the participants might decide that no additional action is necessary. For example, if the question was, "How can we support parishes who want to get solar panels?" the participants may decide, after the work of exploring the question, that there are sufficient programs and resources already available in ECCT to promote solar panels in parishes and that all parishes who desire solar panels already have them. Therefore, no further action is necessary.
- Participants may decide that there are people gathered in the workshop who are already willing and able to start on the work together and that no further authorization of Convention is necessary to do that work. For example, if the question is, "What is the best recipe to use for baking communion bread?" the participants may decide that the best action steps are to form a Bread Baking Ministry Network, gather together recipes from parishes all over the state, and spend a day together running a communion bread test kitchen.
- Participants may determine that in order for the concrete actions from their conversation can move forward, that some sort of authorization or other action is needed from the Convention. For example, if the question was, "When is it appropriate to use terrible clip art in church newsletters?" the participants may decide that it is never appropriate. Further, they may decide that in order to eliminate clip art from church newsletters, that it is necessary for the Convention to pass a motion that bans all future use of terrible clip art in church publications. It will then be up to the whole of Convention to decide if they agree with the measure, which they can either accept and adopt or reject outright
Will Convention always be this way?
We are trying on a new practice this year to see how it fits with our life together in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. If we like it, we may continue or even expand its use in future years of convention. If we decide that it doesn't work, then we can always go back to the old system.
Who decided that we would try this?
This idea for a new way of doing our work as Convention was initiated by the Convention Planning Team based on years of feedback from attendees. The proposal was discussed in Faith & Order, and was approved for trial at this year's Convention by the Mission Council of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.