Friday, June 20, 2014

My first major plenary frustration

I've stopped posting daily just because I feel like summing up the day is not super interesting for readers. If it is, let me know, and I'll go back to the old model.

Today is Friday and we've been in plenary since Wednesday afternoon voting on overtures and issues. Also today my committee, Environmental and Immigration Issues Committee, presented our overtures on the floor.

The contentious issue from my committee was fossil fuel divestment. Members from my committee submitted a report to commission a task force to work with the church's Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) permanent office. The people that the moderator called on did not call upon any advisory delegates who spoke in favor of the motion and instead called on a lot of people who did not know about the issue and did not serve on the committee.

My frustration was that I had a really well reasoned argument and did not get to speak. I'm going to post it here, because it'll make me feel better.
Thank you Mr. Moderator. My name is Rachel Miles from the Savannah Presbytery and I’d like to speak against the minority.

I do not feel that MRTI’s use has been exhausted. If we take action too quickly, then we lose our bargaining power with the fossil fuel companies. As the Board of Pensions said in their comment on the overture,  “Short-circuiting our well-established deliberative process and jumping ahead to immediate divestment may be seductive, but as a first step it would be an over-simplified solution. Divestment of securities should remain a remedial tool for MRTI as a part of its very responsible and historic processes.”
I would just like to say that I’m not entirely convinced that having a committee of seven would be particularly better than relying solely on MRTI. The representative from the PMA spoke with our committee and said that meeting in person would in fact have an associated cost, contrary to the statement in the minority report as my fellow YAAD mentioned. So why not use that associated cost for MRTI to contract a trained professional to work with the fossil fuel companies?  
I’ve always been passionate about preserving the environment, therefore I want to make sure that the way in which our church goes about doing it has been properly organized. I also believe that action must be taken as soon as possible, so I would urge MRTI to make this a high priority and keep those of us interested informed via e-mail and other such methods. 
To see the overture including the main motion, the minority report, and the referral click here.

Rather than hearing from the advisory delegates and committee members, the General Assembly heard from long-winded members on the Board of Pensions and MRTI who had already presented the same information to the committee. So instead of trusting the committee members to speak, the plenary heard from biased folks in those offices. I personally think that those who served on whichever committee has an overture on the floor should be given priority to speak, since they know the most about it.

The advisory delegates are only allotted two microphones on the floor from which we can speak. I feel that it decreases the chance that we will be able to voice our advice and opinions to the assembly, which we hear so often that they are valued and valid. Today, I did not feel that way.

A theological student advisory delegate (TSADs), following the vote on the overture from my committee, asked that the moderator attempt to recognize TSADs just as often as young adult advisory delegates (YAADs) because they have fewer people to represent their category. Maybe to ramify this, everyone can speak at any microphone that they choose rather than put advisory delegates in the back of the room.

Honestly, I was extremely surprised by how upset I got that I wasn't able to speak. For a while, I had no strong preference on the issue either way. Then, I articulated the way I felt and found that I was indeed passionate that my voice be heard. I apologize if I come off strong, but I truly feel that my colleagues and I lost our voice today.

The advisory delegates and committee members were not united in our beliefs, but we did not hear from the varying opinions today because we were in a hurry to finish business.

Sorry that this post is overwhelmingly negative. I love the PC(USA), but you can love something/someone and be irritated by them sometimes. Therefore, as I grow in faith and in this church, I will strive to make the voices of young people heard.

Thank you for bearing with me.

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