Monday, June 16, 2014

Robert's Rules

All in all, this has been one of the less exciting days. The entire agenda for the day consisted of committee meetings.

My committee is Immigration and Environmental Concerns. I thought we would take less time than other committees because we only have four overtures. Nope. I think because we have less to work on, we have more to be picky about. So what went from being a short approval of an overture turned into a three hour long discussion that had to continue after lunch.

We follow Robert's Rules of Order in both plenary and the committee meetings. It gets real complicated really fast. I won't bore you with the details, but if you're interested in how it works follow this link.

Our first item of business was about "recognizing the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative to affirm and promote the civil and human rights of immigrants in our countries." Essentially, the Presbyterian Church would support trying to change immigration policies and procedures that infringe on basic rights of immigrants by hiring a person to coordinate that initiative. As controversial as that counts, the ensuing debate consisted mostly of people arguing over semantics.

Much of the rest of the day followed the same way. The other two issues we discussed had to do with sustainability statements. Tomorrow we will discuss divesting from fossil fuel companies.

We had open hearings for each overture where people could come in and talk to us about why they are for or against the overtures. One opposer to an overture tried to tell us that "sustainable development" is another way of saying abortion. So I didn't really understand that one. Most people had either well-researched arguments or personal stories to go along with their overtures, so I appreciated that.

I think divestment is a difficult issue. I'm not sure where I stand. I definitely agree that fossil fuel companies as a whole damage our environment and block companies that produce clean fuel. On the other hand, the Presbyterian Church pulling its funds from these companies would only serve as a political statement. It would not sway these companies. We don't have enough money invested for these companies to care one way or another. One advocate spoke about how she organized an activist group that ultimately got Harvard to threaten to divest from a company so that company made according changes. Well, Harvard has a huge endowment and is a larger stakeholder in said company than we are in these fossil fuel companies. That's my impression anyway.

Also, if these companies suffer, many people will lose jobs. Some would say, what's a few jobs in return for millions of human lives? Well, tell that to the people who are losing their jobs, who have to go home to their families and say that they have no way to feed them this year. It's difficult. This is not a clear cut issue for me.

Honestly, the highlights of my day were spending time with other people. I went to lunch and dinner with friends from PC in a part of Detroit called Greektown. For lunch, my roommate Molly and I ate at a delicious Greek restaurant with Brooklynn Smith, a PC alum who kind of adopted me while we were both at PC. I had some vegetarian moussaka and it was marvelous. For dinner, Molly and I ate with our friend Olivia at a Mexican restaurant. We had a lot of fun just blowing off steam from our stressful committee meetings.

After my committee meeting was over, I went to the bar in the hotel with a couple people from my committee meeting and we had a great time just chatting. I've loved all the people that I've met at General Assembly. That's something I love so much about the Presbyterian denomination, the sense of family and connectedness across the denomination. I'll always see someone I know from another Presbyterian event at some other Presbyterian event. We go our separate ways most of the time, but we always come back together at some point.

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