From the Perspective of a Rule 44 Small Group Leader: Why I’m Voting Against It

I am open to conversation. In fact, I love talking to people – probably too much. I found during college that the greatest tool for understanding others’ perspective is not reading theory in books or simply assuming anything, but learning directly from their own account. I highly value the heart undergirding Rule 44, but cannot support it for one main reason. I want to be clear that this is my own opinion, but I wanted to provide my perspective in case it may be helpful to you.

In 2012, the General Conference requested a proposed new way of making decisions. The result of this request is Rule 44. At its core, Rule 44 is a small group discerning process. I was appointed a small group leader under Rule 44 a few months ago. I received an email from Gere Reist and agreed to participate as an act of service.

A few weeks ago, there was word sent out regarding a training that would take place. It was scheduled in an afternoon during many people’s workday, so I was unable to attend. We were assured in the email that the session would be recorded, but later learned that there were technical difficulties that prevented it.

I tend to lean toward an attitude of grace, so didn’t think much when we were promised alternative training materials would be provided. Even as the General Conference commenced, many of us still hadn’t received the promised training. And it wasn’t until two days into General Conference (Wednesday) that small group leaders were even told there would be a random training scheduled at lunch that very day.

I attended the lunch, along with other small group leaders. In the training, twenty minutes before legislative committees first met, small group leaders were told (as if we already knew) that we would be leading small groups during the legislative committee meetings. A majority of the leaders were unaware of this. Subsequently, we were handed a list of people in our group divided by diversity of perspective and sent off to the rooms with little or no training.

Upon arriving to my legislative committee, it became very apparent that the presiding bishop and layperson had no education of the process we had been told about. Rule 44 is based on building a space of “confidence and respect,” but it was at this point that I lost complete confidence and respect for Rule 44 as so much had fallen through the cracks and chaos ensued. Only two small group leaders showed up to our committee of over 70 people. As a result, we created makeshift groups and didn’t even break up into the groups we were intended. The original assigned groups were meant to be our groups throughout the rest of General Conference under Rule 44 discerning. Some groups met in other committees, many did not.

In essence, the entire Rule 44 implementation experience has been a complete disaster from my perspective. Unfortunately, I feel that this is just a foretaste of what Rule 44 could look like if implemented for the whole body. The topics at hand are too important to consider in a half-baked process. A tense atmosphere is already present regarding these issues. I fear Rule 44 could escalate tensions if implemented in the current state.

If we are looking to pass a process for discernment, we get one shot and it is my firm belief that we can do much better than the current implementation. I appreciate the heart of Rule 44, but instead of rushing something to launch that isn’t ready and leave a bad taste in delegates’ mouths, let’s take the time to perfect and effectively implement a very good process for the future.

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Tyler Best

Tyler Best

Tyler is seminary student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is a certified candidate in the United Methodist Church and pursuing ordination as an Ordained Elder. Tyler is also a small tech consulting firm co-owner of Digital Now IT located in Corydon, Indiana. He is also on staff at Pfrimmer's Chapel UMC, local church also in Corydon, and the Academy of Preachers, a nationwide non-profit based in Lexington, Kentucky.

13 comments

  1. Tyler,
    THANK YOU! I am not a GC attender but I’ve been watching the Rule 44 debate and have been wondering if there were people ready to lead these small groups if it passed and how organized they would be. This puts things in perspective. Rule 44 seems like it has good heart but doesn’t seem to be well thought out yet. Thank you for this post I hope GC participants see your post for what it is a critique to ask for something better, not an attack on any group(s).

  2. Tyler, I think it is important to distinguish between the “Christian Conferencing on the Worldwide Nature of the Church” – which was extremely disorganized – and the implementation of Rule 44.

    The training tonight was so incredibly helpful (unlike this afternoon’s thrown to the wolves approach). We have all the pieces we need to have this conversation… If it passes. And I so appreciated the feedback that had the opportunity to be given tonight about today’s process that will allow Rule 44 implementation to be different.

    I’m a small group leader and I’m heartily voting yes.

    1. Katie, I appreciate your perspective. The same leadership implementing “Christian Conferencing on the Worldwide Nature of the Church” is also charged with getting Rule 44 lifted off. “Christian Conferencing on the Worldwide Nature of the Church” was meant to be a foretaste of Rule 44 and it certainly acted as such. And while I agree tonight was very helpful, I also felt that there are still too many unknowns surrounding execution – not to mention there were many small group leaders absent from the training. Again, I appreciate the ideals of Rule 44, but we can do far better than half-baked.

  3. Glad to hear the training in the evening was better. Praying for all of you and that safe spaces will be nurtured for discernment and listening opportunities for all that will be shared.

  4. I have read that the issues have been discussed at great length for years, and that one comes to GC only to vote accordingly, nothing more. General Conference is an executive meeting, not a free for all.
    Rule 44 is nothing less than being disruptive to an orderly process.

  5. Leading small groups takes more than a training event. Further, if there is accuracy in your account the idea remains a top down process. The ball regarding training failed.

    However, that you and others didn’t do their own homework is problematic. You agreed to be a leader and didn’t appear to find out what you could do to facilitate small groups.

    The process regarding rule 44 is thus corrupted by naivete and ignorance. Trying to get people into the model at the last minute is absurd. And not taking personal initiative to explore small group leadership is equally so.

    Rule 44 is thus useless without experience and background.

    1. William, Thank you for your comment. I had agreed to serve as a small group leader months ago. As a result, I have given much attention and care to understanding Rule 44 as best I could on my own. I have also had experience with small group facilitation in the past, but every context is very different. Training is necessary on many fronts and especially for Rule 44 as it allows small group leaders to learn the process from the leaders who developed the process (there are many intricacies associated with the process, it’s not a typical small group dialogue). Training also allows everyone to be on the same page. I attempted via several e-mails to become informed and receive training with no or a delayed response promising materials at a later date, so I wouldn’t say that I (nor others) didn’t have personal initiative.

  6. It sounds like there is an attempt to insure Rule 44 is not implemented.

  7. This is my 3rd General Conference. It has been the most disorganized, poorly planned conference I’ve ever attended. From early problems with housing to this situation nothing seems to be going right! I’m in Church & Society 2. We only had 2 trained leaders in our group. So Bishop Ough had to make things work on the fly. That was fine for conversation. Not so good if you’re actually compiling a report that impacts legislation! Tyler your report gives me another reason to be opposed to Rule 44. (I was already concerned about transparency and putting that much power in the hands of 6 people.)

  8. We are praying for you continually on this mission. Know the Holy Spirit is your guidance counselor and all will be well in your world.

  9. I appreciate your feedback on this hot button issue, but I wonder… I get the sense that the root cause of the issue is not Rule 44 per se, but its implementation. I certainly get the sense from your report that if unchanged it will not be the most efficient of endeavors,…but see this as a failure of leadership.

    1. I agree, Scott, and that’s why I wrote this piece. In addition to implementation issues, I fear it places power in the hands of the few via the facilitation group, so I’d advocate for a change to that aspect as well. Overall, I appreciate the concept, but believe it needs some refining.

  10. Thanks for your write-up and respectful replies to comments.

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