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.