5th February 2010

Posted in

Blog :: Confidence or Cowardice?

Last night wasn't as bad as last year - but I continue to be a little confounded by my Church's annual business meeting.

There wasn't anything ground-shaking on the agenda but we did modify our constitution in a couple of spots. And we did this with absolutely no discussion. While the changes weren't substantial they are part of our (very brief) constitution and merited a little discussion. If no one else was - I at least was opposed to the changes and I was curious about the ramifications they might have in terms of our practice. It was pretty clear however that leadership wasn't particularly interested in discussing the changes so we took a vote without discussion and moved on.

It occurred to me that there are two possible reasons not to talk about changes to our constitution. One possible reason is confidence - if our constitution contained inaccurate information and obviously needed to be updated (say our address changed) than we might feel confident enough that the changes are self-evidently necessary and approve them without needing to talk about them at all. And after all our modifications passed by the necessary 2/3 majority - so perhaps it was a case of justified confidence.

But I think that it is cowardice that leads us to silence. Maybe instead of confidence it's a desire not to talk about the path we're on. Maybe nobody wants to talk about this stuff because everybody knows that we're divided and we'd rather not face that fact. It might just be a case of Ignore them and maybe they'll go away

I'm not a psychic, so I can't tell you what motive predominated. But neither explanation is particularly comforting to me. I've spent most of my life out of step with my wider social circle for various reasons (fellow geeks probably understand this without explanation) and I've got that familiar out-of-sync feeling. I'm not confident about our path (Well - I am in the "Stop! You're headed the the wrong way" sense). And I've never been able to understand what you gain by avoiding talking about something that's true and there none-the-less. Whatever the reasons for the way we do our business, it always leaves me unsettled.

Update: I've had a couple of people give me feedback (via comments and email). Thanks! I had one thought I expressed via email that I thought I should drop here as well:

I was thinking reading your note how much of the past we bring to the present. I completely agree (after the fact) that I should have talked about this beforehand, rather than waiting till after. Part of it all, however, is I grew up in a Church that strongly discouraged discussing council meeting business before the meeting (I think the idea was they didn't want to encourage factionalism) but also had a strong tradition of hashing things out in the meeting. We had four council meetings a year so if something needed talking out we could usually just postpone it three months and bring it up again.

I have to say I chafed a bit when I was young at the cultural pressure against talking before the meeting. Now that I've a little more experience, I have to say that the insistence on doing the business of the Church as the Church was well founded.

I guess I express two separate concerns each year after business meeting. One concern is the decisions we make, the other is how we make our decisions. It would go a long ways towards assuaging my second concern if we met more frequently and talked more openly. Maybe I should be talking about transparency and good governance! What we need is a Brethren Tea Party movement! Yeah, that's the ticket...

Posted on February 5th 2010, 05:16 PM

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