I’m not sure that General Conference qualifies as a democracy or that we even claim to be democratic. We organize ourselves and then we live into the rules and order we create. Throughout our time in Tampa, I’ve had an ongoing conversation with a friend here about democracy — the value of freely working together to govern ourselves and whether we actually have that freedom in General Conference.
While I value democracy as an American, I suspect that I don’t fully appreciate it. This week, I’ve found myself frustrated by its inefficiency and discouraged by some of the ideas exchanged in the public discourse. As committees and subcommittees organized, I wished that someone would tell us how to organize and prioritize the work before us. I was very thankful that some rules existed and we had to be through by 9:30PM each day, yet concerned that the time constraints would leave work undone.
About halfway through our committee meetings, as I listened to three subcommittees begin to make recommendations to the full committee, I realized, “This process really works!” When people of good faith come together out of concern and commitment to a shared mission, it may feel like chaos but it works! And it’s beautiful when you appreciate that the people around the table are from incredibly diverse backgrounds and cultures and speak multiple languages. Out of chaos, God created and is creating!
My experience at General Conference is that everyone here has a voice. It is our choice if and how we will use it. General Conference works best if we don’t try to force our own agenda, and we simply participate fully in the process.
*Lisa Garvin is the director of Ministerial Services for the Mississippi Conference and a delegate to General Conferece.