Thanks to all who stayed after our marathon annual meeting to attend the idea forum, where two proposals were presented and discussed. These ideas are also offered here in writing. Please take a look and indicate your level of support in this survey.
1) Thanks to the Board and the Nominating Committee for their dedicated, hard work during difficult times. I’m grateful to volunteers who offered to serve for the coming year. This is not about who was chosen, but how. The committee itself recognized the need for a more democratic and transparent process and took many steps to make improvements, but we still require three people to choose who will make most decisions for the congregation and who will pick future people to do so. This is not an election. It is unfair to the congregation but also to the Board and the nominating committee. No three people can bear this burden of objectivity and fair representation. They are not a statistically significant sample of the differing points of view in the congregation, despite all good intentions and tools, and they cannot fully overlay these multiple perspectives second-hand. Confidential feedback from the congregation is essentially directed triangulation. We don’t know who wasn’t chosen or why. All decisions that happen downstream of this undemocratic process may be affected. A simple election also has problems, such as drowning out of other voices by the majority. A contested election in Spokane was followed by the split of that congregation into two. I think we need discernment and privacy especially in early stages to help nominees understand if and why they should run. We should study other models of deciding governance and merge the best practices of discernment and democracy. While I know the new Board plans to continue work on these issues, I believe we need to discuss them together as a congregation.
2) We have many modes of discussion and soliciting feedback in the congregation, but no centralized “bulletin board” type of electronic meeting space or regular town hall meetings, where all congregants can exchange ideas and discuss issues. When those already in decision-making power also control means of congregational communication such as website, emails, etc., this creates problems in reaching consensus or compromise where opinions differ widely. The issues don’t go away but overflow into private conversations, emails, and social media. We often have conflicts because we genuinely see things very differently. One of those things is how best to truly create a space where all feel welcome and in community. I’d suggest starting with monthly Zoom town halls, maybe in place of one of the post-sermon coffee hours or right after. We might also supplement this with an opt-in Facebook group taking advantage of two Facebook features, the ability to post files into the group and to hold live video chats. If we did not use the group for moderated or unmoderated text discussion but only for opt-in review of materials and live, in-person conversation, this might help collect, mediate, and organize people’s ideas for town halls.