Update on the
2013 USA National Conference
Friday, April 19, 2013–Sunday, April 21, 2013
Community of Christ in the USA is journeying together in preparation for making recommendations to the First Presidency and Council of Twelve Apostles regarding two sacramental policy questions. This is a pivotal moment in the life of the church in the USA as we struggle together in making decisions that are faithful to God and that represent the best of who we are called to be in the world. This document provides background, preparation, and logistical information about the 2013 USA National Conference in question-and-answer format.
Questions and Answers
- What is the purpose of the 2013 USA National Conference?
- The purpose of the 2013 USA National Conference is for the delegates to provide recommendations to the Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency regarding two pressing policy issues: same-sex/gender marriage and ordination of people in same-sex/gender relationships.
Why are these the two pressing issues, and can other issues be considered by the 2013 USA National Conference?
- USA mission centers submitted 15 resolutions to the 2010 World Conference about the two pressing issues: same-sex/gender marriage and ordination of people involved in same-sex/gender relationships. During a session with delegates from the USA at the 2010 World Conference, it was indicated these two topics should be addressed at a future USA National Conference. As a result, the USA Team of Apostles, in consultation with the Council of Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, concluded these two issues needed timely attention to allow the “restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:7c) in the USA.
- No other issues can be considered by the 2013 USA National Conference. This is a special conference, and the purpose of the conference was established when the conference was announced. Only the two announced pressing issues will be considered by the 2013 USA National Conference.
How will the recommendations of the 2013 USA National Conference be determined?
- A consent-building process is being used to develop the recommendations that will be made by the 2013 USA National Conference.
- This process already has begun as individuals, small groups, congregations, and mission centers pray, study, and dialogue together about the two pressing issues.
- The consent-building process will continue as the 2013 USA National Conference begins.
- By the end of Saturday at the 2013 USA National Conference, delegates will have specifically responded regarding their level of support—from no support to full support—regarding the following two statements:
- The sacrament of marriage may be extended, where legal, to persons of the same sex/gender. In places where this is not legal, a church-recognized way for two persons of the same sex/gender to publicly express their covenant to each other will be made available.
- A priesthood call for a person in a monogamous, committed, same-sex/gender relationship (e.g. legal marriage, civil partnership, covenant relationship) may be processed according to established procedures.
- Additionally, delegates will have provided responses via multiple-choice options regarding their level of support for each issue. When delegates are asked to select the statement that best describes why they hold a specific level of support, there always will be an option of “none of the above” so delegates are not forced to select a reason that does not apply. If at some point a significant percentage of responses is “none of the above,” a process will be followed to allow the conference to seek clarification on what people are feeling.
- An electronic polling system will be used to tally every delegate’s input to indicate what level of support the body has on a particular statement and to indicate the various reasons that level of support is held. The combined responses will indicate the conference’s recommendation to the Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency about policies related to the announced topics.
- If a sufficient level of consent is not reached the basic provisions of current policies will remain in place. What constitutes a sufficient level of consent is described in question 19. If the outcome indicates approximately the same numbers of people supportive and not supportive of revising policies, then respectful discussion and discernment will continue after the conference adjourns. The Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency would determine the next step.
What are the major ways electronic polling technology will be used to allow each delegate to participate in building consent at the 2013 USA National Conference?
- Delegates will receive multiple opportunities to show their level of support regarding a particular question or statement. In each situation, delegates will choose from a spectrum, indicating no support to full support, by picking the corresponding number on the electronic polling technology. This is the first major way the electronic polling system will be used by delegates.
- Following the indication of a delegate’s level of support to a particular question or statement, the delegate will use the electronic polling technology to choose a prewritten statement that best represents why the delegate holds the level of support indicated. In addition to the prewritten statements, the delegate always will have the option to indicate that none of the prewritten statements identifies why the delegate holds the level of support indicated. This is the second major way delegates will use the electronic polling system.
- Near the end of the 2013 USA National Conference, delegates will use the electronic polling system to vote yes or no in accepting the final recommendation statement(s) of the national conference. A two-thirds vote will be necessary to accept the written statement(s) as the approved recommendation from the 2013 USA National Conference to be submitted to the Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency. This is the third major way delegates will use the electronic polling system.
What is the benefit of building consent in the 2013 USA National Conference rather than making a decision using Robert’s Rules of Order?
- Under Robert’s Rules of Order, delegates are limited to indicating what they support via a yes or no vote. A simple majority is all that is required to establish the recommendation of a conference using this method. Often when a simple majority is achieved, sufficient consent does not exist within the body to move forward on the particular topic being considered.
- In the consent-building process, input from delegates is collected by several methods and is not limited to yes or no responses. Additionally, a simple majority is not the deciding factor.
- In this process, delegates will have the opportunity to respond to a series of statements. In some cases, delegates will indicate which position best represents their feeling. In other cases, delegates will indicate what level of support they have on a specific topic based on a numerical scale.
- Delegates also will be able to indicate why they hold a particular level of support by selecting from multiple-choice options. When delegates are asked to select the statement that best describes why they hold a specific level of support, there always will be an option of “none of the above” so delegates will not be forced to select a reason that does not apply. If at some point, a significant percentage of responses is “none of the above,” a process will be followed to allow the conference to seek clarification on what people are feeling.
- This method will provide the conference much greater insight into how the body feels, why the body feels that way, and whether sufficient consent exists about a topic.
The USA National Conference originally was scheduled for July 2012, so why were the dates changed?
- The USA National Conference dates were changed in response to growing concerns about the impact of the global economic recession. The conservative estimate was that delegates would spend at least $1 million in travel, lodging, registration, and meal expenses to support a longer, separate USA National Conference as originally scheduled in July 2012. The new date results in a slightly shorter 2013 World Conference and a shorter USA National Conference. The two conferences, scheduled consecutively on the calendar, are only one day longer than the traditional World Conference length of eight days. If a person attends the 2013 World Conference and the 2013 USA National Conference, the person will be attending nine days.
Do the recommendations from the USA National Conference have to go to a World Conference for final approval?
- No. Recommendations by national conferences affect policies only within the nation hosting the conference. Therefore, no national conference recommendations require approval by a World Conference before implementation.
- Rescheduling the USA National Conference after the 2013 World Conference does not mean recommendations from this conference will have to be considered by the 2016 World Conference. Any possible policy changes as a result of recommendations made by the 2013 USA National Conference require no World Conference approval to be implemented.
Has the Council of Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency already decided the outcome of the USA national conference?
- No. The delegates of the national conference will determine the outcome. The goal of leadership is to provide a faithful process that allows the prophetic voice of members of the church in the USA to determine what God’s will is for the church’s mission in the USA context.
Will the Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency abide by the recommendation of the national conference?
- Yes. This means the Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency will develop policy that reflects the recommendations of the 2013 USA National Conference if a change is recommended for either or both topics. It also means they will continue with existing policies for either or both topics if that is the recommendation of the conference.
Will harm come to the church in other nations if the 2013 USA National Conference recommends changing one or both policies?
- The Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency have reviewed the risk of one nation implementing a policy that would not be well received in other nations where the church is established. The conclusion was that the church could continue to function as a global body even if one nation implemented unique national policies related to same-sex/gender relationships.
- The authority to convene national conferences was based on the understanding that some topics cannot be discussed by the World Conference because these discussions would bring harm to some parts of the church. However, this did not mean that one nation’s policies are bound by the culture of another nation.
What are the preparation expectations for delegates and the church in the USA?
- All members in the USA are invited to participate in the journey by using the resources created to prepare the body to make recommendations and by participating in the individual, small-group, and large-group experiences being planned by mission centers.
- The members of the church in the USA are encouraged to practice “holy indifference,” which has been defined in other church resources as to “surrender the perceptions, opinions, and agendas of the self (the individual ego) to the mind and heart of God, the Source of all truth, wisdom, and beauty.”
- Delegates are expected to have participated fully in all USA National Conference preparation activities provided by the mission center and to complete delegate preparation and training.
- At this point, the following resources have been provided to help the church in the USA prepare:
- Question and Reflections: Journeying in Faith. Youth and adult spiritual practices about relationships for individual and small-group use. Available at www.CofChrist.org/usaconf/reflectivequestions.pdf.
- Wholeness in Christ: Balance and Connections. Six-session adult study on selected Enduring Principles and the relationship principles in Doctrine and Covenants 164:6a. Available at www.CofChrist.org/dfg/lessons/wholeness_through_christ/default.asp.
- The Role of Scripture in Discovering God’s Will. Adult DVD class with facilitator and participant guides. Sessions 1 through 5 are available at www.CofChrist.org/usaconf/materials.asp.
- Signal Communities. Six-session adult study on selected Enduring Principles and what creates a signal community. Available for purchase through Herald House as an adult study text.
- Statement on Sexual Ethics (Draft) available at www.CofChrist.org/ethics.
Who can be a delegate to the 2013 USA National Conference, and how is a person selected?
- A member in good standing can be elected as a delegate by the mission center where the person’s membership is recorded.
- Delegates to the 2013 USA National Conference will be elected between August 2012 and December 2012 at mission center conferences within the USA. Delegates to the 2013 World Conference will be elected at the same mission center conferences. Election of delegates for each conference will be separate.
- A person can be elected to either conference. It is not a requirement to attend or to be a delegate at both conferences. A person can be a delegate at both conferences, provided the person is elected as a delegate to both conferences.
- Parents of members who are minors are encouraged to decide whether their minor child member is prepared to engage in the USA National Conference journey and experience as a delegate.
If a mission center is unable to fill all of its delegate seats, can a member from another mission center in the USA fill the empty seats?
- No. Although there may be a few unique exceptions, it is expected that mission center delegations will be filled only by members from that mission center so the geographical representation of the USA National Conference will align with the distribution of the membership across the USA. Empty seats can be filled with the approval of the mission center president in consultation with the field apostle.
Given that the 2013 USA National Conference is using a new process of consent building, how will delegates be prepared and trained to participate fully?
- A plan is being developed to “continue” the preparation journey through delegate preparation and training sessions before the national conference. Each mission center is being asked to schedule 12 hours for this process between January and March 2013.
- The purpose of this time together as elected delegates within a mission center will be to pray, study, review the journey we’ve been on, and listen to each other’s stories and concerns. It will be a time of orientation and training on the conference process and the electronic polling system. It also will be a time for delegates to learn to fully participate in the conference experience.
- The purpose of the delegate preparation and training session is NOT to prepare the delegates to respond to the pressing issues in a specific way.
- The specific schedule for the delegate preparation and training is not developed at this time. The schedule will be planned to effectively accomplish what is needed in the least amount of time. If 12 hours are not needed, then preparation and training will be adjusted accordingly.
Will child care be provided during sessions and worship?
- Yes. Details of the child-care arrangements still are being determined. Additional registration costs may be associated with using the child-care services.
During the 2013 USA National Conference, will most of our time be spent in small groups or as a whole group?
- Our time at the 2013 USA National Conference will be spent building consent together as a whole group.
- We expect all delegates to have participated in smaller group activities offered by the various USA mission centers in preparation for the 2013 USA National Conference.
Will I have a chance to share my voice as a delegate?
- The schedule details of the 2013 USA National Conference still are being developed. Enough is known to report there will be an opportunity for some delegates to share stories during the conference. Listening to each other’s stories will be an important part of the conference experience.
- Delegates will have the opportunity before each session to sign up to share their story within a specific focus area. Names will be selected randomly to share based on the amount of time available.
- Additionally, all delegates will have the opportunity, through the electronic polling system, to indicate what level of support they have for a particular statement and indicate why they hold that level of support, selecting from a set of statements.
Will my input as a delegate make a difference?
- Yes. An electronic polling system will be used to collect each delegate’s response to questions as the consent-building process unfolds.
- When a statement is shared with the delegates, the delegates will have a period known as the “polling” time to indicate their response on an electronic keypad. Once the polling time closes, the results of everyone’s responses will be displayed graphically within a few minutes for everyone to view.
What constitutes enough consent of the body to indicate a particular preference regarding the two pressing issues?
- The USA Team of Apostles has prayerfully considered what constitutes sufficient consent of the body with regard to a particular topic. From the beginning, we understood the level of support required to declare sufficient consent of the body ranged between a simple majority and unanimity.
- Delegates will have the opportunity to declare their level of support for a statement using a scale from 1 to 5, with levels defined as follows:
- No Support—I do not support this proposal. This is not where God is calling the church to go at this time.
- Little Support—I have little support for this proposal. I doubt this is where God is calling the church to go at this time.
- Tentative Support—I am open to the possibility of this proposal. I am uncertain as to where God is calling the church to go at this time.
- Significant Support—I have significant support for this proposal. I have a few concerns, but I believe this is where God is calling the church to go at this time.
- Full Support—I have full support for this proposal. This is where God is calling the church to go at this time.
- Throughout the conference, everyone present will see the data as the delegates respond. At the end of Saturday afternoon, the apostles from the USA and the First Presidency will spend time in prayer, reflection, and interpretation of the data. From this time together, statements will be written regarding their interpretation of the recommendations of the 2013 USA National Conference regarding each of the two pressing issues. These statements will be distributed to attendees following the Saturday-evening worship with instructions for everyone to prayerfully consider the statements overnight.
- When the conference reconvenes Sunday morning, the delegates will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” as to whether the statement for each pressing issue adequately represents the recommendation of the 2013 USA National Conference. A two-thirds vote will be required to accept each statement as the recommendation of the 2013 USA National Conference.
What happens if the 2013 USA National Conference does not reach sufficient level of consent regarding a recommendation for either or both topics?
- If during the conference a sufficient level of consent is not reached, the basic provisions of current policies will remain in place. If the outcome indicates approximately the same numbers of people supportive and not supportive of revising policies, then respectful discussion and discernment will continue after the conference adjourns. The Council of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency would have to determine what the next step would be.