Community of Christ

Conference Organization and Procedures Team

Conference Organization and Procedures Team

Parliamentary Guidelines

One of the primary purposes of the World Conference is to do the business of the church. Through a process of common consent, delegates to the World Conference discuss important issues and make decisions that are essential to the ongoing ministry of the church. Developing a process through which 2,800 delegates can give adequate attention to all of the issues before the Conference is not easy. Over the years, several resources have been made available to assist the delegates to perform the tasks for which they were elected. These include:

  • The Bylaws, which provide basic guidelines for the administration of the church and the operation of conferences, including the World Conference.
  • Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (2000), which defines the procedures by which legislative items are discussed and decided upon.
  • The Standing Rules, adopted by each World Conference, which establish special procedures designed specifically for the purposes of the Conference in the life of the church.
  • A Legislative Communications System, which provides a fair and orderly way for delegates to have access to the floor to discuss issues and make proposals for the Conference to act upon.

Delegates should familiarize themselves with the principles contained in this guide and with the Standing Rules so they can most effectively carry out the responsibilities for which they have been elected.

Parliamentary Principles

The principles underlying the parliamentary procedure used by the World Conference are intended to provide the following:

  1. Fairness: No person or point of view should have a decided advantage or disadvantage in discussing and deciding issues. Matters before the Conference should be decided on their merits as they are ultimately determined by the body.
  2. Clarity: The procedures used by the Conference should help to clarify the precise issues that are under discussion and the precise proposals that are being decided in a vote.
  3. Efficiency: Given the large number of delegates and the size of the agenda, parliamentary principles should help the Conference to move through its agenda at a pace that is expeditious, but not overly hasty.
  4. Protection of Minority Opinions: Although most issues are decided by a majority vote, matters that affect the rights of the delegates (such as the closing of debate) or that modify the basic principles by which the church is governed (such as amending the Bylaws) must carry by a vote of at least two-thirds of the delegates.

The parliamentary authority of the World Conference is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (2000), except where they are in conflict with the Bylaws of the church or the Standing Rules of the World Conference. Specific actions are defined later in this guide.

Debate and Motions

  • Moving a Motion: After you have proposed a motion, the Chair will call for a second. After the second has been acknowledged, you will be recognized to speak to your motion if it is debatable.
  • Amendments Motions: To amend will be better understood if a written copy is submitted in advance. Although submitting a written copy does not guarantee that you will be recognized, it will allow for the text amendment to be projected in English, French, and Spanish. It is the responsibility of the delegate to obtain the floor.
  • Rule of Alternates: If persons are registered to speak both for and against a motion, the Chair will usually alternate between those wishing to speak “for” and those wishing to speak “against” the motion.
  • Closing Debate: At any time during a debate, a delegate may move the previous question to close debate and call for the vote. Such a motion will prevail only if at least two-thirds of the delegates voting wish to close debate.

Responsible Participation

The effective operation of World Conference business sessions requires the cooperation of the delegates. Flexibility, patience, and consideration for others will allow the legislative process to operate smoothly and fairly for all.

Delegates have no way of knowing their specific position in the speaking queue. A variety of factors will affect the precise order in which delegates are listed in the queue. The Legislative Communications System is designed so that no delegates are systematically advantaged or disadvantaged.

Several delegates may be registered to speak to a main motion when an amendment is made. When a motion to amend has been made and seconded, a new speaking queue is opened, and the Chair will call on persons who are registered to speak to the amendment. Those registered to speak to the main motion will remain in the main motion queue, which will be restored should the main motion return to the floor for additional debate.

Delegates will be recognized for the purpose for which they have registered. Delegates recognized for motions of precedence, such as point of order or point of personal privilege, will rise to the top of the queue. It is not appropriate to use motions of parliamentary precedence to speak to the substance of a motion or to ask a rhetorical question.

The Legislative Communications System

The Chair receives information about delegates wishing to obtain the floor through the Legislative Communications System. This computerized system transfers and coordinates information from all ten speaking lecterns to the Chair. The system has been designed to be both orderly and fair.

How to Use the System

  • If you think you might want to obtain the floor at some time during the Conference, write your badge number in the appropriate space on at least one of the legislative cards that have been provided to delegates.
  • Become familiar with the listing of the various parliamentary actions found in this guide. When you wish to obtain the floor, write the number of the action you wish to take on the card, along with your badge number, before you approach the lectern operator.
  • Try to anticipate when the action you wish to take would be appropriate. Then move quickly to a lectern, wearing your delegate badge. However, you may not register to speak on any item until the Chair announces the item and receives a second.
  • Give the card to the lectern operator, who will enter the information into the system. Lectern operators are not able to give parliamentary advice, and they cannot tell you where you are in the queue.
  • If you have a question about how the Legislative Communications System works and how to use it effectively, please ask a lectern operator, but preferably not during a legislative session.
  • At times, large numbers of delegates may attempt to seek the floor at the same time. The system was designed to be as fair as possible to everyone. Please try to be understanding and calm.
  • You may remain in the aisle near the lectern until you are recognized by the Chair. Do not block the aisle or access to the lectern. If it looks like a long wait, you may return to your seat. If the matter you rose to speak to is disposed of before you are recognized, please return to your seat.
  • The lectern operator will enter the information from your card into the system.
    If the action you wish to take has parliamentary priority (such as a point of order), the system will alert the Chair.
  • When the Chair calls your name, speak directly into the microphone. Begin by giving your name and jurisdiction.
  • If you do not speak English, the system will generally provide this information to the translators and the technical staff.

Parliamentary Deliberations in an International Assembly

Be aware that when you speak before the assembly, your words are being translated into several languages simultaneously. It is very important that you speak clearly and slowly enough that the translators will be able to keep up with what you are saying. Because of time limits placed on the length of speeches, there is a great temptation to say as much as possible in the brief time allotted. If you speak too rapidly, however, the Chair may need to interrupt you and ask you to slow down. It is far more effective to think carefully about how to express your thoughts in words that are brief and clear.

When giving a speech, it is important to understand that technical language and humor often do not translate well. If translators need to explain your words in addition to translating them, your speech will probably be less effective than it would otherwise be.

Team Priorities for 2016-2019

  • Review the Standing Rules of the World Conference and recommend any changes for the 2019 World Conference.
  • Continue discussion on possible remote locations for World Conference participation. If deemed wise and implementable, bring a specific recommendation to the First Presidency by January 2018. 
  • Review alternative methods for nominating and voting for board positions (Graceland University and World Church Finance Board) outside the normal legislative sessions.
  • Review the use of the Electronic Response System at World Conference 2016 and recommend any changes for the system for the 2019 World Conference.
  • Review the Electronic Delegate Recognition System and make final recommendations to the First Presidency on necessary adjustments. 
  • Review ongoing issues relative to translations and production of World Conference materials and make recommendations to the First Presidency.
  • Make recommendations to the First Presidency regarding how to streamline the conference business to allow more time for “what matters most” (possibly using a consent agenda for routine and non-controversial items).
  • Continue discussion on how to more easily integrate the Common Consent tools into ordinary business without the necessity of using the Committee of the Whole and make recommendations to the First Presidency.

Team Members

Len Young, chair
Jeanette Hicks, secretary

Mareva Arnaud
Richard Betts
Andrew Fox
Sandee Gamet
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin 
Tammy Lindle Lewis
Larry Martin 
Diane Maupin
Dan Nowiski
Emily Penrose-McLaughlin
Sue Sloan
Larry Tyree
Wim van Klinken
John Wight