Is a representative democracy the best way to structure a denomination?

Like Churchill said, it may be better than the alternatives. It’s certainly better than the authoritarian hierarchy we see elsewhere, but can we envision alternatives?

Jim Naughton takes to task those who see in the infinite vote-takings at General Convention a culture of “winners and losers.” He wonders whether we have become to fragile for democracy.

Mark Harris has asked the same thing.

Others disagree. Susan B. Snook advocates a deep period of prayer and discernment as we look toward restructuring, rather than the calling of a special convention.

Scott Gunn’s blogging blue has come to the resolutions on public policy that are before GC 2012. He is sharply critical of resolutions that ask governments to take action. In fact, this is one of my pet peeves. I’ve sat through enough diocesan conventions to dread the debate over this or that resolution that takes a stand on some issue facing the state or the nation. I doubt that whatever we say, as a diocese or as the Episcopal Church, has any impact on lawmakers or on public policy. The impact it does have is on making some of us feel good, when the resolution that is passed is in keeping with our political agenda. It also alienates those who may take a different perspective on the issue, and ultimately, it may alienate outsiders as well.

In the Episcopal Church, we have seen a hard-fought partisan battle over the full inclusion of LGBT persons. That battle is winding down with the approval of liturgies for blessings likely this summer. There were winners and losers and many of the losers left the church.

We live in a political culture of hyper-partisanship and I think we need to ask ourselves whether the deep partisan divide that affects our political culture may also have infected our church. Are there other ways of decision-making that might avoid up or down votes on hundreds of resolutions? Are there other models for gathering the larger community together to discern God’s will? We have a legislative process in the Church and in the nation. The legislative process is broken in Washington; perhaps it’s broken in General Convention as well–or perhaps it diminishes us as individuals and as the body of Christ, instead of allowing us to flourish.

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