Standing Committee has approved a revision of the appeal process during its pre-Annual Conference meetings in Greensboro, N.C. The group of delegates from the 24 Church of the Brethren districts met June 30-July 3, presided over by Conference moderator Donita J. Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and secretary James M. Beckwith.
Standing Committee also approved revisions to a new “Standing Committee Manual” including a two-thirds majority vote requirement; affirmed two district boundary changes and heard a report of a district’s boundary clarifications to be affirmed next year; named new members to subcommittees; engaged in conversations with district executives and leaders of the denominational board and the Annual Conference agencies; and received reports.
An attempt to continue two discussions that have taken up much time in Standing Committee in recent years–about Michigan District and On Earth Peace–failed when the committee voted against adding them to the agenda.
The district delegates spent much of the last two days of their meetings on the compelling vision conversations that are planned for Annual Conference, serving as the first body to experience or “test” the process the Conference will experience this week.
Revision to appeal process
Standing Committee approved a revised appeal process proposed by a three-member committee appointed to the task by the 2018 Standing Committee. The revision was presented by Loren Rhodes of Middle Pennsylvania District, Susan Chapman Starkey of Virlina District, and John Willoughby of Michigan District, who had worked closely with the Conference officers on preparing the revision.
The revision came in the form of a single document that combined the two existing documents on appeals with proposed revisions to the process. Willoughby explained that the group also attempted to consider how Standing Committee might work beyond the scope of the existing process.
Significant changes included a call for exhaustion of other options before initiating an appeal, addition of a section on conflict of interest and recusal for Standing Committee members, clarification of the time frame for initiating an appeal, and limiting Standing Committee to handling only one appeal each year, unless required by polity, because of the amount of work and time required.
A significant change that garnered questions and conversation was insertion of the word “fair” as a consideration in an appeal, in addition to whether the decision being appealed was made according to polity. The section in which the concept of fairness was inserted read: “Issues on appeal shall be limited to questions of whether the process and reasoning by which the district or denominational entity made this decision were fair and consistent with Annual Conference polity.”
The revision represented only one part of the group’s work, and it was granted another year to work on other aspects of the judicial role of Standing Committee. In addition, the committee recommended that further conversation be held with the Council of District Executives about aspects of the revision that will affect district processes.
The revised appeal process will be posted on the Annual Conference website in coming weeks.
Two-thirds majority requirement
The Conference officers recommended revisions to a new “Standing Committee Manual” that was created to compile together policies, procedures, and guidelines. This is the first year the manual has been used.
Most revisions were non-substantive, such as changes made for clarity. However, time was spent discussing a proposal from the officers to add a sentence that “any recommendations from Standing Committee to the full delegate body will require a two-thirds majority vote of Standing Committee.” Moderator Keister explained that the proposal was made to establish as a requirement something that had become the practice of the group in the last two years.
During discussion of the background for such a requirement, some delegates shared memories of discomfort and embarrassment when a recommendation came to the Conference floor with only a very slim majority of support from Standing Committee. Those who were in favor talked about the benefits of spending more time in conversation across differences. Such a requirement would force the Standing Committee “to work together more,” said one delegate.
Others expressed a need not to be “locked in” to such a requirement and to allow for exceptions. Some wondered what would happen if an item of business went unanswered when a two-thirds majority could not be achieved.
Three Standing Committee members proposed an amendment they worked on over a lunch break, which was adopted. It added language to the effect that should a two-thirds majority not be reached, options for moving forward would include appointing a task team to work on refinements to achieve a two-thirds majority, recommending that the item of business be deferred to a future Conference, or suspending the two-thirds vote requirement to permit forwarding an item of business to the full delegate body with a simple majority vote by Standing Committee.
In other business
Two district boundary changes were affirmed. Pacific Southwest District has incorporated the state of Nevada into its geographic boundaries. Virlina District has negotiated with West Marva District and Southern Ohio/Kentucky District to rearrange district boundaries. In addition, Atlantic Northeast District is working on a clarification of its district boundaries to be approved at its district conference this year.
Elected to the Nominating Committee were Michaela Alphonse of Atlantic Southeast District, Kurt Borgmann of South Central Indiana District, Becky Maurer of Southern Ohio/Kentucky District, and Dennis Webb of Illinois and Wisconsin District.
Elected to the Appeals Committee were Stafford Frederick of Virlina District, Kim Ream of Atlantic Northeast District, and John Willoughby of Michigan District, with Timothy Vaughn of Western Pennsylvania District as first alternate and Phil Miller of Missouri and Arkansas District as second alternate.
Nominated by the officers and affirmed by the Standing Committee to serve as this year’s Two-Thirds Committee were Michaela Alphonse of Atlantic Southeast District, Phil Miller of Missouri and Arkansas District, and Steven Spire of Shenandoah District.
Named to the Program Feasibility Study Committee was Janet Elsea of Shenandoah District.
A decision was made not to print the home addresses of Standing Committee members in the Conference book in future years, but to make available an email address for contacting each district’s delegates.