When I was in the 7th grade, I loved my newfound freedom. I had just started junior high and had gotten my own room, no longer having to share with my sister. But one aspect of freedom escaped me:
Ah, yes. The mythical land of late-night television and AIM conversations (remember when AIM was cool?) and taunting your younger siblings with the knowledge that you got to stay up later.
But noooooooo. I needed to be sharp and alert and ready to go to school. I needed energy for my track and cross country work-outs. I needed to rest my voice so I’d be able to sing. I needed to protect my health so I wouldn’t get myself or others sick. I needed to understand the Biblical principle of Sabbath-keeping and resting. I needed to make good decisions that would help me in the long-term.
And so I had a bed-time: 9:30 PM.
“I now direct your attention to page 71, line 1067, item 6. The proposed rule change is as follows: ‘Daily adjournment shall be called by 9:30 p.m. each evening.’” –Rules Committee Chairwoman, Judi Kenaston
And now, with this radical proposal from the Rules Committee, altering the long-standing tradition of General Conference going until the wee hours of the morning, let the amendments begin!
The very large number (18, I think?) of amendments proposed tonight will go before the rules committee which will report back tomorrow morning with their recommendations.
The amendments remind me of the Kenaston Family Meetings we had growing up when we would list the privileges and responsibilities we gained as we got older. Example:
Privilege: “Wearing big girl panties”
Responsibility: “Going to the potty”
Privilege: “Playing with your brother and sister”
Responsibility: “Not biting your brother and sister”
Unlike our Kenaston Family Conferences, however, our motions/amendments/negotiating were usually very straight-forward. I want to stay up later; I ask to stay up later. My mother wants me to go to bed earlier; she asks me to go to bed earlier. There’s very little subtext except perhaps a teenager testing limits and parents enforcing them.
Tonight, however, many of the amendments offered from the floor had a subtext that had little to do with the rules as such (e.g., limiting the ability of bishops to announce a recess because in the past these breaks have allowed gay rights supporters to engage in carefully orchestrated witness). We have a lengthy “holy conferencing” listening session about human sexuality scheduled for tomorrow; I wish we had waited for that opportunity to listen to each other instead of beginning the session with power plays expressed through rule amendments. I suspect that even the proposed “bedtime” will in some quarters be filtered through this “pro-gay/anti-gay” lens… just don’t ask me how!
Privilege: To be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Responsibility: To love God and neighbor.
When I tested the limits of my bed-time, and when we had our family meetings, we were all able to vote on family decisions. Each one of us (three children and two parents) had a vote.
Privilege: Being able to vote
Responsibility: Thinking about your sisters and brothers, not just about yourself
Unfortunately, in our household, a grown-up vote counted for two while a kid vote only counted for one. When the parents decided to vote en bloc, they guaranteed a 4-3 decision.
Privilege: Being a grown-up
Responsibility: Taking care of one’s self and the children of God entrusted to you through careful listening, prayerful discernment, and wise action
So here’s praying for the “Grown-Ups” in the room. May we all have a spirit of privilege and responsibility to be here at this General Conference session. May the privilege of speaking be matched with the responsibility of listening. May the privilege of making rules be weighed with the responsibility of hearing from those oppressed by those same rules.
And may the Holy Spirit guide the Rules Committee as they stay up way past their own bedtimes, praying and discerning how we can best care for ourselves, the people in our churches, and, most importantly, those unreached people who are waiting to see the good news of Jesus Christ expressed in both our words and deeds.