It is not often that the first serious debate of a General Assembly occurs during the annual report of the General Assembly, but what looks to most as a meeting without many major issues pending, the folks seem to decide to get to work early.
One of the duties of the Stated Clerk is to assign various pieces of official correspondence received in his office to various permanent committees. This year he had received 6 different communications related to the ‘Insider Movement’ (reported yesterday). These pieces of correspondence came from various mission agencies as well as denominations in other nations.
The Clerk, TE Roy Taylor, made a motion to approve assignment of these pieces of correspondence to the Mission to the World Committee, which will be reporting on this issue through their Committee of Commissioners. However, TE David Coffin asked the moderator to rule that these six items of business were out of order since they did not meet the definition of ‘business’ in Rules of Assembly Operations 11-1.
The language says that correspondence received from those ‘having business with the General Assembly’ will be assigned. Mr. Coffin’s argued that since the General Assembly had no direct relationship with those who sent the correspondence, they could not have any ‘business’ with us. Additionally, and more importantly, Mr. Coffin felt that the content amounted to lobbying the General Assembly to take certain actions. (The correspondence came from both sides of the issue.) The Moderator agreed and ruled the items out of order.
The decision of the chair was appealed, which means that there was disagreement with the Moderator’s decision. This is a common event during the course of any large formal meeting and does not reflect in any way against the Moderator, as many speakers reminded the body. However, this allowed for discussion of the matter.
A period of debate followed with one side arguing that the information was pertinent to the issue before the assembly and that met the ‘business’ test and that any expression of opinion could be called lobbying. Others argued that this made a ‘wide open door’ for many others to seek to the lobby the GA to take action in the future.
When the vote was finally taken, the judgment of the Moderator was sustained and those items of correspondence were no longer officially available for the committees dealing with the use to use in formulating their decision.