In the run-up to General Convention I have heard several intelligent people, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Susan Snook (who has done such helpful analysis of the budget) point out that voting on the pressing issues that face our church “creates winners and losers.” The implication seems to be that this is a bad thing, and that somehow if we were better people or had a better system principled disputes over deeply held convictions would resolve themselves in some non-legislative sort of way.
Just for the sake of getting a conversation going, I want to say that while I respect the proponents of this argument, I think this is nuts, that if people can’t stand to be on the losing side of a vote, they shouldn’t stand for election to a legislative body, and that there hasn’t, to my knowledge, been a better means of governing large organizations than representative democracy.
There are legitimate grounds on which to argue about General Convention: too long? too short? meets too often? doesn’t meet often enough? bicameral? unicameral? proportional representation favoring larger dioceses? diminished representation for dioceses that don’t tithe?
No doubt there are others. But the idea that the people of the church are too emotionally fragile to participate in legislative self-governance and must be saved from this ordeal by wiser heads is troublesome. And the notion that arguing and organizing on behalf of our principles is bad behavior that we need to unlearn is generally advanced by people who get to make the decisions when the arguing stops.
Politics, and church politics, are callings as worthy as most others. People who profess an incarnational faith can’t afford to lose sight of that.