I like stories. I like telling stories, listening to stories, reading stories. Yesterday, we endured a debate about stories that reinforced for me the power of story.
The topic was Rule 44, my summary of which goes like this: if adopted, Rule 44 gives the General Conference permission to vote to break into small groups to discuss the topic at hand in small groups using a structured story-telling format. Not some crazed, wildcat, yelling thing. But a facilitated small group conversation for a set length of time on a particular topic. And when that time is up, Roberts Rules goes back into effect and things are very much back into the kind of order that is "usual." It has been fairly clear that Rule 44 offered as a way to encounter the topic of homosexuality in the church in a different way than in the past, but it has also been clear, at least to me, that if adopted it could be used for other topics if the body voted to do so. I will allow someone else explain those details, you can find them here: Rule 44 from UMNS.
This is my 4th General Conference. I've been a member of our Jurisdictional delegation five times. This means I've been a close observer of the proceedings, in both a literal and physical sense, for 16 years. The debate never feels good. Sometimes it starts well - perhaps we hear that the committee work has been honest and true, maybe we hear there is a willingness to remove language that some find harmful. Then we get everyone on the floor together in the second week, group debate begins, and I watch as the committee members who bring their work from the first week with a spirit of hope - crumble before my eyes. I was hopeful that Rule 44 might give everyone a break. A break from speeches made by one person at a microphone that feel like yelling, a break from words that some experience as a rallying cry that others experience as eviscerating.
Here's a happy photo of a rainbow unicorn. I found this at the Penny Pincher cafe in near Pioneer Square. It's a reward for reading this far.
So. I was interested in the debate about whether to adopt Rule 44. The first thing that happened was it took a while to get to the part where the delegates voted on it at all. The next thing that happened was that it sounded like those who were opposed to Rule 44 really did not want to hear stories. I don't think they were concerned about not wanting to share their stories - I base this assumption on the amount of words they used to voice their opposition. I honestly think they were afraid of hearing other people's stories. If I had to re-write some of the debate as a cartoon, the word bubbles would say "I refuse to honor your truth as real!" or "stop talking, I want to do all the talking!" or "I forgot the part of the Bible where Jesus says there's enough love for everyone!" I find this distressing. I'd like to see us listen to each other. I think we can be compassionate and not agree with each other, all at the same time. I think we can make space for all the stories.