UUA Board Position on the Rules of Procedure Amendment Reinstating Procedural Microphone

The Board of Trustees strongly opposes this amendment.

In a faith community, democracy is embodied when we talk and listen to each other. Over the past several years, the Board has worked to develop rules of procedure that prioritize time for substantive discussion and listening. By reinstating parliamentary actions like closing debate, or tabling issues, we move away from substance in favor of parliamentary tactics. In the past, procedural maneuvers have often been used to silence discussion. There is nothing democratic in actions to shut down discussion. There is nothing democratic in one person being able to divert the conversation of several thousand by using the procedural microphone.

Starting at General Assembly (GA) 2022, the Board redesigned the GA business process to maximize accessibility and participation through a multi-platform GA with both online and onsite delegates. Rules in the UUA Bylaws now require all voting to be done by ballot so that it is accessible for all delegates. Allowing delegates to make any procedural motions would have to be voted on by ballot overnight. This would delay discussion until the following day every time a motion was made, severely disrupting the General Session schedule. Procedural motions are currently allowed only with the permission of the Moderator, to address this issue.

Additionally, there is only a limited amount of time for deliberations on the proposed changes to Article II, the Divestment Business Resolution, Actions of Immediate Witness, and other business of our General Assembly. There are firm timelines, based on union agreements and contracts with the production staff, for each day’s General Session, so it will not be possible to extend the schedule. The more time delegates spend debating parliamentary motions, the less time there will be for substantive discussion. When the procedural microphone was in place, we received many complaints from delegates that we spent too much time on procedure at the expense of substantive deliberations. Delegates found the use of procedural motions confusing and frustrating. Delegates also objected to motions to end debate or “move the previous question” as shutting down meaningful discussion. Under our new Rules of Procedure, discussion automatically ends when the time expires and there is no need for these divisive votes to end discussion. Rather than limiting discussion to only the live General Session, the Board has created the discuss.uua.org site where anyone can participate in discussion for the weeks leading into GA. During GA, there are Zoom chats and the GA App (Whova) community space where additional discussion can take place.

Please vote against this amendment, so we can spend our time on substantive issues, not parliamentary tactics.