Our United Church of Christ General Synod is meeting this weekend in Baltimore, Maryland. Delegates from our regional conferences will gather for the renewal of friendships, celebration of ministries, creative arts, music and worship, business matters, and resolutions. The resolution process is an interesting one, in which delegates are assigned to committees which help to shape resolutions that have come to the General Synod before they go to the floor for a vote. Here is the "Wait! Come Back!" part...it can be really engaging, totally boring, or monumentally frustrating. This synod is looking at twenty-one resolutions, which is a vastly reduced number compared to synods of twenty or thirty years ago. Here is a little sample of the titles:
Calling for Participation with the Boy Scouts of America through Inclusive Scouting Programs
On Corporal Punishment of Children in Homes and Institutions
The Disparity of Rights of Adoptees to Access Birth Certificates for Adults
On Proposing a New Framework for Covenantal Giving and Implementing Fundraising Best Practices
A More Just Economy: Living Wages and Job Creation
Manual on Ministry, Re-Visioned
Resolution of Witness in Support of Legislation Authorizing Aid to the Dying
Affirming the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Boycott of Wendy's
On Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Church
One or more of these may catch your eye as - great, fascinating, totally wrong, ill-informed, or spiritually energizing. The full list (with texts) is available on ucc.org (search: general synod resolutions).
Resolutions can have a great impact. One example would be the 1987 statement by General Synod 16 that "the United Church of Christ affirms its recognition that God's covenant with the Jewish people has not been rescinded or abrogated by God, but remains in full force." This statement on Christian/Jewish relations looked deeply into Paul's teachings and was theologically significant. Another resolution which had far-reaching implications was the 2005 statement on marriage equality. Though the passage of this LGBT friendly statement was easy to predict based on previous synods, it dropped like a bombshell on many congregations in the middle section of the country. About two dozen congregations left the Indiana-Kentucky Conference in the wake of this statement. Others lauded the statement, which became a harbinger of similar stands in other denominations. Marriage equality became the law of the land ten years later. On a personal note, Debbie and I attended a "gay union" of friends in 1980, so this issue was long decided for us. I am only saddened that my sister did not live to see the Supreme Court decision, which would have allowed her to marry her life-partner of 20 years.
At their best, resolutions can have a positive impact on church processes or public life. At their worst, they are just fiery missives hurled into the void. There is always the danger that we will go to a meeting, get really fired up, demonize someone else, take a vote and go home, with no real cost to ourselves or change in our own behavior. I fear the above-mentioned Wendy's boycott will fall into this category. The Immokalee organization has used the same "a penny more per pound will double the workers' pay" rhetoric in every boycott since the 2001 Taco Bell action. They have since successfully gotten "Fair Food" agreements from nine major buyers, according to a New York Times article, 1/19/2011. It appears that the Immokalee organization, which is not a union, does very good work in terms of worker conditions (especially human trafficking, field conditions and sexual harassment), but has not been so successful in delivering the promised wages (which should be exponentially higher by now) to an extremely mobile and sometimes undocumented migrant workforce who are not their employees - or employees of the corporations being highlighted. Indeed, they were sued by workers over this problem four years ago. The condition of farm labor is a real issue, and like most real issues, it is complicated.
Whereas/Therefore: If only things were as simple as resolutions...
Christ's Peace, Greg