Friday, July 3, 2009

Seniority and the Church

As I prepare to leave for General Convention, I read some posts from a few younger members of the church. That means under 40, in case the word younger implies children to you. These are the thoughts that came from this reading:

40% of the deputies to GC this year are new. We were explicitly told we were not being assigned to legislative committees if we are new unless we had some 'specialized knowledge', whatever that is. So, basically, if you are under 25 (and there are several, including at least two high school students) you are locked out of the power structure before you even begin. The reasoning given for this decision is that GC is so overwhelming that they are trying to make it easier on us newbies so that we won't find it so difficult to maneuver. The goal is for more of us to run again. You see, something like 2/3 of us newbies won't if past history has anything to do with it.

Sorry. I just don't buy it. The reason people don't run is precisely the fact that their input as new deputies is not valued. Now we have institutionalized it in a new way. We've basically been told to let the old folks decide for us.

The reality is that this system perpetuates itself mercilessly. Returning deputies basically are those who were patient enough to ride out their powerless conventions and return after the people ahead of them died off (metaphorically and actually). You can't blame them really. If you don't have the ability to get the authority until you wait a few rounds, why would you give up your seat before you reach your goal? We tend to look at the more seasoned deputies as hanging on when, in many cases, they have only just arrived at the goal of the seats of power.

But they have also been trained and brought up by a system that perpetuates itself. Change comes from new elements (people?) being introduced into the system. In other words, the seniority system has to be scrapped. Yes, of course we need the expertise of people who have been around for awhile. But there are plenty of them around. It is not enough to open the door to letting younger people run; they had that privilege all along. Once they get there, you have to give them an equal seat and a microphone that works.

And, by the way, that goes twice for deputies of color, who think I am new in the system even though I have been ordained 25 years and have attended four other GCs. Just cause I am a new deputy does not mean I haven't been around! And I no longer quality as young; I'm 52, for heaven's sake. However, I work with young people all the time, so I know I do not think like them. But I sure want to hear what they have to say, and I am not afraid to give them power in the decisions that affect them--and us.

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