20 Process for Discernment and Decision Making Reference Section 1: Delegates and moderators at recent Mennonite Church USA assemblies have affirmed the use of table groups for processing issues and agenda. Table groups will be used to process issues, to seek consensus, to brainstorm ideas and to gather feedback. Decisions will continue to be made by delegate vote according to Mennonite Church USA bylaws. WHY TABLE GROUPS? Open microphones in large group settings limit the number of persons who are able to give input into the discussion. Microphones are often dominated by the most extroverted. Much discussion and many good ideas are often shared in hallways and around dining tables but these conversations have no formal way to become part of the larger decision making process. Additionally, these “informal” discussions lack the accountability of going through the larger public filter where the accuracy of reports and assumptions can be tested. The use of table groups provides a way to: • hear the “less brave” wisdom of the church • ensure that all voices are heard • gain the wisdom and give accountability to discussions that take place in hallways and dining halls • recognize and use the wisdom, insight and knowledge of the greatest number of persons. TABLE GROUP MAKEUP AND ORGANIZATION Size: Delegates have been pre-assigned to groups of no less than 10 due to the limited number of tables that can fit into the size of the room. Non-delegates may form themselves into groups of at least five and no more than eight, preferably made up of persons who aren’t attending the assembly together. If non-delegates have not received written infor- mation, they should request the same from an usher. Commitment and participation: The group covenant should be reviewed by each member of the table group. Leadership: A leader has been assigned to delegate tables. Non-delegate tables, if available, should desig- nate a leader. Record keeping and reporting: Each group should identify a recorder who will complete written reports or summaries. Verbal reporting (during “open” microphone time) should be done as directed by the moderator. TABLE PROCESS Time will be given for getting acquainted with others in the table group; for covenant review and commit- ment; and for worship and prayer together in addition to items for discernment, counsel and decision. 1. Presentation and discussion of issues: a. Issues, recommendations or questions will be presented to the assembly followed by an explanation of the expected table process and the type of feedback requested from the table groups. b. Each person in the table group should be given an initial chance to speak to the issue or question before the assembly (persons are allowed to “pass”). c. Additional processing of questions of clarification, open discussion and completion of any assigned tasks will be given direction by the moderator. 21 2. Reporting: a. Written reports of table consensus should be initialed by all members of the group. In cases where Reference Section 1: there is not table consensus, “minority responses” may be included. Sometimes individual responses may be requested. b. At times the moderator may call for verbal reporting. Persons should speak at the microphone only if they have been asked to do so by their table group. If the concerns, questions or conclusions of one table are spoken by another there is no need to repeat them; persons from those tables should return to their seats following the report with which they are in agreement (This “people move- ment” will give the entire group general sense of the support for that report). Persons who carry more than one issue from their table may begin their report with, “Our table supports the speaker who ... and additionally we bring the following....” c. It is not necessary that the majority of persons at the table agree with what they approve being re- ported to the entire assembly, but the table must agree that it should be heard by the entire assem- bly. (i.e., Hearing “minority positions” is an important part of discernment.) DECISION MAKING Decisions will be made by delegate vote as directed in Article V, Section 5, Decision Making. Voting may be by voice vote, visible signal or ballot as called for by the moderator.
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