“Therefore be it Resolved….”: What are Resolutions Good for Anyway?
The wonder and whirlwind of the United Church of Christ 30th General Synod is over! More than 3,000 delegates, honored guests, and visitors descended on Cleveland June 26-30 to reunite as church family, to worship, and to discover all over again what it means to “be Church together”. It was a glorious, inspiring, and utterly exhausting week!
I’m one of those people who loves General Synod and gobbles up every experience, conversation and opportunity for debate and learning that is part of it. It is fascinating to watch us gather as the diverse Body of Christ and struggle to work out how we discern God is calling us as Church in this moment of history.
One of the ways in which that happens is through our resolutions process. At this particular General Synod, sixteen resolutions were submitted for delegates’ consideration. Their topics included: discriminatory systems of mass incarceration, commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, ethical & compassionate treatment of undocumented immigrant children, racially demeaning names, mascots, and imagery of the Washington NFL team, the New Jim Crow, a recommitment to being a Just Peace church, and actions toward a just peace in Israel-Palestine. In each case, resolutions were originally submitted by Conferences, congregations, or groups who had carefully crafted the language based on their own experience and wisdom. Nearly every resolution was then further massaged, revised, and debated in educational intensives, hearings, committee work, and floor debate at General Synod. Diverse opinions were heard and at times those who spoke for and against resolutions did so with passion, anger, or tears; votes were rarely unanimous. But in the end delegates had approved a set of resolutions which now stands as part of our historical witness as the United Church of Christ.
So what’s the point? Why do we bother with all those resolutions? After all, according to the polity of the United Church of Christ, General Synod can only speak “to” the Church, not “for” the Church. And sometimes the prophetic nature of these resolutions on complex social and global issues of our time leaves relationships frayed and a lot of people unhappy. (Such is particularly the case this time in regards to our resolution about Israel and Palestine.) Is it worth it? Or are these resolutions just a lot of hyperbole that help us feel good about ourselves but have very little real impact?
I humbly suggest to you that such resolutions do indeed matter. They matter a great deal to our global partners with whom we signal solidarity and purpose through resolutions. They matter profoundly to those who experience the injustices we name in resolutions as their own very painful reality. They matter if we want to be a Body of Christ that has something relevant and powerful to say in a world horribly broken. And they matter because they are one way we have of identifying who we will be as Church, what values we will proclaim, how our faith and our interpretation of scripture will shape our behavior and proclamation in the world. Yes – for me – resolutions matter.
We won’t always get it right. Our witness can be as imperfect as are all of us in the Church, God knows. But I for one am grateful that we are a Church that cares enough and dares enough to wrestle with the hard stuff, even when it’s messy.
With gratitude for all the ways we witness in the world,