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GEN 4.1 Revised Rule XVI

22 February 2005

XVI.  CONDUCT OF MEETINGS   (Replaces "Rules of Debate")

1.       General

a)   These provisions for conduct of meetings shall apply to meetings of the Assembly, the Central Committee, the Executive Committee and all other bodies of the WCC.During an Assembly, the titles "President, Moderator and Vice-Moderators of the Central Committee" shall refer to the persons holding those offices during the outgoing Central Committee. During the term of a Central Committee such titles shall refer to the current Presidents and officers of that Central Committee.

b)   "Delegate" shall mean an official representative of a member church to an Assembly with the right to speak and the responsibility to participate in decision-making (Rule III.1(a)). For meetings of the Central Committee, "delegate" shall mean a member of the Central Committee or that member's substitute (Rule V), with the right to speak and the responsibility to participate in decision-making.

c)   "Participant" shall include delegates as well as persons invited to the Assembly or a meeting of the Central Committee as persons with the right to speak but not to participate in decision-making (Rule III.1(b)).

2.       Categories of Sessions

The Assembly shall sit in one of the following categories of sessions: General, Hearing, or Decision. The Business Committee shall determine the category of session appropriate for different parts of the agenda.

a) General Session

General Sessions shall be reserved for ceremonial occasions, public acts of witness and formal addresses.  Only matters proposed by the Central Committee or by the Business Committee shall be included in General Sessions. No decisions shall be made during General Sessions.

b)         Hearing Session

Hearing Sessions shall be designated for plenary presentations, discussion, dialogue, and exchange of ideas as a resource for developing understanding, deepening fellowship among member churches and coming to a common mind on matters on the agenda. A wide range of perspectives shall be encouraged during Hearing Sessions. No decisions shall be made during Hearing Sessions, other than to move to a Decision Session, if deemed necessary or to deal with a Point of Order or Procedural Proposals.

c) Decision Session

      Decision Sessions shall be designated for matters requiring a decision, including:

(i)                   adoption of the agenda;

(ii)               proposal for change in the agenda;

(iii)                appointments and elections;

(iv)               reception or adoption of reports or recommendations;

(v)                 actions to be taken on recommendations or proposals of committees or commissions, or arising out of Hearing Sessions;

(vi)               adoption of accounts and financial audits; and

(vii)              amendment of Constitution or Rules.

3.    Moderating Sessions

a) A moderator for each session of the Assembly shall be designated before an Assembly by the outgoing Central Committee, and during an Assembly by the Business Committee, as follows:

(i)                   In General Sessions one of the Presidents or the Moderator of the Central Committee shall preside;

(ii)                 In Hearing Sessions one of the Presidents, the Moderator or a Vice-Moderator of the Central Committee, or a delegate with specific expertise in the subject matter of the Hearing shall preside;

(iii)                In Decision Sessions the Moderator or a Vice-Moderator of the Central Committee or other member of the Central Committee shall preside.

b)       The role of session moderators shall be:

(i)                   to convene the session, including announcing the category of session;

(ii)                 t o facilitate and encourage discussion and dialogue, for the exchange and development of ideas, and to assist the meeting to come to a common mind;

(iii)                during Decision Sessions, to test any emerging agreement on a particular point and whether the meeting is ready to move to a decision by consensus;

(iv)               in the event the category of session is to change during a session, to announce the change in category, providing a break in the session to mark the change in category; and

(v)                 to close the session.

c)       The moderator shall consult with the recorder for the session to ensure that the developing consensus is accurately noted and any changed wording promptly made available to the meeting.

d)       All moderators shall undertake specific training in conducting meetings based upon the consensus model of decision-making, as described in these Rules and the accompanying Manual.

4.       Moderator of the Assembly

The Moderator of the Assembly shall announce the opening, suspension and the adjournmentof the Assembly.

5.  Official Minutes, Records and Reports

a) The Business Committee shall appoint recorders from among Delegates for each Decision Session. Their role shall be to to follow the discussion of a Decision Session, to record the language of the emerging consensus, including final language of decisions taken, and to assist the moderator of the session in discerning an emerging consensus. Recorders shall also assist the moderator in ensuring that the final agreed wording of a proposal is translated and available to delegates before a decision is made.

b) The Business Committee shall appoint  rapporteurs for each Hearing Session and for committee meetings for which official minutes are not maintained, to prepare a report of the meeting including major themes and specific proposals.. A rapporteur appointed for a committee meeting shall function as a recorder of that meeting.

c)     The Business Committee shall appoint minute-takers to record the official minutes of General, Hearing and Decision Sessions of an Assembly or any meeting for which formal minutes must be kept, and shall include a record of the discussion, motions and decisions. The minutes will normally incorporate by reference any report of the meeting. The minutes shall be signed by the moderator and the minute-taker for the session and shall be sent to the participants of the meeting. For all minutes other than minutes of an Assembly, if there is no objection within six months from the sending of the minutes, the minutes shall be considered to be accepted. The first Central Committee meeting following an Assembly shall confirm the minutes of the Assembly.

d)       Decision Sessions will usually produce official minutes and a record and/or report.

e)       If, after the close of a meeting, a member church declares that it cannot support a decision of the meeting, the member church may submit its objection in writing and have its position recorded in the minutes or report of a subsequent meeting.  The decision itself shall not be rescinded by this action.

6.   Agenda

a)     Matters may be included on the agenda of a meeting according to Rule III.3 and procedures established by the Business and Programme Committees, and any other committee established by Central Committee for that purpose. Normally, matters included on an agenda will be based upon reports, recommendations or proposals that previously have been fully considered and have the consensus support of the proposing group or committee.

b)       The Business Committee shall ensure that the moderator is advised before each session, and if appropriate during breaks within a session, as to the conduct of the business and the priority of various agenda items.  

c)      A delegate may propose to the Business Committee an item of business to be included on, or any change in, the agenda.  If after consideration the Business Committee has not agreed to the proposal, the delegate may appeal the decision to the Moderator of the Assembly in writing. The Moderator shall at a convenient time inform the Assembly of the proposal, and a member of the Business Committee shall explain the reasons for this refusal.  The delegate may give reasons for proposing it.  The Moderator shall then without further debate put the following question: Shall the Assembly accept this proposal? If the Assembly agrees to accept the proposal, the Business Committee as soon as possible shall bring proposals for the inclusion of the matter or the change in the agenda.

d)     Matters concerning ecclesiological self-understanding - Where a matter being raised is considered by a delegate to go against the ecclesiological self-understanding of his or her church, the delegate may request that it not be submitted for decision. The moderator shall seek the advice of the Business Committee in consultation with this delegate and other members of the same church or confession present at the session. If agreed that the matter does in fact go against the ecclesiological self-understanding of the delegate's church, the moderator shall announce that the matter will be removed from the agenda of the Decision Session and may be considered in a Hearing Session.  The materials and minutes of the discussion shall be sent to the member churches for their study and comment.

e)     Subject to the provisions of this Rule, the agenda shall be proposed, amended and/or adopted in accordance with Rule III.3 and III.5.

 7.   Speaking

a)       In Hearing Sessions, participants wishing to speak either may submit to the moderator a written request or may queue at the microphones when the moderator so invites, but may speak only when called by the moderator.

b)       In Decision Sessions, only delegates may speak. Delegates wishing to speak either may submit to the moderator a written request or may queue at the microphones when the moderator so invites, but may speak only when called by the moderator.

c)       The moderator shall decide who shall speak, ensuring that a fair distribution of opinions is heard, and may take advice on the order of speakers from a small sub-committee of the Business Committee. If time allows and others are not left unheard, the moderator may permit speakers to intervene more than once.

d)       When called by the moderator, a speaker shall speak from a microphone, first stating his or her name, church, country, and role at the meeting, and shall address all remarks to the moderator.

e)       Remarks will normally be limited to three minutes; however, the moderator may use discretion in allowing extra time if there is a difficulty in language or interpretation or if the issues being discussed are unusually complex.

f)         Procedural Proposals - Hearing or Decision Sessions: Provided that a speaker is not interrupted, a delegate may ask for clarification of the pending matter or may raise suggestions about procedure.   The moderator immediately shall provide clarification or respond to the suggestion for change of procedure.

g)       Points of Order - Hearing or Decision Session: This provision is available to question whether procedures being followed are in accordance with these Rules, to object to offensive language, to make a point of personal explanation, or to request that a meeting move to closed session. Points of Order may be raised by a participant at any time, even by interrupting another speaker.  A participant gains the attention of the moderator by standing and calling, "Point of Order!" The moderator shall ask the participant to state the Point of Order and then (without discussion) shall rule on it immediately.

h)       If any delegate disagrees with the moderator's decision on a procedural proposal or point of order, the delegate may appeal against it.  In this case the moderator will put this question, without discussion, to the meeting: "Does the meeting concur with the decision of the moderator?"  The delegates present shall decide the question according to the decision-making procedures then being employed.

8.  Reaching Consensus: Seeking the Common Mind of the Meeting

a)       Consensus shall be understood as seeking the common mind of the meeting without resort to a formal vote, in a process of genuine dialogue that is respectful, mutually supportive and empowering, whilst prayerfully seeking to discern God's will.

b)       Decisions will normally be by consensus, unless otherwise specified by the Rules.

c)       A consensus decision on a particular matter shall be recorded when one of the following occurs:

(i)           all delegates are in agreement (unanimity); or

(ii)          most are in agreement and those who disagree are satisfied that the discussion has been both full and fair and do not object that the proposal expresses the general mind of the meeting.

d)  A consensus decision shall mean that there is agreement about the outcome of a discussion. This may mean agreement to accept a proposal or a variation of a proposal; it also may mean agreement about another outcome, including agreement to reject a proposal, to postpone a matter, that no decision can be reached, or that there are various opinions that may be held. When consensus has been reached that various opinions can be held concerning a matter, those various opinions shall be recorded in the final wording of the minutes and the report and the record of the meeting.

9.       Decision-making by Consensus

a)     A proposal or recommendation considered in a Decision Session may be affirmed, modified or rejected.  Delegates may suggest modifications, and the moderator may allow discussion on more than one modification at a time. Reaching a common mind may require a series of steps, if there is a variety of opinions being expressed.  As discussion proceeds, the moderator may ask the meeting to affirm what is held in common before encouraging discussion on those aspects of a proposal about which more diverse opinions have been voiced.

b)       To assist the moderator in discerning the mind of the meeting and to move efficiently toward consensus, the recorder of the session shall maintain a record of the discussion. Delegates may be provided with indicator cards to facilitate participation.

c) A delegate or the moderator may suggest that the matter under discussion be referred for further work to an appropriate group holding a range of points of view. This suggestion itself shall be tested to discern the mind of the meeting.  If agreed, the Business Committee shall schedule consideration of the matter for a later session.

d)       When it seems that the meeting is close to agreement on an outcome, the moderator shall ensure that the wording of the proposal (or the proposal as varied during the course of the discussion) is clear to all delegates, and then test whether there is consensus on that outcome..  If all are agreed consistent with Rule XVI. 8(c)(i), the moderator shall declare that consensus has been reached and the decision made. If the meeting is not unanimous, the moderator shall invite those who hold a minority view to explain their reasons if they wish and to indicate whether they can agree with a decision pursuant to Rule XVI .8 (c)(ii). If so, consensus shall be declared.

e)       If, after every effort has been made to reach consensus, agreement cannot be reached and it is the opinion of an officer or the Business Committee that a decision must be made before the meeting concludes, the moderator shall ask the Business Committee to formulate a proposal for how the matter may be considered again in a new form.  At the later Decision Session where this new approach is considered, the meeting itself shall decide whether a decision must be made at this meeting, and if so, shall proceed on any one of the following courses, which may be followed sequentially:

i)         to work further towards consensus on the proposal in its new form;

ii)          to work to reach agreement among most delegates with some delegates recording an objection, in which event a meeting shall record acceptance of the proposal, providing that each delegate who does not agree is satisfied with that outcome and has the right to have his or her viewpoint recorded in the minutes, in the report, and in the record of the meeting; or

iii)      to move into voting procedures to decide the matter (Rule XVI.10).

f)         When a meeting discusses by consensus procedures a matter for which decision must be reached at that meeting and there is no ready agreement in accordance with Rule XVI.9(e)(i) or (ii), the moderator may offer a procedural proposal: "That the meeting resolve the proposal now by vote". Except for matters described in Rule XVI.6(d) "Matters concerning ecclesiological self-understanding",  the moderator shall announce that a vote to decide this change of procedure shall be taken. Delegates shall indicate by voting whether they agree that the matter shall be decided by a vote. If eighty-five percent of delegates present vote in favor of moving the matter to a voting process, the matter shall so move. If fewer than eighty-five percent of delegates present vote in favor of moving the matter to a voting process, the matter shall not so move, and the meeting shall decide, again by vote of eighty-five percent of delegates present, whether discussion should continue to achieve consensus or whether discussion should be discontinued.

     10.   Decision-making by vote

a)       Some matters require decision  by vote, rather than by consensus.  These include:

(i)                   Constitutional changes (two-thirds majority);

(ii)                 Elections (which follow specific rules in each case);

(iii)                Adoption of yearly accounts and of the financial audit report (simple majority).

b)       For matters that have been moved from consensus procedures to decision-making by vote in accordance with Rule XVI.9(e)(iii) or (f), and for matters reserved to a voting procedure according to subsection (a) of this section, the following procedures shall be followed:

(i)                   All motions must be moved and seconded by a delegate, and the mover has the right to speak first.

(ii)                 In discussion following the seconding of a motion, no delegate may speak more than once, except that the delegate who moved the motion may answer objections at the end of the discussion.

(iii)                Any delegate may move an amendment, and if a seconder supports it, the amendment shall be considered simultaneously with the original proposal.

(iv)               When discussion is concluded, including the right of mover to reply (see (ii) above), the moderator shall call for the vote and shall put any amendment first. If approved, it will be incorporated in the original proposal, which will then be put to the vote without further discussion.

(v)                 If the mover seeks to withdraw a motion or amendment during the discussion, the moderator will seek the consent of the meeting for the withdrawal.

A delegate may move to close the discussion, but in doing so shall not interrupt a speaker. If seconded, the moderator shall call for a vote on this motion immediately without discussion. If two-thirds of the meeting agree, the voting process will then begin. If the motion fails, discussion will proceed, but the same motion to close discussion may be moved again as the discussion continues, but not by the delegate who moved it the first time.

c) Voting shall be by show of hands or indicator cards and the moderator shall ask first for those in favor, then for those against, and finally for those who wish to abstain from voting. The moderator shall announce the result of the vote immediately.

d)       If the moderator is in doubt, or for any other reason decides to do so, or if a delegate requests it, a vote on the matter shall be taken immediately by count of a show of hands or indicator cards.  The moderator may call tellers to count those voting and abstaining. A delegate may ask that voting be by secret written ballot, and if seconded and if a majority of delegates present and voting agree, a secret written ballot shall be taken. The moderator shall announce the result of any count or secret written ballot.

e)       A majority of the delegates present, including those who choose to abstain from voting, shall determine a matter being decided by vote unless a higher proportion is required by the Constitution or these Rules.  If the vote results in a tie, the matter shall be regarded as defeated.

f)         If the moderator wishes to participate in the discussion, he or she shall relinquish the position of moderator of the session to another presiding officer until the matter has been resolved.

g)       A moderator entitled to vote as a delegate may do so, but may not cast the decisive vote in the event of a tie.

h) Any two delegates who voted with the majority for a previously approved matter may request that the Business Committee propose reconsideration of the matter.  The Business Committee shall bring the proposal to the next Decision Session and may express an opinion as to whether the matter should be reconsidered.  Reconsideration shall take place only if two-thirds of delegates present agree.

i)         Anyone voting with a minority or abstaining from voting may have his or her opinion recorded in the minutes, in the report, and/or the recommendation of the meeting.

11.                Languages

The working languages in use in the World Council of Churches are English, French, German, Russian and Spanish. The General Secretary shall make reasonable effort to provide interpretation for any one of those languages into the others and shall endeavor to provide written translation of the specific wording of proposals. A participant may speak in another language only if he or she provides for interpretation into one of the working languages. The General Secretary shall provide all possible assistance to any participant requiring an interpreter.