Guest Uncle Jim

Overlapping Meetings

6 posts in this topic

Our church denomination has presbyteries (geographical groups of churches, about seven) which are required to meet at least annually at the presbytery level. Each presbytery has an elected superintendent who chairs the presbytery meetings and acts for the presbytery when during the year. We also have a Synod that is composed of representatives from the presbyteries which meets every other year. In the years in which the Synod meets, the annual presbytery meetings are held at the same location and on the same days as the Synod. In the past, the meetings have alternated (e.g. presbytery in the mornings, Synod in the afternoon). This year the superintendent of the Synod has scheduled overlapping meetings so that for part of the time they are meeting at the same time. He has said that if necessary, the Synod can pause long enough for a member to "vote" in the presbytery meeting if needed. Note that most of the presbytery superintendents are representatives to the the Synod.

This seems to run counter to the principles of Roberts rules, in that members are deliberately being prevented from participating in the deliberations of one body so that they can fulfill there responsibilities to the other.

In addition, the deliberations of the Synod are supposed to be open and public, but if they are held concurrently with Presbytery meetings then those with the most interest can't observe.

Are there any specific provisions in Robert's Rules that address this? Am I crazy to be concerned?

Thanks in advance.

Uncle Jim

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I doesn't seem that members are being excluded from either meeting.

Whichever meeting starts first, at the outset, a member can move to Fix The Time To Which To Adjourn (RONR, p. 243ff).  The motion requires a second and takes a majority vote to adopt.  The purpose is to set the time (and the motion should state at what time) to continue the meeting (obviously a time after the second meeting ends).  If it's adopted by majority vote, the next motion to make is to move to adjourn.  If adopted that meeting ends and will start again at the time specified in the earlier motion.  

Now there's only one meeting to deal with at a time and at the appointed time the adjourned meeting can begin again where it left off.

Edited by George Mervosh

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Uncle Jim, Mr. Mervosh's answer highlights that it is the assembly that is in charge of its proceedings. The superintendent, or chair, or president, commodore, grand poobah, or any other person, is often mistakenly seen as a sole arbiter of what happens at a meeting, as we so often see in forum posts. 

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I agree with Mr. Mervosh that no one is being excluded since there is a parliamentary way around the problem.  I would add that RONR doesn't have much to say about this, because it's about meetings of two organizations which happen to have overlapping membership - there's no rule against two different organizations scheduling conflicting meetings.  However, I think, personally, that this is a silly decision by the programming committees, and that they should be encouraged to change it, perhaps with the added information that the membership will, in any event, change it via the process described.

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Of course, there is the obvious question.  If both meetings have overlapping membership, is there sufficient attendance at both for quorum to be met?  If everyone attends the first meeting, then perhaps enough people are mississng from the second meeting to make sure quorum is not met.  Just thinking 'out loud.'

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