At this point, the plan under discussion does not envision any significant changes in the role of the Biennial. We haven’t talked much about it. True, there are some who want the Biennial to become a stage for conflict and combat like the old Convention meetings—but I don’t think there are many. On the other hand, there are those who are troubled by the costs of the Biennial, and wonder if even less frequent meetings might be in order—but I don’t think there are many of those either.
In my opinion, every critique that SCOR/SCODS raised regarding the old Convention meetings is still true, and even more so. While it is necessary that certain governance functions (especially Bylaw changes) reside in a body larger than the General Board (or its successor) I think the time has come to think in a different way. If the governance functions of the Biennial remain very few (and I think they should), then there is no reason we cannot do a denomination-wide referendum at low cost in a reasonable length of time.
This would make the denomination truly a participative democracy. Yes, it would take a little work, but I don’t believe it would be that difficult. Churches could be assigned “votes” equivalent to a delegate calculation formula. Information would be prepared a distributed. Discussion sessions could be scheduled. Regions would be responsible for collecting and reporting the votes.
It would also take a little more time. But the Biennial deals with no issues that require immediate decision. So what if it takes four months of discussion across the denomination before a decision is registered? Spreading out the discussion, slowing down the decision, deliberately including everyone might actually keep us from saying and doing regrettable things. In particular, all public witness statements need to be done this way.
Keep the Biennial as a celebrative, inspirational, informational meeting. Elect officers. But keep everything else out of it.