Avoiding disastrous church meetings.

by Richard R. Hammar

Key point. 6-12.3. Every church should adopt a system of parliamentary procedure to govern membership meetings. While Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised is a commonly used system, it is not the only available system and will not apply unless a church has adopted it in its governing documents.

Since the earliest days of recorded history, human beings have met to make decisions by debate and consensus. Rules for the proper conduct of group meetings first emerged in the pre-Christian Greek agora and Roman forum. They were further refined in early English history, and eventually described the procedures utilized in Parliament. These "parliamentary procedures" were carried over to the American colonies, with some modifications.

Parliamentary procedure — its origin and purpose

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson published a Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which was quickly adopted by the House of Representatives and several state legislatures. In 1845, Luther Cushing published the first manual on parliamentary procedure for non-governmental associations and organizations. It was called Manual of Parliamentary Practice: Rules of Proceeding and Debate in Deliberative Assemblies, or "Cushing's Manual" for short. But Cushing's work proved inadequate for several reasons. Its greatest deficiency was Cushing's assumption that the burgeoning number of charitable and civic associations would individually create their own rules of order, much like Congress, supplemented by some basic principles common to all. Few did so. By the mid-19th century it was clear that a comprehensive body of parliamentary procedure, generally applicable to all charitable, civic, and business organizations, was needed. The answer came from an unlikely source.

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Posted: March 1, 2010
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