David Watson has made a serious and sensible proposal about the 2016 General Conference taking measures to keep the focus of the conference on its appointed work. He argues that the General Conference should only allow delegates and conference officials onto the conference floor.
Some will pick up on his use of the word “close” to criticize what he is proposing, but that is lazy. Read the proposal. Watson is not a journalist or a lawyer, so his use of the word “close” is not intended to be heard the way it is used in those professions. What he is arguing for is completely uncontroversial.
Turn on C-SPAN if you want to see what this looks like.
The Congress of the United States — in both its houses — strictly controls access to the legislative floor. Not just anyone can walk into the space. Indeed, I believe the President of the United States needs to have permission and an invitation to do so.
And yet, these sessions are not closed in any meaningful sense of the word. Galleries around the the bodies are open to the public, although a person can be removed for being disruptive. Cable television cameras carry every moment live. Internet sites collect every document discussed. These are open meetings. The only thing that is closed is access to the actual legislative space by those who are not required or authorized to be there.
Of course, General Conference should do the same thing. There is not a school board in America that does not control the floor of its meetings. Surely the highest body in our polity can do the same without controversy.
Indeed, at the risk of being uncharitable here, if the people in charge of organizing the General Conference don’t endorse the idea, then I would question their fitness to do their job.