The Alaska Conference neglected to deal with an issue in Homer so the bishop allowed us to convene a special virtual session via email. The issue was whether or not to approve a new minimum salary for pastors for 2012. So we set aside a week for debate and three days for final voting.
I was interested to compare the oral vs. written debate processes. I found the email debate to be helpful in a couple of ways. One, it allowed more time for prayerful reflection. Some people need more time to organize their thoughts. Some are gifted with an articulate voice that enables them to speak intelligently on a moment's notice. This email debate gave us the time to ponder and pray about this issue.
Secondly, it provided an environment for introverted people to express their views. Many introverts will find it hard to venture forth to a microphone to speak on an issue even in a small conference like ours. But writing down our thoughts was very helpful.
A 2005 Hartford Seminary study found that destructive conflict is a significant predictor of church decline. I trust that our clergy and lay leaders will continue to model for our churches and communities respectful dialogue on issues where we differ. So thanks to all who debated this minimum salary decision with respect for one another. I'm not sure we should do this more often but it does seem worthy of consideration for some issues.