Special Congregational Meeting Guide

by Sarah Walker, UUC Moderator 2022

With two important motions on the agenda for the January 30 Special Congregational Meeting, many are asking how the meeting will handle voting and discussion. The meeting will follow Roberts Rules and will use the Zoom Webinar procedures we have used in previous meetings for votes, motions, and seconds. The meeting will also introduce a new Zoom process for identifying individuals who want to speak on behalf or against a motion so that I, as moderator, can support discussion that alternates between pro and con positions. To help prepare members for the meeting, I am providing a brief summary of what to expect and how to participate. I will also review this at the beginning of the meeting next Sunday. My goal is to provide clear information so that members have the information to fully participate.

Members most commonly participate in congregational meetings by voting and raising motions (if desired). Members can also raise a “point of order” if they feel I have not followed Roberts Rules or a “point of privilege” if they want more information about a topic raised by a speaker. These are uncommon. More commonly, a member might move to postpone voting on a motion (the original motion is brought back later), refer the motion to committee (the original motion is referred to a committee for additional work), or amend the language of a motion (the language of the original motion is adjusted in the current meeting). I am strongly urging members to not use “motion to amend” because wordsmithing language in real time triggers multiple, complicated rounds of voting on the amended language.

Members will raise motions or points by order by raising their “Zoom hand” during the meeting. Members can only raise motions to refer/postpone/amend a motion when that original motion is under discussion. For example, a motion to refer one of the Bylaws to a committee can only be raised when the original motion to approve the bylaw is under discussion. A point of order can be raised at any time. Any motion raised by a member will need to be seconded before we open for discussion and vote. We will ask for seconds in the chat rather than a raise of hand. This would look something like the following: Someone raises their Zoom hand during the discussion portion of the motion, this is brought to my (moderator) attention, this person is given the floor after the current speaker is finished, the person says “I move to refer the current motion to the board to review the language and bring it back to vote at the next meeting,” I ask for a second, (if seconded) I then open for discussion and ask the person speaking on behalf of referral if they would like to speak on behalf of referring to committee (member speaks), I then ask if anyone would like to speak against referring the language to committee. I will then make a judgement about how many more members to have speak on behalf or against, following this, I will ask the members to vote. Members will vote using a poll that will pop up on their screen.

Motions to refer need to pass by a simple majority of those attending the meeting to pass. If the motion to refer to committee does not pass, I will go back to original motion and continue the discussion of that motion.

Typically, meetings being facilitated with Roberts Rules will alternate speakers who have pro and con positions for the business being discussed. In a live meeting scenario, the moderator knows who wants to speak for and against by asking members to line up at two different microphones. To mimic this in a Zoom environment, we will ask everyone who wants to speak “for” to raise their Zoom hand, take those names, and then ask the same for “against.” As moderator, I will then call on people to speak, alternating between pro and con. Again, to raise a motion, a member simply raises their Zoom hand during the pause between speakers in the discussion portion of a motion. The member will be recognized right away or as soon as the current speaker is finished. 

The meeting begins by ensuring we have a quorum, which is 47 members in good standing of UUC. Once we have established a quorum, I will introduce the people playing key roles for the meeting and ask for a motion to pass the minutes and the agenda for the meeting. If the agenda is approved, we will proceed through the agenda as indicated which means that we need to take each motion as it appears on the agenda (the Bylaws and then the proposed 8th UU Principle). If someone moves to amend the agenda, the person will need to propose how they would like this amended, I will ask for a second, we will open for discussion, and then follow the procedures as outlined in the example, above.

The UUC board chair, Rosemary Daszkiewicz, will be making the motions to approve the proposed changes in the Bylaws and Jewels Mellen will make the motion to approve the 8th UU Principle. Both Rosemary and Jewels will speak to the motions, first, and then I will open discussion to others who would like to speak for and against (as outlined above). Members can also make motions in between speakers as outlined above. Members wishing to speak will have three minutes each. I will gently interrupt the speaker at three minutes to let them know time is up. 

The original motions to replace the Bylaws (as a whole) and the 8th UU Principle will require 2/3 majority to pass. Motions referring language to committee (if raised) will require a simple majority. 

I strongly urge members to not propose a motion to amend during the meeting; as explained above, this is likely to take up a lot of time, be confusing to members as we need to follow intricate parliamentary procedure, and is likely to be unsuccessful in identifying preferred language. However, this is an option and if a member feels that a change in language would have the support of the majority of members at the meeting, it is that member’s right to propose a motion to amend.

Robert’s Rules of Order allows many other types of motions and “rules of order” and other ways to inject during a meeting. These options exist to ensure that a meeting is proceeding fairly, and ensuring that all sides of an issue have a reasonable opportunity to be heard. If any of them arise during the meeting I will do my best to explain what is happening. Explanations of these other options are available on our website at UUC Congregational Meetings and Robert’s Rules of Order, and Parliamentary Procedure for Meetings.