Next – while an on-line meeting may seem to be a “cure-all” for the question of holding a safe meeting, they come with problems of their own.
I watched part of the 2017 broadcast and as an information-delivery mechanism that worked well. One could see the delegates in their in-person interaction, going to a microphone to make their pitch, making amendments to motions, debating the amendments, and all the normal give-and-take that goes with a convention. An observer watching the proceedings would be fine with this. For a delegate that was part of that process, I think they would find it problematic.
Why? As it turns out, quite a bit can go wrong. I’ve watched and been in plenty of on-line meetings and a number of times, it’s been quite the show of issues. There’s been technical issues, people not being recognized, people speaking over their time allotment, embarassing sounds in the background, unexpected people showing up on the screen while a speaker is making their case, cars honking, feedback from badly configured computers, etc.
A good part of the problem with on-line meetings is that there is no control over the environment of the people attending the meeting or the equipment they are using. Without that control, an on-line meeting can be subject to a wide range of ongoing issues over the course of the meeting.
Another issue with the virtual convention format is identifying who is acting as a delegate. The governing documents mandate who can be a delegate, an in-person convention can put processes in place to vet the delegates, identify them with name tags, seat them in a set-aside area area during a convention, take a count of hands for a close vote, passand the like. There’s also the voting process for secret ballots.
A virtual convention has no way to identify and control who is on the end of each remote connection, and though I’m confident there’s technology out there to do this, I’m not aware of a mechanism for casting secret-ballots in an on-line meeting. In addition, anyone that’s had to endure hours on end of on-line meetings can relate to the difficulty in maintaining focus vs other distractions. Virtual meetings are also remarkably tiring, which makes even the simple act of staying awake a struggle.
And all the normal socialization, discussion, debate, horse-trading, and the like that takes place during an in-person convention? In a virtual convention that’s out the window. The one time every four years that all of Synod’s clergy and churchs can get together in one location, catch up with each other, discuss topics of interest, and promote unity – would also be lost.