Reasons for Governance

As soon as we start meeting together we are making decisions. What time? Who will speak? Who will pray? Even if you decide to let everyone who wants to sing have a turn, that in itself is a decision. Should one person or the majority make the decisions? Do we discuss the matter first or do we vote immediately. All of these choices even the choices about how to make choices are part of how we govern ourselves.

Experience on the playground teaches us the injustice of "might makes right." Bullying, aggression, and loud voices seldom result in fair and equitable group decision making. But at the same time, giving everyone an equal time on every issue can bring all activity to a grinding halt.

Most church and civic business meetings in the United States run according to Robert's Rules of Order. These rules were first published in 1876 by Henry Martyn Robert who when asked to preside over a church meeting was embarrassed to find he had no idea of how to proceed. Robert's rules stressed "that:

  • the majority must rule,
  • the minority must be heard,
  • the rights of the individual must be guaranteed, and
  • justice and courtesy must prevail;"

South Carolina General Assembly, 110th Session, 1993-1994, Bill 1281
Resolution to Honor Henry Martyn Robert

In the Presbyterian Church all business meetings are run using Robert's Rules of Order

For Further Study

The current edition of Robert's Rules is under copyright and not available online, but the 1915 edition (adequate for our purposes) is available here.