During the course of an assembly, one may hear different motions and terms. Here is a list of common motions and terms with brief explanations. In no way is this list exhaustive or detailed. The motions are divided into three categories: 1) those motions dealing with the rules, 2) those motions dealing with the flow of business, and 3) motions that deal with words.

The parliamentarian usually has a spare copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, which can be borrowed. The parliamentarian is willing to explain technicalities and/or research questions about the rules. If a voting member is not sure how to make a motion or even what motion to make in order to accomplish what the member wants to accomplish, the member may ask the parliamentarian for assistance. It is also the right of a voting member to formally make a Parliamentary Inquiry of the chair.

Dealing with the Rules

Parliamentary Inquiry
A question directed to the chair which asks for an explanation of procedure or rules related to the business at hand. A member may use this device to find out what the proper motion is to accomplish some goal. Form: “Rev. Chair, a Parliamentary Inquiry:…”

Point of Information
Nearly identical to parliamentary inquiry, this allows the member to ask a question for the sake of clarification or more information. It may be directed to the chair or to another. It may even be asked of a speaker (so long as it does not interrupt). Form: “Rev. Chair, will the speaker yield to a question?” The speaker is under no obligation to do so.

Point of Order
Through this device, a member asks the chair to enforce the rules of the assembly. E.g., it can be used to silence excessive and loud chatter between members while another is speaking. It can be used to call the chairs attention to the fact that the speaker has exhausted his/her time, has spoken more times than the rules permit, etc.. It is one of the rare devices which is order when another has the floor so long as the point must be dealt with immediately. Form: the member rises and says, “Point of Order!”

Suspend the Rules
Let’s face it, sometimes parliamentary procedures does get in the way. Suspending the rules allows the assembly to take action which is not normally permitted under the rules of order. It can never be applied to provisions of the constitution or bylaws, unless a suspension is provided for in the provisions themselves. Form: “Rev. Chair, I move to suspend the rules which interfere with…”

A member, believing that the chair has ruled incorrectly on a matter of order, may ask the assembly to overturn the decision. It must be moved immediately. Form: “Rev.nChair, I appeal from the decision of the chair.”

Unanimous Consent
A.k.a., “general consent,” this functions as prefix to other motions. It helps tonexpedite business when the motion being made faces little or no opposition. E.g., unanimous consent can be used to approve the minutes. It requires no second, and the chair does not call for a vote. Instead the chair asks if there is any objection. If you do object to the motion, speak up quickly! One objection vetoes unanimous consent. The mover can then make the motion normally. Form: “Rev. Chair, I ask unanimous consent to approve the minutes.”

Dealing with the Flow

Postpone Indefinitely
The effect is to bury the main motion without it coming to a yea or nay vote. In short, it kills the main motion. Can be applied only to the main motion.

Postpone Definitely
The effect is to delay further consideration of the pending motion until a specific time or condition has been met.

Lay on the Table
This motion is used to temporarily lay aside the pending question so that more pressing business can be handled. There is no appointed time for return of the question to consideration, but assembly may at will return it to the floor through the motion To Take from the Table.

Sends the pending motion (and all motions to which it adheres) to a committee. The committee is specified, and instructions may be given to the committee which either constrain or empower it. If it is an ad hoc committee (i.e., a committee specially created to consider the matter), the number, members, and/or method of appointment of the committee may be specified by the mover but need not be.

To take a break without adjourning the meeting or session. This can be used for the obvious benefits that a break offers. It can also be used, e.g., to suspend business to allow for caucuses and other conversations between members to work out compromises on pending business.

Limit (or extend limits) of Debate
A truly versatile motion, this device allows the assembly to specify the length of speeches, the number of speeches a given member may make, to total amount of time that debate can take place, etc..

Previous Question
The effect is to immediately close debate on the pending question (and other questions specified), thus bringing it to an immediate vote in most cases. Form: “Rev. Chair, I move the previous question.”

The effect is to of the motion is to return to consideration of the assembly a question that had been decided earlier in the same session. In most cases, the motion to reconsider may only be moved by a member of the prevailing side when the question was first considered.

Dealing with the Words

This motion attempts to modify the language of the pending question by striking (deleting), adding, or substituting (a combination of both) words. If an amendment to a main motion is pending, one may move to amend the amendment–-this is called an amendment in the second degree. Amendments in the third degree (i.e., an amendment to an amendment to an amendment) is not permitted.

This motion is a form of amendment whereby the entire content of a pending question is replaced with new content. This motion is also employed to allow debate on the merits of two different questions at the same time.

Accept the Report / Adopt the Report
This is only used when a report proposes some action or states some opinion which requires the assembly’s agreement or adoption in its entirety. Reports that merely provide information are never “accepted.” They are merely received, which requires no formal action in most cases. When a report does contain recommendations for action, it is normally best to only move adoption of those specific actions.

—-Prepared for the WV-WMD Synod Assembly 2006; revised 2019


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