Reports come in many shapes and sizes, and what an assembly does with a report is a matter of the assembly’s will constrained only by the nature of the report and the rules governing the work of the assembly.
How a Report Comes before the Assembly
Reports come before the assembly in two ways:
- Publication in the Bulletin of Reports; and
- Presentation on the floor of the assembly while in session.
Examples of the latter include the report of Elections Committee, the report of the Registration Committee, the report of the Resolutions Committee. In all these cases, the report is not seen by the assembly until it is presented on the floor.
Some reports, however, that are published in the Bulletin of Reports are still presented on the floor. This may involve the reading of the report, as in the case of the Nominating Committee, or it may be nothing more than the speaker referencing the report without reading it, as the bishop frequently does. In either case, the report is immediately before the assembly, and, though no motion is necessary to receive it (q.v., B7.17), a motion related to its disposition or in response to it is considered germane.
Examples of the former include many reports from agencies and institutions. It is not required under our rules that every agency, institution, or affiliate report in person, taking the mic, nor is it even required that they report at all. When there is no presentation on the floor, any report published in the Bulletin of Reports is considered received by the assembly by virtue of publication without a vote.(B7.17) If the assembly adopts the proposed convention standing rule on germaneness with respect to published reports, a motion related to disposition of any of these reports or in response to the same will be considered germane.
Receiving vs. Accepting
There is a big difference between receiving and accepting a report.
- Receiving a report is equivalent to saying, “Yes, we’ve read/heard it.” That’s it, nothing more. “Receiving” makes no comment about the content of the report, does not take ownership of the report (in the sense that it claims the content of the report as the opinion/position of the assembly), nor does it authorize any recommendations made in the report. Most reports need only be received. Some few reports can only be received, e.g., a financial report which should only ever be received and referred for audit.
- Accepting (a.k.a. “adopting,” “agreeing to”) a report is equivalent to saying, “Everything in this report, we agree to.” By accepting the report, the assembly claims everything in the report as its own opinion/position and authorizes all actionable items in the report as if each of those items had been moved and adopted by the assembly. While one of the fastest ways to do business, it is not always prudent for the assembly to agree to every jot and title in the report.
When recommendations for action are contained in a report, and that report also includes commentary or narrative reflecting the opinion of the reporter (opinions that may not be shared by the assembly), it is better to receive the report and then offer resolutions in response to it. If the reporter is kind, the reporter will include a summary of all recommended actions at the end of the report in the form of “implementing resolutions.”
Action vs. Sense
Some reports contain recommendations for action; others merely report work done or offer some other information to the assembly. If a report contains recommendations for action, those should be clearly identifiable. As previously stated, these recommendations can be adopted by the assembly through either implementing resolutions or accepting the report.
Sometimes, however, a report offers information as information without recommending any particular for action. If the assembly wants to take order some action in response to any matter included in the report, the assembly may do so through a motion offered on the floor.
Other reports contain findings or expressions of opinion. The assembly may want to take ownership of such findings or expressions of opinion, in other words, go beyond merely receiving the report. The assembly may do this by accepting the report, in which case the entire content of the report becomes the word of the assembly. In many cases, it may be better to receive the report and then offer a sense motion. A sense motion orders no action but does formally declare the findings or the opinions of the assembly.
A report might require, in the opinion of the assembly, greater scrutiny, further investigation, thoughtful consideration, or a response that the assembly cannot frame immediately or well in light of circumstances. A report may be referred by the assembly
- back to the original reporter
- to Resolutions Committee for the purpose of drafting a response,
- to Reference & Counsel for review and recommendation,
- to an ad hoc committee,
- to a standing committee, commission, or board, or
- to Synod Council.
The report may be referred with instructions. Those instructions may include parameters for the work undertaken by the party to which the report is referred as well as the timing of the return report.
It is custom, though not rule, that assembly members be allowed to ask questions of those reporting. The chair normally allows this immediately after the report is presented.
When the report is received by publication but no presentation is planned during session, the assembly may summon the reporter to appear before the assembly. This may be done by petitioning Reference & Counsel or by bringing a motion to summon before the assembly.