Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Messengers, Not Delegates

There is a discussion playing out in news headlines right now that underscores the reason for a seemingly odd practice in at least some Baptist circles. As you have probably seen, there are deep divisions in the GOP over Donald Trump serving as the presidential nominee of the party. Indeed, opposition to Trump in party ranks is so strong that some delegates to the Republican National Convention are pressing for a change in the rules allowing them to vote their conscience so they won't be forced to vote for Trump.

In general, delegates can't necessarily vote according to their own conscience. By definition delegates attend a convention with delegated authority from some other body to vote according to the instructions of the body that sent them. Delegates are expected to vote according to the instructions of the sending body whether or not those instructions are aligned with their consciences.  

In the Baptist circles of which I've been a part for much of my life, those who register to vote at Baptist conventions or general assemblies are known as messengers rather than delegates. The reason for this seemingly odd terminology is linked to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. One of the implications of this doctrine is that we believe it is wrong to coerce the conscience of a fellow believer (or anyone else for that matter). Messengers, unlike delegates, are expected to prayerfully vote their own consciences at a convention or general assembly. 

Every year it seems there are examples of the press labeling voters at Baptist conventions or general assemblies "delegates" rather than "messengers." Indeed, I've heard quite a few long-time Baptists make this mistake.  Certainly there are more pressing issues facing us than the names we use for convention voters. But it isn't often that we get such a good teaching moment to highlight the fact that many Baptists use the term "messenger" rather than "delegate" and the reason for the difference.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Jury duty ... again

This Wednesday I have to report for jury duty here in Wake County, North Carolina. Originally I was to report about two weeks ago, right in the middle of a cruise that Terri and I had been planning for months. Fortunately, I was able to get a postponement, but, unless I hear something otherwise in the next couple of days, I will have to show up at the courthouse later this week.

This will be the third time in 22 years that I have been called for jury duty. The fist time I was summoned to federal court in Wilmington, North Carolina. In that instance I was selected to serve on a jury and the trial lasted for a full nine days--nearly two full work weeks. The second time I was again selected to serve on a jury for a case in district court in Brunswick County, North Carolina. That trial lasted a full four days and I was elected foreman of that jury.

I don't mean to shirk my civic duty, but I've been asking around and I can't find anyone else who has done as much time in jury service as I have. I haven't taken a scientific survey and I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who have been called more and have served longer on juries. Yet in my circle of friends and family, I have found no one who has been called for jury duty as many times or served as many days as I have. Furthermore, numerous registered voters and/or licensed drivers (master jury lists are compiled from lists of registered voters and licensed drivers) have told me that they have been of jury selection age in North Carolina for 30-plus, 40-plus and 50-plus years and have never been called for jury duty.  

I realize that it's possible to be called for jury duty every two years. Yet after asking around and finding no one else who has served as many times or as many days, I'm starting to wonder how I'm getting so "lucky" about jury service. I'm beginning to have some suspicions about the randomness of the selection process.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, well, I guess I am. Still, I'll be at the courthouse on Wednesday and I'll do my best to serve well as a juror if I'm impaneled. But, to be honest, I'm starting to feel like I've done my time when it comes to jury duty. I hope I get off easy this time by getting excused.