Friday, July 2, 2010

Robert's Rules of Order: Challenging the Chair

"It has been more important institutionally to have gained a mastery of Robert's Rules of Order...than either the Bible or the Westminster Confession."
So wrote Gary North in Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church. In light of this, I occasionally will offer summary or tip on a particular parliamentary procedure taken from Robert's Rules of Order (see my previous entry on "To Adjourn"). Ruling Elders need to be familiar with these rules and be able to use them effectively.

Today, I bring to your attention a procedure that is not used very often, but which is very important: Challenging the Chair.

It is the Moderator's job to determine when a certain action is "out of order"; however, the Moderator's decision is not final. It can be appealed. If the Moderator rules something out of order, any member of the body can immediately rise and state "Mr. Moderator, I appeal from the decision of the chair," regardless of who has the floor. An important point to note is that this must be done immediately, because if any other business transpires between the Moderator's ruling (that something is out of order) and the challenge, the challenge can no longer be made.

Once the challenge is made and seconded, the question is put to the body: "Shall the decision of the chair [Moderator] be sustained?" The body then votes; a "yes" will be in favor of the Moderator's ruling, a "no" will be against the Moderator ruling.

The most important thing to remember though, is that if a motion/action/speech/etc. is ruled out of order by the Moderator, that decision is not final, and may be appealed.

For another description of Challenging the Chair, see: Simplified Rules of Order: Challenging the Chair.


  1. Good to know! This will help in keeping your Dad in line more in the future (since he tends to be Moderator for most Association meetings). :-)

  2. Thanks for describing this truly important point so clearly and well! We find that in general, attendees at meetings are overly fearful of the authority of the person running the meeting. It's a fundamental principle of Robert's Rules that the group is the final authority, not the presider. Ann G. Macfarlane, PRP