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April 28, 2008: The "We Wish" nFoG

I cannot imagine two worse articles for the proponents of the new Form of Government (nFoG) than those showing up on Presbyweb this last weekend.

1. This sentence from Presbynews sums up why the nFoG cannot be approved:

"There is no language in the constitution of this church that prohibits same-gender couples from marrying."

So said Sara Taylor, attorney on behalf of the Rev. Jane Spahr. Here's the whole paragraph:

Sara Taylor of San Francisco, one of Spahr’s lawyers, said the 65-year-old retired minister and lesbian activist acted within her rights and did not violate church law by performing the weddings.

“We will agree that there is descriptive language regarding the definition of marriage in the Book of Order, we do not deny that, but unlike ordination or other things there are no mandatory prohibitions,” Taylor told the General Assembly PJC in her opening remarks. “There is no language in the constitution of this church that prohibits same-gender couples from marrying. Disciplinary actions are under the purview of the presbytery.”

Ignoring for the moment the Authoritative Interpretations of the Constitution that specifically state the opposite, and;

ignoring for the moment that it would not matter to the Rev. Spahr even if there were "language in the constitution of this church that prohibits same-gender couples from marrying," the point is this:

The Form of Government is regulatory because we are regulatory; and not the other way around.

Oh, how we wish we were missional. How we wish we could trust one another. How we wish we could "just all get along." How we wish we could get past these arguments. However, this is who we are and our constitution reflects it.

2. Consider the second headline:

Synod of the Sun establishes Administrative Commission for Presbytery of South Louisiana

The purpose of the Administrative Commission is for the Synod to take over the G-8.000 authority specifically granted to presbyteries to make decisions regarding property. Wow. If ever there was a statement of institutional distrust, this would be it. Presbyteries are not to be trusted with the decisions the constitution specifically entrusts to presbyteries.

Now, ask yourself, would the nFoG clarify these situations or exacerbate them? Remember, the nFoG is based on the presumption of trust and is supposed to make us more missional and less regulatory. Would the nFoG make these cases better or worse?

The answer is: the nFoG would make things a lot worse. Eliminating clarity to act on the basis of a presumption of "trust" is irrational in our current situation. It would throw everything -- ordination standards to property -- into chaos. Nothing would be settled and everything would have to be re-litigated. It creates the need for more regulatory behavior: how missional is that?

Don't believe me? Trace through the nFoG yourself and show me how the resolution of these two cases would actually be simpler and clearer. These are real cases -- not a "we wish" world. Show me how the nFoG would make these two cases go away. Before you start, let me warn you: I do not think you can. Aside from the many procedural issues, you would have to prove that the nFoG would make us trust one another and would make us trustworthy.

Look -- the goal to become missional is admirable. I am on board. However, polity reflects behavior. Polity does not initiate behavior. We cannot wish ourselves into being missional by substituting an unworkable polity for what we currently have.

I wish we could.