Nary An Unpublished Thought







May 10, 2008: Whose Ox Is Gored?

As we consider the Advisory Committee on the Constitution (ACC) advice regarding "transitional presbyteries" (Item 07-13) and the questions regarding G-6.0108a (Items 05-16 and 05-17), a question comes up: why is the ACC so hot to have an authoritative interpretation in one, and not to make a clerical -- albeit constitutional -- change in the other?

This got me to thinking. The ACC is recommending a review process for something strictly limited to presbytery discretion; and seeking to avoid a review process for something that is specifically not limited to presbytery discretion. It seems backwards.

At the risk of being redundant, let me write it again to see if I understand it correctly:

On the one hand, the ACC advice is presbyteries should not be trusted with property decisions the constitution specifically grants to the presbyteries. Despite the specific constitutional provisions limiting the authority to make property decisions to the presbytery (G-11.0103i, G-8.0301), the ACC recommendation would function to restrict the authority of presbyteries by insinuating a review process by higher governing bodies.

On the other hand, the ACC advice is presbyteries should be exclusively trusted with ordination decisions that apply to the entire church. The ACC argued that no constitutional change was needed despite the GA PJC's footnote #3 -- which speculated about the impact removing ordination questions from the Form of Government had on the interpretation of G-6.0108a.

Presbyteries must not be trusted for property. Presbyteries must be trusted for ordination. Property is essential. Ordination is local option.


This is the old institutional mindset protecting property. Consciously or not, the message the ACC is conveying is that property binds us together, not our confessional heritage. You can have local option on anything but property -- because that's what is really important.

So what? What should we do about it? Remember. Remember what it is that the ACC is doing: it is advising. It does not have the authority to bind commissioners, to vote for commissioners, to compel commissioners to do or not do anything. It is an institutional version of this blog -- authoritative only insofar is it is persuasive.

As for these two bits of ACC advise, I am not persuaded. As for my two bits; well, that's up to you.