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May 11, 2008: Buying a House (another way of looking at the nFoG)

I spent some time thinking over the weekend about how difficult it is for commissioners and advisory delegates to appreciate the importance of their decisions. Take the proposed new Form of Government (nFoG) as an example.

The tendency will be for commissioners to skim the document, see a lot of good words, say, "They worked hard on this, we should trust them, so let's give them a passing grade and let the presbyteries sort this out."

Grading a paper is the wrong visual picture. Evaluating the nFoG is much more like buying a house.

If you have ever had the experience of buying a house, there are two things that are true:

1. You think of your current living arrangements in terms of what is wrong; and,

2. You look at new things in terms of what could be right.

However, because of the size of the investment, you work hard to look at things more carefully. You want to make sure the house is well constructed and that the house matches your needs. It has to satisfy both criteria: well constructed and meet your needs. It is entirely possible that a well constructed house may not match your taste or needs.

Just because someone worked hard designing the house does not mean you have to buy it. Further, it could be a perfectly good design for a house -- for someone else. If the impression we have when you walk through is, "I don't think this is what we had in mind," you don't need to study for two more years to come up with the reasons why it is not what you had in mind. Or, even if it is what you had in mind originally, you may walk in and realize that it would not be in your best interest to follow through with it. It was worth considering -- even if it only serves to make you realize the value of your current arrangement.

That's where we are with the nFoG. There are some things we do not like about our current Form of Government. We are looking at the blue prints of a fine house that would meet the needs of some family other than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It does not meet our needs because of the existing family we bring along. We all would have to live in this house. When we remember who we are (not, who we wish we were), we can immediately see that the nFoG would not fit. And it is not just paint colors and window treatments that need to be fixed, the basic floorplan does not work for us.

To take the analogy one step farther, you would not sell your house on a whim and buy the other "just to see if it might work." Once your current house is sold, it is gone. There is no moving back. The decision to change is a permanent one. It should not be made in haste. It would be a catastrophe to make the move only to realize that you liked the old house better.

The default position needs to be "no" until a compelling case can be made that, "Yes, this will meet our needs. We can live in this house well with the family we bring in, and there is room for more. We will not have to spend a lot of time fixing it up."

The General Assembly asked that this task force draw up some blueprints. The task force created the drawings to the specification provided. Now that we look at it, we can see that what we thought we wanted would not work for who we are. Nor is it something that is likely to lead us to where we want to be. It is time to say "thank you" to the task force for their hard work, but not go any farther with this design.