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May 14, 2008: Counting the Days, Counting the Ways

DAY 1 ON nFoG WATCH: Yesterday, I wrote, " I have been looking around on-line and have not found anyone writing in support of the nFoG (that is, anyone who was not a part of the Task Force itself). Can you? If so, send me a link. I will post, I promise. Is there a presbytery, a stated clerk, an executive presbyter or other blogger who is advocating for the nFoG?"

The two challenges I posed are real controversies in our midst: the Jane Spahr case (human sexuality/marriage) and the administrative commission approved by the Synod of the Sun to review and approve any property decisions made by the South Louisana Presbytery (property).

Thus far, I have had two e-mail with suggestions of names of persons who might be in favor of the nFoG; however, none with a link or anyone advocating the nFoG in terms of the issues I have raised. By the way, this is not simply an academic exercise: I am a commissioner who will be voting on the nFoG at the 218th General Assembly. If I have missed the boat on this thing and someone can explain how it would work well, I would prefer to know that now.

To further clarify the challenge: I am not looking for someone who objects to portions of the current Form of Government -- that is, unless there is a specific showing of how this proposed nFoG would handle things better. The argument is not whether our current Form of Government is perfect. It is not. The question also is not whether there might be a better Form of Government possible. There might be. The question is whether the proposed nFoG is better than our current Form of Government. I am looking for someone to show how this draft, in the version presented to commissioners, would handle things better or would resolve the issues.

Let me add a third challenge: money. Proposed section 3.0107 Administration of Mission provides

“The administration of mission demonstrates the unity and interdependence of the church, in that councils share with one another responsibilities, rights, and powers (F-3.0203). Through their members and elected commissioners, lower councils participate in planning and administration of the work of higher councils, and in consultation between bodies concerning mission, budget, staffing and fair employment practices, and matters of equitable compensation.

“The funding of mission similarly demonstrates the unity and interdependence of the church. The failure of any part of the church to participate in the stewardship of the mission of the whole church diminishes that unity and interdependence. All mission funding should enable the church to give effective witness in the world to the new reality of God in Jesus Christ. Each council shall prepare an annual budget. Councils higher than the session may request funds for their mission and for support of the meetings and ongoing functions through which the interdependence of the church is lived out. Presbyteries are responsible for raising their own funds and for raising and timely transmission of requested funds to their respective synods and the General Assembly. Presbyteries may apportion requested funds to sessions within their bounds.

(emphasis mine). Here's my question -- as yet unanswered -- does "are" mean "shall" or "may"? In the earlier draft, it meant "shall."

Here's why that is important. There is no distinction between per capita and mission giving. Thus, when synods and the General Assembly "request" funds for their program and expenses, it makes a difference whether

a) the presbyteries are required to remit those funds; or

b) the presbyteries can make the decision whether to remit any funds.

I would imagine the ambiguity would last until the first presbytery decided as a matter of conscience not to forward any money to the Synod or General Assembly. Then, what would happen?

So, the challenge is to show how this language is better than the current Form of Government, how it would lead us in being more missional and less regulatory. In answering this question, the issue is not how you think it should be decided our how it probably will be decided, but how you can demonstrate with confidence that there will not be any need for any further regulatory process to make clear what is the result.

I am going to move onto other issues tomorrow, but I am going to keep counting during the "nFoG Watch."