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May 21, 2008:

DAY 6 ON nFoG WATCH: I have been looking around on-line for anyone writing in support of the nFoG (that is, anyone who was not a part of the Task Force itself).

1. Today, I had the first link of someone writing generally in favor -- without addressing the specific challenges posed (Spahr, Synod of South administrative commission, money). That's not a fair criticism of the article because it was not written as a response to me. So, here is someone advocating in favor of the nFoG: Louis Weeks. (Hat tip: Jack Haberer for the link.) Relevant paragraph:

The proposal that church councils will form necessary committees and procedures to do their work means we must trust others regionally and locally to exercise justice and prudence in their particular circumstances. Certainly, the Presbyterian Church envisioned in the Report of the Form of Government Committee prescribes a heavier dose of Gospel, grace, and trust than our church law practiced previously. Can we embrace the freedom that the Report invites us to live into?

Trust. Weeks' argument is based on the assumption that approval of the nFoG means that the denomination is prepared to go forward in an atmosphere of trust. It requires we trust others regionally and locally to exercise justice and prudence in their particular circumstances.

But does that mean we are to ignore our current situation? Isn't the abuse of trust part of the reason why we are regulatory? Evangelicals do not trust Progressives to uphold ordination standards (purity). Progressives do not trust Evangelicals to uphold community (unity) by their manifesting a willingness to release congregations (the property issue being only a symptom). Assuming trust going forward denies where we are -- it is taking a blind step off a cliff.

So, as regards the nFoG Watch, I suppose it is fair to say that Louis Weeks is in favor of the nFoG generally. I am going to maintain the watch for someone to show how this nFoG proposal would (not just could) make things better. I am not willing to grant the conditional assumption "if we are willing to trust each other." If we could trust each other, our current Form of Government would be missional, too.

2. I also had someone write in support of the Foothills overture that would approve a highly amended version of the nFoG. This is a different approach than the one I originally solicited -- but it is every bit as valid a response to the challenge. Because San Diego Presbytery met today, I have not been able to confirm permission to post the note. So, just know there may be another entry in the response to the nFoG Watch tomorrow.

The writer posed the question why have I (and others) spent so little time on the Foothills overture? It is a fair question. The short answer is because it is unlikely that the GA will spend much time on it. That's not fair to whoever put in the time and effort to do the legwork to get it before this Assembly -- but that's the reality of Assemblies. If commissioners have not spent a lot of time studying the current Form of Government, done the comparisions with the nFoG, they are unlikely to go the extra step to figure out what is in the Foothills overture.

Even so, I think that Foothills did the GA a favor. On the one hand, the overture highlights how much work the nFoG needs and why it should not simply be passed quickly. On the other hand, if the decision on nFoG gets a time delay (two year study or something like it), then the Foothills option will have a better opportunity to be considered as an alternative.

Committee Survey: Committee 6, Revision of the Form of Government (nFoG).

Yeah, yeah, I know. Enough already. ....Well, I'm just trying to do things decently and in order.

There are sixteen items listed. 06-01 is the report from the Task Force. It is what we have been calling the nFoG. Just a technical note here: I don't know if it is a Mac thing or what - when I click on this item, it takes a while to open up (not surprising because of the size of the file), but I have to scroll down through about two blank screens before I get to the text. I have not heard anyone else having this experience -- but if you click on it and wonder where it went, that may help.

Items 06-02 through 06-10 are variations on requests for more time to study. Some simply commend the nFoG to the presbyteries for study, others would refer the business for action to the 219th General Assembly (2010). There are more nuances in these items, but those outside the committee are not going to get bogged down in these details until the committee makes its final recommendation.

Items 06-11 and 06-12 propose requiring a super-majority (2/3) for approval of the Foundations section, delay for two years in voting on the rest.

Item 06-13 is a substantive re-write of the nFoG by Foothills Presbytery. Someone put in a lot -- and I do mean, a lot -- of effort into trying to address the specific problems inherent in the draft proposed by the nFoG Task Force. I am not going to go into a lot of detail about this today, I will be addressing this in the weeks to come. For now, I would encourage you to read the response linked above in the nFoG Watch.

Item 06-14 would allow for "provisional" presbyteries; that is, a limited group of presbyteries which would volunteer to try to live into the nFoG so that there would be some practical experience to upon which to evaluate whether the nFoG is a real solution the denomination would like to pursue.

Items 06-15 and 06-16 would make amendments to the nFoG regarding temporary pastoral relations and requirements for committees on representation.