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May 28, 2008:

DAY 10 ON nFoG WATCH: The challenge stands, however, to show how the nFoG would better handle the divisive issues faced under the current Form of Government -- Jane Spahr, the Synod administrative commission regarding property decisions, and money. In other words, trace these cases through the specific provisions of the nFoG and show how the results would be better. Local option is not better; it would guarantee schism.

Today in the mail I received the May 26 edition of the Presbyterian Outlook. There is an article with a most favorable reading of the nFoG by Joe Small, and a second piece by Merwyn Johnson entitled "Four Problems with the Draft Revision of the Form of Government."

My reading of Joe Small's piece reminds me of my starting point months ago: his is a reading in the "light most favorable" to the draft; unfortunately, that's not how things actually work in the PC(USA). The better standard for evaluating the nFoG is, "Will things actually be better or worse under the nFoG?" It is not fair to evaluate the existing Form of Government in terms of our current situation and to grant the nFoG some other, less contentious population by which to judge. The standard is not "could it be better?" because, under that standard, things could be better under our current Form of Government. Will it be better?

It is why the "house-buying" illustration is the best approach to evaluating the nFoG. It may look like a nice house and it might be pretty -- but if it does not work for the family for which you are trying to provide a home, it is not a good idea to buy.

Committee Survey, Committee 9, Social Justice Issues

Yesterday, I raised the question about "what exactly are we going to get to do?"

If ever there was a committee that had the possibility to do something, it is Committee 9, Social Justice Issues. They could "just say no."

There is no way for me to do a quick survey of the substance of the business they are going to handle; just as there is no way they are going to be able to take a substantive look into the business they are going to be asked to approve. Look for a moment at the sheer range of things they are going to "speak" on behalf of the church:

[09-05] On Addressing the Tragedy of America’s Gun Violence.
[09-06] Public Education for the 21st Century.
[09-07] From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God’s People. (Reviewed: here.)
[09-08] God’s Work in Women’s Hands: Pay Equity and Just Compensation.
[09-09] A Social Creed for the Twenty-First Century and Recognition of the Centennial of the “Social Creed of the Churches” of 1908. (Reviewed: here.)
[09-10] The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming. (Reviewed: here.)
[09-11] A Resolution to Study Immigration Detention in the United States.
[09-12] Resolution to Explore the Study of the Status of Women at All Levels in the PC(USA).
[09-13] Hearing and Singing New Songs to God: Shunning Old Discords and Sharing New Harmonies.
[09-14] Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform. (Reviewed: here.)
[09-15] Struck Down, But Not Destroyed: From Hurricane Katrina to a More Equitable Future.
[09-16] Creating a Climate for Change Within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Report to the 218th General Assembly (2008).
[09-17] On the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Their Contributions in Recovery Work.
[09-18] On the Incorporation of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
[09-19] Response to Smithfield Food Labor Situation.

Are you kidding me? That's a lot of telling other people what they ought to be doing. Homelessness, by itself, could take up the entire time for this committee. (A better but unlikely option is for several other committees with little work to take on some of these issues.)

This docket raises questions of stewardship and identifying the audience for these statements. Is the prophetic witness speaking to the church or for the church. Sam Schriener addressed this directly in his letter to the editor in the Outlook (could not find it posted on the site -- does not mean it was not there, it just means I could not find it -- this may be updated if I do), "Too many Presbyterians get all fired up when they hear that a General Assembly has made 'such and such' a pronouncement (that) they can't agree with. I've always reminded my new members classes that our General Assemblies speak TO the church, not FOR the church. It is up to all of us together to discern where God may be leading us next."

This reminder needs to be made as Committee 9 considers possible assignments to ACSWP. It is not good stewardship to generate massive papers that will not be read outside of the PC(USA) and will have a limited reading inside the PC(USA). For example, Item 09-05 for ACSWP to study Public Education would have a $33,000 price tag. Who is the audience for that paper? And how about Item 09-19 regarding the Smithfield Food Labor Situation, for which the recommendation begins, "In light of the continuing pattern of mutual suspicion, intimidating litigation, and labor tension, despite some apparent improvements in worker safety, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) recommends that the 218th General Assembly (2008):" -- is this really a General Assembly issue or a local presbytery (or even synod) issue? And, is the intended audience Presbyterians or is it the management of the Smithfield Food?