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December 6, 2007: Predetermining the Outcome?

The Presbyterian News Service has an article today regarding the substitute Form of Government. This was not what I was originally intending to write about today; however, this is too amazing to let slide.

Here's the concluding paragraph:

Whatever proposed amendments to the Book of Order the GA agrees on during its summer 2008 meeting in San Jose, CA, will ultimately be sent on via the stated clerk to the denomination’s presbyteries for votes. A majority of the 173 presbyteries must ratify proposed changes to the Book of Order. (emphasis added)

Innocuous -- until you realize what is left out. It is entirely within the authority of General Assembly commissioners to vote "no" on the whole thing.

To be fair: the statement is true. Any proposed amendment to the Book of Order approved by a majority of commissioners -- including or not including the Form of Government -- will be sent out to the presbyteries for vote.

However, in the context of this story, the clear inference to be drawn is that the General Assembly will approve the substitute FoG. If that is a foregone conclusion, let the investigation begin now.

Yes, the FoG committee believes in what it has written. However, in a straight "yes/no" voting situation, it is entirely reasonable to expect that there are sufficient deficiencies that an overwhelming "no" vote would be the result. Thus, from where is the confidence of its passing derived?

Does this seem like I am reading too much into the Presbyterian News Service article? A little too Les Nessman from WKRP? Perhaps. But it also is naive to think that the General Assembly is a level playing field. If the FoG committee has the institutional backing of the Office of the General Assembly (and this has been a pet project of Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick), there will be momentum to drive it through. The vast majority of commissioners will be attending their first Assembly and will be relying heavily on staff to help them through the process -- so you do the math.