Presbyteries act on Amendment 10-1:
The New Form of Government
Presbyteries have approved a new Form of Government
Trinity Presbytery has become the 87th presbytery
to approve the amendment [6-8-11]
from the Office of the General Assembly, by
Sharon Youngs, Communications Coordinator
LOUISVILLE – June 7, 2011 – While the Office of
the General Assembly awaits official tallies, it appears that a
majority of the 173 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
have approved a new Form of Government.
At its meeting on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, Trinity
Presbytery became the 87th presbytery to approve an amendment that
will replace the current 18-chapter Form of Government with a new
version that is six chapters in length. The Form of Government is
one section of the Book of Order, which is part of the PC(USA)
Along with the new Form of Government will be a
new section of the Book of Order entitled “Principles of
Presbyterian Polity,” which contains a large majority of the content
of the first four chapters of the current Form of Government.
The proposed new Form of Government (FOG) was
approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA). Two
years earlier, a proposed revision had been presented to the 218th
General Assembly (2008) by the FOG Task Force. That assembly
reconstituted the task force and asked it to present a revised
version to the 219th GA based on the feedback received at the 218th
Governance in a Time of Ferment – observations on Amendment
10-1, the proposed New Form of Government
Rev. Margaret J. Thomas has served the Presbyterian Church in a
variety of roles over many years. Now honorably retired and
living in Minneapolis, she was the Deputy Executive Director of
the UPC/GAMC, and then executive of the Synod of Lakes and
Prairies. She then served as executive of the Minnesota Council
of Churches, and during that time she became a member and
moderator of both the GA Permanent Judicial Commission and the
Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Out of this broad and
deep experience, she offers some of her insights on the proposed
new Form of Government – both describing its positive aspects
and pointing to two proposed changes that could undermine the
whole distinctive style of governance in the Presbyterian Church
time when the denomination is having trouble sustaining its
presbyteries and synods as both programmatic and ecclesiastical
structures, she sees the new, leaner structure as offering “a
less directive Constitutional framework for allowing each
presbytery to shape its structures and operational manuals to
function in whatever way most effectively reflects the realities
of its geography, size, missional priorities, levels of
diversity, staffing, and financial realities.”
she warns, current efforts to push this new structure into
“smaller, ecclesiastically focused entities with little to no
staff and programmatic initiatives arising solely out of the
congregations. Some even envision a return to state based
missional synods,” which would lose the distinctive and valued
diversity within the Presbyterian Church.
second concern focuses on groups pressing for “a polity that
would allow them to organize themselves into affinity groups for
governance.” This often takes the form of proposals for
“non-geographical” presbyteries or synods, such as the current
Korean-language based presbyteries. She urges strongly against
this way of allowing some Presbyterians and congregations simply
ignore provisions of the Constitution with which they disagree,
while maintaining full participation in the legislative process
by which those rules are adopted and applied.
concludes that “such proposals move beyond the Foundational
Principles of Presbyterian governance – expressed in a polity
which has ample room for dissent within the bounds of mutual
forbearance without the creation of church dividing parallel
encourage you to look at her full essay (it’s just over 2
pages, in PDF format)
We'd like to hear your comments!
Please send a
to be shared here!
|More thoughts on the proposed
new Form of Government [1-24-11]
Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the 219th Assembly, will be discussed in
most of the presbyteries of the PC(USA) during the next few months.
One helpful resource for your reflection, if you have
about 45 minutes to watch it, is a video prepared by the presbyteries of
Boston and Southern New England, featuring Paul Hooker, one of the authors
of the new FoG proposal, in conversation with a number of other people.
Click here for the video >>
Some reasons for
We’ve also received a thoughtful comment from
the Rev. Jean Southard:
I don't know how the rest of you feel about the proposed
new Form of Government, but I will be voting against it.
There are two primary reasons, and they are related:
First, G-6.0106b will still be in there under a new
number. I think it will be harder to get this paragraph out of the new FoG
because people will want to say that we just voted for this and we don't
need to change it. I have decided not to vote for this paragraph, even when
it is disguised under a new number and in a different FoG.
[A note from your WebWeaver: The 218th
General Assembly, in creating the FoG task force, specifically
prohibited it from dealing with G-6.0106b. So removing the ban on LGBT
ordination must be accomplished in some other way – hopefully by the
approval of Amendment 10-A in the coming months.]
Second, the present G-4.0400 which is now labeled
"Diversity and Inclusiveness" would, in the new form, be labeled "Unity in
Diversity." It is a deliberate move to call for unity at the expense of
inclusiveness. As much as I value unity, I will not be ready for a new Form
of Government until the church decides that it is not the church unless
everyone is included.
My other reasons are secondary but still important, at
least to me. They have to do with the fact that we are a connectional
church, but we are now being told that presbyteries and churches should be
making up their own rules about things, including what to call our major
committees. Suppose in the future I want to contact the Committee on
Ministry chair in Redwoods Presbytery. How will I know who to ask for if
they call their CoM the Ministry Team and we call ours the Oversight
Committee. We'll just have to ask, "What are you calling your CoM now?" And
the generation after us won't even know to ask that. In short, I think the
new FoG makes it hard to be connectional.
Those are my two cents worth.
We invite your comments on the FoG
proposal, pro or con!
Just send a note,
to be shared here.
219th General Assembly proposes a new
Form of Government
[from PVJ's Network News,
Summer 2010, posted here on 11-3-10]
The General Assembly voted to recommend a
revised Form of Government to the presbyteries by a vote of 468 in favor,
204 against, and 6 abstentions — a 70%-30% margin. The new Form of
• Foundations of Presbyterian Polity — the
principles that are foundational to government, worship, and discipline for
the PC(USA) — preserves the vast majority of the material in the first four
chapters of the current Form of Government.
• Form of Government — in six chapters,
which spells out the constitutional framework for government of the PC(USA)
as it seeks to respond to God’s call to life in mission.
• Advisory Handbook for Councils for the
Development of Policies and Procedures — required by the Form of Government
as an aid to councils (governing bodies) of the church for developing the
policies and procedures to carry out their mission.
Nothing will actually be changed until a
majority of presbyteries vote to approve this new Form of Government. Voting
must be completed by July 10, 2011, and if affirmative, the new Book of
Order would take effect the next day.
The proposed Foundations of Presbyterian
Polity and Form of Government are intended to help the church better meet
the needs of mission in the 21st century.
The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity
gathers together in three succinct chapters the historical and theological
provisions that have defined, and continue to define, our church life
together. Placing this bedrock material into a separate section of the Book
of Order will provide a teaching tool to explain who and what we are.
The current Form of Government has evolved
over the years from a Constitution into a regulatory manual that attempts to
provide a “one size fits all” answer to every situation faced by
congregations and presbyteries. The problem with this regulatory approach is
that the diverse, multicultural environment in which we do mission no longer
permits a “one size fits all” approach if we are to do mission effectively.
The proposed new Form of Government lifts up the constitutional standards
that are essential to our life together, while at the same time empowering
councils (governing bodies) at all levels to respond more effectively to the
ministry and mission needs that each faces.
The Office of the General Assembly suggests these main sources for the study
of this important proposal.
[posted here 11-3-10]
amendment would replace the current Form of Government in the Book
Proposed Amendments to the Constitution —
Part 1 of 3 (Includes
Foundations of Presbyterian Polity, Form of Government, and Advisory
Handbook for Councils for the Development of Policies and Procedures
Required by the Form of Government.)
Foundations of Presbyterian Polity —
lays out the principles that are foundational to government,
worship, and discipline for the PC(USA). Preserves the vast majority
of the material in the first four chapters of the current Form of
Government. (Korean and Spanish versions are being prepared.)
Form of Government —
in six chapters, spells out the constitutional framework for
government of the PC(USA) as it seeks to respond to God’s call to
life in mission. (Korean and Spanish versions are being prepared.)
Advisory Handbook for Councils for the Development of
Policies and Procedures Required by the Form of Government —
an aid to councils (governing bodies) of the church for developing
the policies and procedures to carry out their mission.
About the Proposed Amendments — Part 1 of 3(Includes
a letter from the Stated Clerk, Recommendations from the 219th General
Assembly (2010), General Information, and Study Guide.)
Frequently asked questions that
address key issues about the task force’s report.
What Is Missional Ecclesiology? from
Paul Hooker, minister member of the FOG Task Force, member of the Advisory
Committee on the Constitution.
A letter to PC(USA) elders from
Carol Hunley, a task force member who is a ruling elder.
A brief reflection on the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity by
noted author William Chapman.
Comparison Chart: Proposed Foundations and Form of Government
to Current Form of Government
Comparison Chart: Current Form of Government to Proposed
Foundations and Form of Government
Proposed Form of Government PowerPoint (7.3mb) This
Power Point is suitable for use at Presbytery meetings. (This Power
Point contains a narrative. To access the narrative please follow the
directions below to download the Power Point to your computer.)
marked with this icon are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. For best results,
right-click the link (or click and hold for Macintosh), select "save target
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Files marked with this icon can be downloaded in Power Point. This file
requires the Power Point program. For best results, right-click the link (or
click and hold for Macintosh), select "save target as" and save the document
to your desktop for viewing and printing.
Please join in with your own views,
resources, suggestions, questions!
Just send a note,
and we'll share it here.
interesting and very positive take on the proposed new Form of Government,
by Talitha Phillips, a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She
wrote it while attending the 219th General Assembly.
[Posted here on 11-6-10]
Form of Government for Presbyterians
July 8, 2010
Talitha Phillips is blogging live from the Presbyterian
Church (USA)'s bi-annual General Assembly in Minneapolis.
It is with great joy and dancing (would be cartwheels, if
not for my crutches) that I announce the 219th General Assembly of the
PC(USA) voted 468-204-6 (69%-30%) to recommend we adopt a new Form of
Government (n-FoG). I was excited about it at the 218th GA (2008) where it
more narrowly squeaked by, and I kind of knew it would *pass* but I’m just
overjoyed to see how very many people have gotten on board and envision it
as a part of our future!
We Presbyterians have an enormous Book of Order (BoO), one
part of which the n-FoG would replace, if it’s ratified in the next year by
2/3 of our presbyteries. The BoO is larger & heavier than many Bibles, and
in many cases harder to understand. It has been amended 300 times in not
very many years (how many times has the US’ constitution been amended? think
about it). The new FoG will not bring our document down to the concise level
of a constitution, but it reads MORE like a constitution and less like a
manual of operations. Where the old FoG gave 27 responsibilities to
presbyteries (G-11.0103), the new proposal says three things: Provide that
the Word of God may be truly preached and heard; provide that the Sacraments
may be rightly administered and received; and nurture the covenant community
of the disciples of Christ. The same three calls are given to church,
presbytery, General Assembly. Each is explained (for example “nurturing the
community” for the presbytery includes ordaining, dismissing, and
disciplining ministers) but it’s all under a much more sensible (and to my
ears, spiritual) rubric.
The stripping away of rules and regulations is hard for
some people to stomach. I heard someone say that we would need to be “so
much more alert” to the dangers of misuses and abuses. Yes. He was right.
But maybe we’d also need to be more alert to one another, and to our faith,
and to the church. We are risking some pain and struggle, but are we not
also “risking” great benefits? Maybe we’d wake up and think about things
instead of consulting a manual that tells us what to do next. The question
asked might be “what would Jesus do?” instead of “well what does the BoO say
we have to do?” While we can never quite govern a church based on a bracelet
slogan, it would not hurt to have that question more active and alive, and
if we need to break out of complacency and force ourselves to ask that
question, I believe that the n-FoG will provide many options for such
Talitha Phillips is a seminary student at San Francisco
Theological Seminary and blogs at Madame Future Moderator.
Click here for this blog on the Faith Forward branch of the Patheos blog
Reports on Presbytery Actions
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries,
confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.
We provided resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest have been:
which removes the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
Confessions. Disapproved, because as an amendment
to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not
10-1, which adopts the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. Approved.|
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