Click here for General Assembly coverage

GA 2010: Amended nFOG task force report recommended to General Assembly

MINNEAPOLIS—The Form of Government Revision committee, with celebratory applause, passed a revised version of the proposed new FoG – a new approach supporters say will give the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a form of government that is more streamlined and more responsive to local ministry needs.

The committee voted 37 to 5 in favor of the new proposal, which now will go to the full General Assembly for its consideration.

            The long process of amending the document was filled with theological discussion for the committee. In speaking in favor of sending the amended nFoG to the assembly, Elder Bill Capel of Southeastern Illinois Presbytery said, “We have been through a transformational experience – there is good news here. I am not who I was when I came in. Let us not go out in fear, let’s trust the process.”

            If approved by the assembly this week, the proposed new FoG will be sent to the presbyteries for their consideration, and must be approved by a majority of the 173 presbyteries to be adopted and put into effect.

            An overture from the Presbytery of Western Reserve proposed not sending the amended document to the assembly, but rather posting it online in order for presbyteries to study it. In speaking in favor of this motion, overture advocate Michael Herrin of Mississippi Presbytery said the church has not had enough time to consider the FoG  proposal in depth, “and therefore it remains flawed. No one has been able to point our anything in our current Book of Order that hinders ministry from happening. So why risk it?”

            Overture advocate Jim Cahalan of Indian Nations Presbytery asked the committee to consider whether their amended version of the new FoG is better than the current one.
            “Is it better than when you started?” he queried. “Absolutely. But is it better than what we have now? It is not.”

            Speaking on behalf or the FoG task force, Co-Moderator Dan Williams of Shenandoah Presbytery asked, in his resonant voice, “How much might we accomplish if we dare to step out in faith, if we are willing to take the risk … in order to embrace the possibilities afforded by our proposed FoG?”

            Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) contributed significantly to the conversation, as well. Speaking to the idea, proposed by some of the overture advocates, that the church is not ready for as big a change as a new FoG, Joel Simonson of Wyoming Presbytery said, “Who are we to decide what the church is ready for? We need to send this on to the church and let the church decide.”

            Prior to voting the committee paused to pray. Committee Moderator Tim Beal prayed “that their work and actions would bring honor to our Lord Jesus Christ.” After prayer they voted, acting to defeat Overture 07-07, which would delay action on a new FoG, and then adopting the amended recommendations of the task force and sending the proposal on to the assembly for its consideration.

            The vote on that action – to recommend that the assembly approve the amended new FoG report – became the response to other overtures on the matter, including items 07-04, 07-07, and 07-12.

            Finally, the committee discussed an overture from Foothills Presbytery to form a committee to explore the possibilities of establishing an “enabling constitution.” As overture advocate Merwyn Johnson explained, “This overture is for the long haul, a long term consideration of the nature of our constitution which moves beyond a manual of operations.” Ultimately, however, the committee defeated that overture.