The long history of the consideration of the change in the form of government (FOG) combined with the volume of the nFOG task force report led to the committee to meet in advance of the assembly.
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons gave a general background of the sweeping changes the Christian Church is experiencing today. Committee parliamentarian Bronwen Boswell then reviewed procedures while committee vice-moderator laid out guidelines for discussion.
The task force then reported to the committee. The Form of Government task force was called into being by the 217th General Assembly in 2006 and asked to continue its work in 2008 by the 218th General Assembly. Task force members Dan Williams (Shenandoah Presbytery) and Carol Hunley (Pittsburgh Presbytery) outlined the proposed changes to the Book of Order to the committee. They emphasized the fact that the changes are to the form of government only and make no changes to the directory for worship or the rules of discipline. Changes to the form of government are intended to enable the mission of the church with the understanding that “wherever Christ is, there is the church,” said Hunley, quoting Ignatius of Antioch.
Why are changes to the form of government needed? Williams explained that the proposed changes streamline the current FOG, connecting beliefs with actions, clarifying standards for the whole church, and providing flexibility appropriate for the working of the church. The new FOG “focuses on congregations as missional communities, Presbyteries are the central governing unit, there is flexibility at all levels, and the structures are appropriate to mission,” he said.
Committee and task force members concluded the meeting with a time of questions and answers so that the committee could address the task force, clarifying some of the issues.