NewFOG: Too Much Change, Too Much Uncertainty, Unintended Consequences, Especially Now.

Although I had not planned to write in opposition to newFOG, I have decided to do so now . There were two tipping points for me: 

1. The passage of Amendment 10A introduces a large change into our church, and I think that on top of that newFOG will be more change than we can reasonably deal with in a year!

2. In talking to a number of presbytery stated clerks, I note that many of them have serious reservations about newFOG but also feel that because of their positions, they cannot take a strong stand against it.

Since I am not a presbytery stated clerk, I feel free to repeat some of what I have heard:

    NewFOG is advertised as helping us become more of a missional church, but what
    I am hearing is that with the requirement that each session adopt a manual of
    operations and decide all over again on things like notice and quorum for
    congregational meetings and a host of other things, sessions and congregations
    will be forced to look not outward- but inward in coming up with all these rules
    and procedures.  At our last meeting of Presbytery’s Council, our stated clerk
    was preparing, if newFOG passes, to help all of our congregations, including
    many without a pastor, write manuals of operation—a daunting task.

    2. As it is now, within the PC(USA) there is a great deal of predictability across the denomination in the areas of polity and procedure because we are all under the same Form of Government. For example, every presbytery will have a Committee on Ministry. This means that ministers of Word and Sacrament moving from one presbytery to another, or a ruling elder moving to church in a new presbytery, might be the “new kids on the block” in that new presbytery, but at least everyone is playing by rules that are familiar to all across the denomination.  Under newFOG, each presbytery might have vastly different rules, disadvantaging all but the long-time insiders in that presbytery. Also as a denomination, when we make changes to the Form of Government, they are widely debated and scrutinized. Under newFOG, important changes made by a particular presbytery or congregation will likely often have much less light shining upon them while they are being considered. This may result in policies and procedures that have been less carefully thought-out.

3.”King Clerk.” One clerk from another presbytery whom I respect very much noted that “knowledge is power.” She noted that in her presbytery the clerk knows the most about the rules particular to that presbytery.  She surprised me by imagining a situation under newFOG  where, since each presbytery has its own rules to replace many provisions now in the Form of Government, the clerk of that presbytery will know all these rules the best and therefore could become a sort of “King Clerk.” (I note that this thought came from this presbytery stated clerk, not from me.)

I hope remaining presbytery commissioners will vote against newFOG. It is a bridge too far at this time.
Winfield Casey Jones, D. Min.  is a member of the Presbytery of New Covenant and serves First Church Pearland, Texas. He currently serves on presbytery’s General Council. He has chaired the following presbytery committees: Committee on Ministry; Nominating Committee; Evangelism Committee. He was a candidate for GA stated clerk in 2000 and 2008. He has been a local pastor for 32 years and taught his presbytery’s officer training on the proposed newFog.  This article may be reproduced.