Friday, February 25, 2011
Vote yes on nFOG
Two weeks from tomorrow, the Twin Cities Area Presbytery will be voting on an Amendment to our Constitution that changes the Form of Government, also known as nFOG. Presbyteries across the Presbyterian denomination are voting on whether to institute nFOG. According to the gajunkie blog (http://blog.gajunkie.com/) nFOG has been approved by 21 Presbyteries and disapproved by 26 Presbyteries.
I am more passionate about this Amendment than any other one that the Presbyteries will vote. I usually don’t speak on the floor of Presbytery, but I will at the meeting on March 12. I believe that the Form of Government—one part of the Book of Order—is too easily changed and too frequently debated. We have made a terrible mistake of turning the idea of being Presbyterian into a regulatory system called the Form of Government.
An excellent blog that makes the case for nFOG is http://pcusa4nfog.wordpress.com/. The Presbytery of Twin Cities web site also has informative documents about nFOG. http://presbyterytwincities.org/2011/01/11/study-the-new-form-of-government-nfog/
Last Sunday at Chain of Lakes, my sister and I talked about what is special about being Presbyterian. View the presentation here: http://www.blip.tv/file/4791116/ I made three points—I think Presbyterians are special because we believe that elders and pastors work together; we are not subscriptionist; and we are committed to social justice in the community and this justice is based on our faith. If I had more time I would have talked about our commitment to women pastors, about our fluid form of government where power flows both ways, about our commitments to overseas missions and missionaries, and I would have talked about our commitment to education and public education.
However I don’t think our Form of Government makes Presbyterians special; in fact I think our current Form of Government deeply holds us back from being the denomination that God desires for us to be.
When I started in ministry I would often get asked what it means to be Presbyterian. Before I got wiser I would often give a person a Book of Order and encourage a person to read it. I quickly learned that the Book of Order was a turn-off to new people in our Presbyterian church. I would be shocked if many pastors give a Book of Order to new members on the day that they become a member of a church. For many leaders the Book of Order is a hammer—it’s big brother looking over our shoulders ready to pounce on an irregularity.
As a new church development pastor, I frequently have people ask me what it means to be Presbyterian. I would never give them a Book of Order and say this represents Presbyterian polity. Though the Book of Order does represent our polity, it doesn't represent us well to people who are interested in learning more about being a Presbyterian.
In the next two weeks I plan on reading every word of nFOG and becoming familiar again with the concerns raised about it.
My main argument is we Presbyterians need a set constitution with clearly defined principles and not a manual of operations—which the current FOG has become.
A constitution is meant to be a set of guiding principles that remain in place over time. The United States has existed for over 200 years because we have a firm foundation set forth in our Constitution. It’s not easily changed, though frequently debated. Its simplicity is its strength.
The United States has a constitution of 4534 words. We Presbyterians have a Form of Government—just one part of the constitution—that is much, much longer. If the government can have a short constitution, I believe that we Presbyterians can too.