Wednesday, March 9, 2011

nFOG and the quorum

I am very much looking forward to the next Presbytery meeting of Twin Cities Area Presbytery which is this Saturday, March 12 at Valley Presbyterian Church starting at 9:00 a.m. In the afternoon folks from Chain of Lakes will be giving a report about the progress we’ve made at our new congregation this year. We’ll have members of the Steering Committee share their experience of being at Chain of lakes. I’m very pleased that already in 2011 we’ve had 10 new families visit Chain of Lakes during worship—some of them have already indicated to us that they want to connect to our congregation.

I am also looking forward to voting on the new Form of Government, nFOG. Last week I wrote a brief blog about why I believe nFOG should be adopted by our Presbyteries.

The main principal that attracts me to nFOG is its attempt to make our constitution an actual constitution and not a manual of operations. A blog which I follow that addresses specific arguments against nFOG is

I’m please that the Bills and Overtures Committee of our Presbytery voted in favor of nFOG by a vote of five to one.

Let me share one example of why we need nFOG. It’s on an issue that I think would be non-controversial—the issue is the setting of a quorum by the Session.

According to our current Form of Government,
“A quorum of the session shall be the pastor or other presiding officer and one third of the elders but no few than two, except for the reception and dismission of members, when the quorum shall be the moderator and two members of the session. The session may fix its own quorum at any higher number.” G-10.0202

Since when did “dismission” become a word?

The proposed nFOG says this about a quorum:
“Sessions shall provide by rule for a quorum for meetings; such quorum shall include the moderator and either a specific number of ruling elders or a specific percentage of those ruling elders in current service on the session.” G-3.0203

The nFOG stays on the level of principle; the current FOG is too descriptive.

I haven’t taken the time to explore the history behind this part of the current Form of Government. I’m sure that this section (like all sections) has evolved over time. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the last hundreds of years the Presbyteries voted on an amendment about a Session setting a quorum.

I don’t think we need the Form of Government telling a Session how to set a quorum. I trust that all Sessions can be smart about setting their own quorums.

Is having a quorum important? Yes
Should the Session think through the issues of a quorum? Yes
Should the Session have a higher quorum for receiving and dismissing members? Maybe, but this regulation need not be in the Form of Government. I have a feeling (though I don’t know this) that the regulation was put in the Form of Government because a Session tried to dismiss members of a church at a meeting that wasn’t well-attended.

I understand the desire to put this regulation into the Form of Government; however it’s my experience that we can’t regulate every situation in a local congregation. Let’s learn to trust the wisdom of the Session and not make a regulation.

Vote for nFOG! Have fewer regulations about a quorum!


Neal Lloyd said...

I think your issue is well chosen from the standpoint of something not inherently controversial. As you note, it captures the spirit of the revision in its approach.

A couple of observations: First we indicate that we do our business using Robert's Rules where they do not conflict with the Constitution. This is an area where Robert's could come into play in guiding a session to set reasonable rules.

That the session will need to set a rule is seeming to be challenging for some folk. One pastor lamented loudly in a public meeting that asking the session to make its own rule was simply too burdensome. "Just tell us what to do" was the lament. I had little comfort to offer.

You are correct in asserting that most of these rules got into the current book because people either did bad things or allowed bad things to happen. No Constitution will stop that from happening. As Calvinists we make that assertion with some certainty from simple observation of all political processes within and without the church.

May your argument at the presbytery meeting be successful!

Chainoflakesncd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.