Again FoG refers to the Form of Government
1. Old G-5.0103 new G-1.0302: I think the deletion of this: “No persons shall be denied membership because of race, ethnic origin, worldly condition” is a mistake. I think our racism is still with us and needs to be stated directly rather than indirectly.
2. New G-1.04: I think the removal of the category of inactive members is a missiological mistake. Granted too few congregations reach out to inactive members but it is an important ministry that should be revived rather than abandoned.
3. New G-1.0402: “Active members shall regularly, after prayerful consideration, recommit themselves to the disciplines and responsibilities of membership outlined in G-1.0303.” What would this look like liturgically? How might a session provide for such re-commission? What does this mean?
4. New G-1.0404 loses the distinction between baptized who are not members and non baptized persons. This blurs the distinction between those who may receive the Lord’s Supper and those who may not. To say, “Persons who are not members . . . are welcome and . . . may participate in and worship of this church . . .” confuses the question of whether non baptized persons may or may not receive the Lord’s Supper, even though it is stated elsewhere that they may not.
5. Old G-5.0502: “The session shall review the roll of members at least annually, and shall counsel with those who have neglected the responsibilities of membership.” What happened to this responsibility?
6. I recognize that the new FoG seeks to be a constitution and not a handbook, but losing G-6.0202 loses both Scriptural definitions of teaching elders and various categories of possible ways teaching elders may serve. It may become important to the lives of Associate Pastors and Co Pastors to have their offices listed, particularly if the later sections do not protect them.
7. Why lose the list of responsibilities of ruling elders and deacons? I use these as primary teaching tools for new officers, pointing out to them that the constitution requires certain tasks of them.
8. Old G-6.0404: If it isn’t made clear that the deacons are responsible to the session some bad stuff may happen down the road! I am sure this came into the FoG because there were conflicts over who made the final decision!
9. “Release from the Exercise of Ordained Office G-6.0600a. If a minister, elder, or deacon against whom no inquiry has been initiated pursuant to D-10.0101 and D-10.0201, against whom no charges have been filed . . .” Isn’t this an important tie to the Rules for Discipline? Later in both the old and the new sections it specifically says, “No judgment of failure on the part of the ruling elder or deacon is implied in this action.” But if there are charges against the person there may indeed be a judgment of failure! Then the action of restoring the person to the roll if requested seems to be automatic! There has to be some procedure for dealing with cases of misconduct of some kind even if the person seeks release from office. Leaving the denomination is another matter.
10. G-1.0101: “All the gifts of the gospel necessary to being the church are present to the congregation.” This sentence would be clearer if it said . . . present in the congregation.
11. Old G-7.0302c has been deleted! Does this mean a congregation may conduct business anyway it chooses to? What happened to Robert’s Rules?
12. New G-1.0501 says: “Adequate public notice of all congregational meetings shall be given at a regular service of worship” I bet this will be a problem is some session thinks adequate means “Today we are going to have a congregational meeting to dissolve the relationship between the pastor and the congregation.” The old 2 week rule had a lot of value and I bet was put in place because of a situation like the one I suggested. We Calvinists have rules like this one because we know humans, including all Christians, still sin.
13. Old G-9.0102b: “They may frame symbols of faith, bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in life, resolve questions of doctrine and of discipline, give counsel in matters of conscience, and decide issues properly brought before them under the provisions of the Book of Order.” Why was this removed? It seems to remove some powers from the session, the synod and the General Assembly, since all powers not named revert to the presbytery.
14. No more Committees on Representation? I don’t think we are ready to get rid of this!
15. I approve of the use of the word “council,” however it is going to take some time to learn that it does not mean presbytery, synod or GA council.
16. I think there is a curious problem with saying that other means of discernment may replace Robert’s Rules. By eliminating the section which says who may dissent or protest the new FoG necessitates turning to Robert’s Rules. Also the elimination of the right to dissent or protest a judicial decision leaves a member of the council with no possible action except judicial to disagree publicly with a judicial decision.
17. New G-3.0107: “Presbyteries may apportion requested funds to sessions within their bounds.” Does this mean that presbyteries may require sessions to pay particular amounts to the presbytery? Since we have eliminated per capita apportionments, what does apportion mean in this context?
18. Since the following sections of G-3.0107 are divided into different paragraphs, “Councils more inclusive than the session may provide examples of policies and procedures that may be gathered into advisory handbooks. These examples illumine practices required by the Constitution but left to councils for specific implementation. Such handbooks may also offer information that enhances or secures the ministry of the particular council.” And “Each council shall develop a manual of administrative operations that will specify the form and guide the work of mission in that body. A council may delegate aspects of its tasks to such entities as it deems appropriate, provided that those entities remain accountable to the council.” Does this mean that a session must have a manual of administrative operation?
19. New G-3.0109a doesn’t seem to require the review of the rolls of a congregation or a presbytery, although it does require review of the minutes. While this may not seem important, some records of a congregation may not be included in proceedings and actions such as deaths and weddings. Baptisms of member’s children might not be included either as well as the records that ordinations and installations have taken place. While these things should be in the minutes what happens if the clerk failed to record them?
20. New G-3.0204: for historical reasons records of weddings and deaths, (with place of burial) should be maintained as well for those in future generations seeking to search their genealogies.
21. New G-3.0110: a commission no longer has to keep records and provide them to the council?
22. New G-3.0301c I think where the word congregation is used the word presbytery is meant.
23. Could the first paragraph of G-3.0307 be construed to mean that the presbytery may not only set criteria for what work will be considered validated but also what a MWS must believe to be a member?
24. Ordination and Installation questions should be retained in the FoG. While they will be asked in a worship service they are, nevertheless, questions concerning a person’s qualifications for leadership.
25. Are synods really needed except for review of presbytery records and judicial proceedings? Leave in G-3.0404 and take out the rest about synods.
26. Ordination exams should be listed in the FoG. Otherwise a committee of the GAC might change the number or nature of the exams without the approval of the presbyteries.
27. It is my opinion that a person who has served in a temporary position with a congregation, particularly that which is currently called an interim pastor should not be eligible to serve as the next pastor. The interim period provides time for a congregation to go through a process of self examination and examination of its mission. If an interim pastor can serve as the next installed pastor that person may not provide the leadership needed in an interim period. Further, since an interim is hired by the session, allowing an interim pastor to be a candidate to be the next installed pastor does not give a PNC the appropriate latitude needed for its search. Also putting a presbytery in the position of deciding whether an interim pastor can be come the installed pastor may damage the relationship between the presbytery and the congregation seeking to call their interim as their next installed pastor. I strongly urge this section be changed. Frankly I think it is one of the possible deal breakers for this new FoG.
28. G-2.0701 is contrary to the agreed upon section of the G-14 passed by presbyteries in 2007. We were assured that there would always be a congregational meeting if a dissolution of relationship is considered. This too is a deal breaker.
New G-5.05b says: “Such joint witnesses shall be formed according to a plan approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of each of the congregations at duly called meetings of the congregation, and by the presbytery or comparable council or governing body of each church.” This sentence seems to suggest that both the congregation and the presbytery or comparable governing must approve the plan by a 2/3 majority. Is this the intention because it isn’t clear?