Saturday, June 4, 2011


With thanks to the Anarchic Comedians in general and the Marx Brothers in particular.
THIS IS NOT A BLOG ABOUT AMENDMENT 10-A.     And while it relates to the nFOG that is not the true intent.  It is about accretions.
I am a presbytery curmudgeon.  That is if I am not convinced that it is worth voting for the motion before the house I vote against it.  Usually my negative vote is singular.  I am the only no vote.  I have voted against many amendments to the constitution in my time.  If it doesn't add to the meaning of the constitution or to the need to further define particular sections of the constitution or necessary additions I vote no.  I've done so for the past 20 years, give or take.
I am not sure why the house generally votes yes.  I wonder sometimes if people simply haven't read the amendments.  I've read them.  Have others?  So if it isn't necessary I vote no.
There is a great irony this year.  The nFOG is intended to remove the various accretions to the Form of Government.  The argument is that back in 1983 the Book of Order was about 1/3 of its present size.  Over the past 27 years the Form of Government grew like a weed.  Problem is presbyteries just kept voting for amendments.
The great irony is that while the nFOG is on the ballot this year to remove all the accretions like scraping the bottom of a wooden ship we have before us 10 more amendments.  The nFOG removes the accretions.  The amendments add accretions.  Go figure. 
Aside from amendment 10-A there are nine amendments to the Form of Government, three to the Directory for Worship and nine to the Rules of Discipline.  Putting aside the amendments to the Directory of Worship and the Rules of Discipline the nine amendments to the Form of Government have started the accretions all over again.  No sooner have we an nFOG (if it passes) than we have people proposing accretions.  Why?
I wasn't at the May presbytery to vote against the new accretions.  I don't see much point in an nFOG if we are just going to start the whole process over again.


Alan said...

You'll get no argument from me. Ever since conservatives in the denomination decided to try to use the FOG as a theological bludgeon, it seems that we've been adding amendments at an ever increasing rate. If, unfortunately, the nFOG passes, I don't see that need for those sorts of power grabs to end any time soon.

Now anything and everything rises to the level of needing an amendment. The desperate desire for control and complete lack of trust are the twin motivators behind this trend, I think.

Pastor Bob said...

I've watched the adding of useless amendments go on since 1983. The most curious part of the process has been the attempts to give Christian Educators vote at presbytery meetings and for presbytery to set a minimum to pay them. These attempts started back in the 1980s and were voted down regularly for years. Pastors (and probably elders) of churches that had Christian Educators didn't want their Christian Educators to have vote at presbytery. Neither did they want to have the presbytery set minimum salaries the Christian Educators because their pay was terrible.

But every year there were amendments to the constitution, usually at least 10. And most unnecessary in my opinion.

Alan said...

I was all set to vote for the nFOG when the Layman came out against it. But once I actually read it, I saw how awful it is. What I don't understand is why various progressive organizations are for it.

If I read it correctly, Presbytery gets to decide the mission focus of the local congregation. Well, what about inclusive congregations in conservative presbyteries? Will they get to keep pushing boundaries if their Presbytery gets to decide their mission focus? I'm pretty sure if this had been around 20 years ago, our church would now be gone ... our mission focus would have been denied by Presbytery at the time.

I see pretty clear similarities to the simplifying of the BoO and the attempts to simplify mortgage regulations. Both may have initially sprung from good intentions, but we've seen the catastrophic result from throwing away important regulations in the mortgage industry, and I suspect we'll see a similar type of collapse if nFOG gets passed.

Turns out "simplify" and "clarify" are not necessarily synonymous.

It may happen that the Presbytery of Detroit will be one of the last votes. On the positive side, I've heard that the Presbytery is having a difficult time finding someone to give a presentation in favor of the nFOG, so maybe we'll be OK.

Pastor Bob said...

I read that the vote is very close with the nFOG leading at 85 to 81. Our congregation will vote this Sunday to set a number for a quorum the a congregational meeting as Robert's Rules (now that there is no minimum quorum in the nFOG) sets a quorum at 50%. We will set it at the number from the current FOG at 10%.

This is on the advice of a group of Presbytery Executives or Stated Clerks. I forget which.

You are right about the mission. Another concern of mine is the requirement that each Session, oops council is required to put out a handbook. I am sure my Session will rebel against this. But what will the presbytery do if we don't have a handbook?

Can a Session put in its bylaws with congregational approval that it will obey the current FOG and will not obey the nFOG? I bet that would get us in trouble!

Pastor Bob said...

Here is a curious idea. The nFOG actually has two sections the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity
and Form of Government. Could this amendment be illegal as it proposes two different amendments to the constitution? Any idea what Robert's Rules says on this?

Alan said...

Alas, the latest figures I just saw last night have nFOG winning at 87 votes. :(

That amendment issue got hashed out somewhere, I remember seeing it, but don't remember where. Basically the rationale was some sort of handwavy thing saying that the whole nFOG is just one amendment or some-such malarky.

But yeah, in the normal world of RR, I'm pretty sure it should be out of order.

I'm not serving on Session now (and I'll be leaving in a month) but as our resident polity wonk, I've already been informing our session that they've got a bunch of work to do.

It would be nice if someone put out a template for this "handbook" that contained all the basics. (Of course, once anyone does put out a church-wide suggestion of what that handbook should contain, they'll have implicitly admitted that nFOG was a waste of time.) However, I don't see why a session couldn't adopt the relevant portions of the old BoO as its handbook. I suppose it depends on whether or not your presbytery would go for it, and who knows until your Presbytery writes its own handbook for how they're going to approve Session handbooks?

One thing that is going to be crucial for congregations is to keep a very watchful eye on the Presbytery handbooks, that they contain strict guidelines for what the Presbytery will approve and won't and under what circumstances, given that the Presbytery has now assumed most of the responsibilities formerly given to the congregations.

Pastor Bob said...

There are templates at the back of the nFOG. I don't think these were part of the actual amendment but who knows? Since I've got the sermon written and the educational stuff for the week too I'm reading the nFOG right now.

Pastor Bob said...

Tully is most probably going to say that our handbook is the sections of the 2009 to 2011 Form of Government that applies to local congregations and sessions. We will probably set a time period :)