As of July 10, 2011, the Presbyterian Church (USA) began operating under the provisions laid out in an almost completely new form of government (commonly referred to as nFOG). As of August 1, 2011, I assumed the role of “Stated Clerk” for the SoMA. A new FOG. A new clerk. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a blog series, doesn’t it?
As I have traveled around the denomination as the Vice Moderator of your General Assembly, one thing I have heard consistently is that Presbyteries and congregations are anxious as they consider how to live into the new reality that our Book of Order presents us with. These anxieties are as complex as developing a manual of operations (many councils of the church have simply relied on the processes and procedures laid out in the BOO) to simple taks such as developing a sexual misconduct policy (“We’ve never had one. What does a template look like?”). Just yesterday, I was with Kendall Presbytery as they took action similar to one that the SoMA took: For the time being, let’s continue to operate under the old FOG whenever the nFOG leaves us hanging.
To be sure, the nFOG doesn’t “leave anyone hanging” (and those are my words, btw), but many are just not ready for the dramatic shift towards the freedom offered by nFOG.
In light of all of this, I believe it would be helpful for us to work our way through the nFOG, bit by bit. Yes, there are webinars you can take advantage of (the Presbyterian Outlook has already done one, and Dubuque Seminary will host a course beginning tomorrow), but, as the SoMA’s Clerk, I’m not sure that there is a better use of my time than leading our synod through a reflection of the document.
My hope is that this series will become a couple of things. First, I pray that it is a conversation between Presbyterians. This Form of Government belongs to all of us. While the reality of being “Clerk” means that it is my job to know this document intimately, as Presbyterians it remains the responsibility of all of us. Secondly, I intend for this to be more than a dry examination of how the pieces and parts fit together. The Book of Order is a document which expresses a “theology in practice.” I want us to help each other know why we do what we do theologically.
So please join me as we make our way through our constitution. Perhaps you will find that you too consider yourself a “church geek.” There are worse things, you know?