I promised to write a post about the Form of Government Task Force workshop that I attended at the Moderator's Conference just before Thanksgiving, and I'm just now getting around to it.
First of all, we were asked to please not call it the FOG. But really, now....how can you not ? So the FOG it is.
The presenter was one of the members of the Task Force, Dr. Paul K. Hooker (Executive Presbyter of San Augustine presbytery), who distributed the current draft which is available online here. I am impressed by the transparency of their process. The FOG task force invites anyone interested to send questions, suggestions, and comments to them through the website. A GA staffer collects the emails and forwards all of them to each member every two weeks. So if you don't like what you see in the draft, by all means let them know about it now.
The entire Book of Order (the "BOO") is NOT being re-written, just the old "G" section. The Rules of Discipline and Directory of Worship are not included in the FOG's job description. Also, the GA instructed the group that section G.0106(b) and the property trust clause must not be changed and must retain their present language exactly. The goal of the project is to revise chapter 14 and overhaul the entire form of government section. FOG must report a draft by September 2007 to the presbyteries and sessions, take comments and revise the document by March 2008 so it can be considered by the 2008 GA.
The old "G" section has become two sections in this draft-- "The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity", which will presumably become a new section "F" of the Book of Order, and "The Form of Government", which remains section "G".
The new Foundations section is a shortened version of G.1 to G.4 with updated language restating core values and the order is rearranged to make it more accessible. I have seen some criticism of the "Core Theological Commitments" chapter from some bloggers, already so the FOG folks are likely getting a lot of comments on this part of the draft. Other chapters in the new "F" section are: "Core Principles of Order and Government" and "The Church and Its Confessions."
The new "G" section--The Form of Government-- combines the old G.5 and G.7 sections of the Book of Order. It is still a work in process, but there is an outline posted on the website that reveals the current FOG approach to its task.
El Jefe, with 15 years experience as Clerk of Session, says that the BOO is one of the most poorly indexed organizational documents he has ever seen. And he has seen a lot of them in his 30 plus years of legal experience as a corporate attorney. On more than one occasion he has had to call the GA office in Louisville to get guidance on a question that he could have answered if the BOO were properly indexed. Anyone else had that experience? As far as he is concerned, the most helpful thing the FOG could do would be to prepare a thorough index for the BOO.
"Are we just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic?" one of those in attendance asked. Dr. Hooker replied that he hoped not. I hope not, too. I've long thought the BOO needed a complete re-write, because it just grew and grew and grew and badly needs pruning and rationalization. Not to mention a good index! I wonder if it's possible to do this in the current atmosphere of distrust that pervades the denomination and I wonder if it's even a good idea to expend the energy on it at this time instead of addressing other needs.
But I do commend the FOG for their openness in posting this preliminary draft and inviting comments on it as they proceed. I guess I better write and tell them about the index.