Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fellowship: Birth of a PresbyPolity

For a PresbyPolity Wonk like me, it's been fascinating watching the Fellowship of Presbyterians create a new polity. 

I wasn't planning to go to the Covenanting Conference in Orlando this week, having sung my Farewell Song and all,  but then a couple of weeks ago my church asked me to join the group attending, so I plan to be there.

There's been speculation, confusion and angst on the internet about the nature of the process that will birth this new polity which has the very broad purpose of being an affiliation of PCUSA congregations, other Presbyterian congregations such as the EPC, and a stand-alone denomination.

This Outlook article clarified everything for me. The process is similar to that of creating any non-profit organization, something I have done several times. Once the corporate entity is legally created then the organizing board of directors adopts by-laws and other policies that will govern the organization.
In the case of the FOP, that includes the Theology and Polity statements. The board released a draft of these two statements in November and solicited comments, critiques and suggestions from interested folks. They will adopt the final versions and release them Thursday. 

At that point the documents will be subject to change and revision through the process set up by the Polity document to call a meeting of the new Synod (the GA of the FOP) with properly credentialed commissioners from congregations that have affiliated with the FOP. 

According to the Outlook article, that Synod meeting is being planned for sometime in 2013--after the next PCUSA GA in 2012.

Since the Covenanting Conference is open to all comers, having a vote by those in attendance to adopt or alter the documents risks the credibility and authority of the process. Many of those coming may not be authorized to represent their congregation at the conference. 

Of course 2013 will too late for some congregations who will move for dismissal to other reformed denominations, like the EPC, that are already fully organized and operating before that date. They will have the option of later affiliating with the FOP. Time will tell whether those congregations will have any interest in doing so.

A gathering of Presbyterians without our trademark business meetings, done "decently and in order", will truly be something new under the sun. Speaking for myself, turning a conference of over 2,000 attendees whose authority to represent anyone other than herself into a committee of the whole would be a nightmare. So I think the projected process is preferable, although I won't be surprised if pressure to set the Synod meeting date earlier than 2013 is successful.


Mac said...

Caveat: Take the following for what it's worth. I was a member of the NWAC Strategy Team, our congregation was one of the first four to leave the PC(USA) for the EPC's New Wineskins Transitional Presbytery and I was the Stated Clerk of that Presbytery. I was also the target of the suggestion by a certain MWS in Louisville that our old presbytery ought to "drive a stake through his heart." So I may be a bit biased.

I'll be very interested in your take on this meeting. Throughout its birthing process, it has reminded me of New Wineskins Light--from some of its major players to its meeting locations. I am puzzled, however, by its adoption of the entire PC(USA) Book of Confessions and its ratification of the "two synod model" that was pretty much discredited in the Presbyterian Coalition "y'all come" in Denver ten years ago.

The Chinese menu approach to the Confessions was one of the things we were eager to leave because the pickin' and choosin' always seemed to water down the theological discussions. The two synod model--with its "let's get away from the PC(USA), but not its retirement plan, medical plan. publishing house, and endowments," seems a little wishy-washy.

But knowing that QG will be there gives me a little hope. I'll be praying for you.


David said...

There are so many similarities between the group and the so-called Continuing Church movement that wound up as the PCA. The bottom line in both groups is not theological, but about power and control.