Shuck and Jive

Friday, March 04, 2011

Should I Vote for the New Form of Government?

My presbytery, Holston, is voting on NFOG tomorrow. We already voted down amendment A and will vote on Belhar in June. I will vote for Belhar but I am not sure about NFOG. I really don't see myself having a horse in this race.
  1. I know the LayMAN and the various true believers and biblical reclaimers are against it. That would give me reason to vote in favor, but admittedly not much of a reason.
  2. The folks who designed it spent a lot of time and I should want to vote in favor to reward their efforts.
  3. I do like the idea of a smaller book with fewer rules I need to ignore which would amount to less sinning on my part.
  4. Other than that, should I vote for this?
On more crucial matters:

Thanks to CovNet for the line up for this weekend for amendment A.
  • Voting today, March 4: Mission.
  • Voting Saturday, March 5: Grace, Northern New England, Ohio Valley, and Geneva
Here are the results of the votes from last time:

Geneva 44-29 (need to hold)
Grace 203-182 (need to hold)
Northern New England 57-30 (need to hold)
Ohio Valley 57-44 (need to hold)

Mission 181-181 **(this one needs to flip)**

Check the vote charts here, here, and here.

The score is 57-44. I am going with the LayMAN on this. They added Suroeste as a NO.

One thing is likely. This gap will narrow as we have far more historically NO presbyteries left to vote than YES ones. So...
  • We shouldn't get discouraged when we see that.
  • Again, take no presbytery for granted.
  • One vote has proven to be the difference in many presbyteries.
  • Get Out the Vote!
  • Predictions and trends mean nothing.
  • That is why we play the game.
  • Getting people to the meeting, providing resources, and speaking in favor make it happen!


  1. John
    Re: nFOG

    I'm going through it to see how many amendments I think need to be made to it. I'm looking for a tipping point that would say it's just a few amendments so I would vote for it or there are too many amendments needed and I will vote against it. Three of examples of things I think need to change:

    1. It allows a presbytery to vote to allow a congregation to let the interim pastor stay as pastor if 3/4 of the presbytery votes for it. Since interims supposed to be working on tough issues in the congregation if the interim wants to stay she may not do her task.

    2. It removes the names of the ordination exams from the FOG. This would allow a GA to change the exams or delete or add exams without the approval of the presbyteries.

    3. It would allow an associate pastor to become the next pastor with a 3/4 vote of presbytery. This would have the effect of simply continue with its current vision without allowing for a change of that.

    Votes: Southern New England is a definite yes. They have voted for such amendments since 2001.

  2. Originally I figured if the Layman crowd were against the nFOG, it must be good.

    But, because I take things more seriously than that, I started looking into it and I'll likely be voting against it when Detroit votes this month. From what I've read, it looks like even the Layman crowd (like a stopped clock) can be right once in a while.

    1) There are lots of little changes that are easy to miss. For example, did you know that the nFOG allows Interim pastors to be called as permanent pastors? Bad idea. The job of an interim is to clear out the cobwebs, not build a nest. The current restriction in the BoO against interims getting a called job was born out of experience ... probably lots of bad experiences.

    2) The nFOG places church members under the authority of session *and* higher adjudicatories. The point of members being under session is that Session is the only group they actually elect.

    3) The Session has responsibility for determining the mission and governance of the local congregation in the current BoO. The nFog gives the responsibility for determining a comprehensive mission strategy to the GA. Presbytery has authority to “develop strategy for the mission of the church in its district” (G-3.0303a), and “leads and guides the witness of its
    congregations” (G-3.0301).

    Both #2 and #3 seem like a power grab and a significant shift in our polity.

    I totally understand the impulse behind the nFOG and think, idealistically, it was a good idea. But the implementation is problematic at best.

    Brevity does not always equal clarity.


  3. John

    I voted yes on FOG for the three reasons you listed, but not with passionate yes of Belhar and 10A.

  4. (cont)

    When we bought our house, we spent an hour and a half signing papers. Paper after paper after paper from the title company, the mortgage company, the realtor, etc., etc., etc. Somewhere, midway through that process, I realized probably at least half of those papers were the result of some lawsuit. It was a complex and annoying process, but in the end I felt pretty confident that I had accomplished what I thought I had accomplished, which was to actually purchase the house.

    I see the BoO in the same way. It's bloated and complicated, but much of the things in there are a result of something bad that happened somewhere, sometime in the past. (Like the restriction on calling Interims as called pastors.)

    I would have thought that simplifying that process would have been a good idea, until I saw in 2007-2008 that simplifying the process nearly destroyed the entire US economy.

    Unforeseen consequences.

    There is simply no way whatsoever to know what the real consequences of nFOG will be.

    If we want to amend the BoO there are time-tested, well-understood ways to do so.

    I realize the irony of someone like myself, who has been trying to change the BoO for 15 years to now be defending it, but hey .... only Nixon could go to China. :)

  5. There can be good  exceptions to the rules regarding interims and associates. The 3/4 requirement for approval is a check and is not an easy hurdle to reach.

  6. Currently, if a pastor thinks they're going to want the called job, then they can simply not go for the interim pastorship at that church.

    That's a pretty low hurdle, I'd say, and it keeps the process decent and in order.

  7. Alan - I agree with you about the bloated nature of the FOG. I would love to find a way to make it smaller but a lot of the rules come from events in which someone did the wrong thing, like a pastor calling a special session meeting but only inviting his (I think this one goes back a long way) cronies.

  8. again @ Alan

    What worries me is that I suspect that a lot of people aren't going to read it carefully before they vote and then discover the the nFOG affects them in ways that would have caused them to vote no.

  9. Yup.

    I think it's useful during the debate to ask people to raise their hands if they've read it cover to cover.

  10. Good thoughts all. As I said I don't have a real opinion about this, but there is something to be said about retaining a document that is laborious because (like evolution) it is the result of actual situations.

    I see no real ministry this nFOG would allow us to do that I cannot do already.

    If there is a big advantage in this nFOG (for me or for others) that I am not seeing, let me know. Otherwise I am inclined to say with appreciation for those who put this together, "No."

  11. We Presbyterians are a continuos lot.  Somewhere we have to trust the process.  This made it through the study period and the general assembly. We cannot plan for every possibility or mishap. I doubt many have read it cover to cover. I spent several hours skimming it and reading parts I had questions about.  Camille Paglia wrote that the biggest problem with Protestantism is word fixation. I believe it.

  12. @John

    I can be convinced as easily as a breeze blows a feather. I will likely be moved to vote one way or the other by arguments from the floor of presbytery.

    I have skimmed it and found it about as thrilling as my car manual.

  13. I ended up voting in favor of nFOG. Holston Presbytery passed it 40 something to 20 something.

    Time for a new thing.

  14. The Yes percentages of Geneva, Grace, and N.N.England today are noticeably higher than they were last time per your blog post, and Mission flipped. So the trend is definitely toward higher yes votes.