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New form of government moves on to full Assembly

Committee steps out in faith, trust to overwhelmingly pass revised document

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The Form of Government Revision Committee of the 219th General Assembly (2010) voted 37-5 Tuesday to send the proposed Foundations of Presbytery Polity and revised Form of Government to the full Assembly.

If the Assembly approves the document, it will then move to the denomination’s presbyteries for their affirmative or negative votes. If a majority of presbyteries vote to accept the document, it will replace the current Form of Government that has been amended more than 300 times since it came into existence in 1983.

The committee rejected an overture from the Presbytery of Central Washington that called for posting the revised Form of Government online for informational purposes and seeking amendments from presbyteries to “improve and enhance the ways in which we govern ourselves missionally.”

Speaking in favor of that overture, Joan Johnson of Santa Barbara Presbytery warned of “unintended consequences of omission,” and the Rev. Jim Tony of Chicago Presbytery said, “This is way too complex to make this better than what we already have.”

The Rev. Dan Williams, co-moderator of the task force, responded to the overture advocates, saying he wanted to see a church “so infused with the presence and power of Jesus Christ that people cannot wait to be a part of it.”

He added, “I do not doubt this is happening in places throughout our denomination today, but how much more might we accomplish if we dare to step out in faith, if we are willing to take the risk and let go of a model of being the church bound up in structures and processes.”

The committee spent most of the morning making changes to the document, specifying the requirement for committees on representation and stating that such a “committee should not be merged with another committee or made a subcommittee of another committee,” and adding deadlines for the Advisory Committee on the Constitution to make requested interpretive reports 60 days prior to a meeting of the General Assembly.