A majority of the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have approved amending the Book of Order to include the proposed New Form of Government.
Trinity Presbytery, in western South Carolina, voted yesterday (June 7) to approve nFOG, making it the 87th and last necessary vote for passage. It will take effect July 10, one year after the closing of the 219th General Assembly.
The unofficial tally is 87-80, with six presbyteries not yet voting.
Along with nFOG, two sections — Foundations of Presbyterian Polity and an advisory handbook — will be added to the Book of Order, part of the PC(U.S.A.)’s constitution.
Proponents of the six-chapter nFOG say it is designed to be flexible and recognizes the changing nature of the church. The current 18-chapter Form of Government was adopted in 1983 and has been amended hundreds of times.
The major difference between the proposed nFOG and the current Form of Government is not in what governing bodies are expected to do, but in how and who does it, said the Rev. Dan Williams, co-moderator of the nFOG task force, in a previous PNS story.
Through the process of amendments, bodies are very concerned with doing things “decently and in order,” Williams said.
“We spend so much time doing things the right way that we may not be focusing on doing the right things,” he said, comparing the nFOG to clearing the barnacles from the bottom of a ship.
In response to the vote, denominational leaders issued a letter, which states in part: “It is a season of much change in the church, and change is often accompanied by anxiety. Making the transition from the current Form of Government to the new one will take time, patience, and grace. We will all be living gradually into these new dimensions of the church’s governance.”
The letter states that many Presbyterians won’t see any major difference under a new Form of Government. Worship services and congregational work will continue as before, but sessions, presbyteries and synods will operate in a more flexible way that can be adjusted according to context.
“The new FOG will also usher in changes in terminology. For example, ministers of the Word and Sacrament will be known as teaching elders, partnering in ministry with ruling elders who serve on the congregation’s council (session),” reads the letter.
To read the text of nFOG, and for additional resources about the amendment, click here.