The Form of Government Task Force has unanimously approved and submitted to the stated clerk of the General Assembly the final version of its work to revise the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The 11 members of the task force spent a major portion of their August 12-14 meeting here reviewing and refining their work before taking a final vote on Thursday (Aug. 13).
The task force released the initial draft of its work last fall. It invited feedback from across the church, which was taken into consideration as the group made final revisions to this portion of the PC(USA)’s Constitution.
“We are grateful for all of the responses we received from individuals, governing bodies, organizations, and entities,” said the Rev. Dan Williams of Shenandoah Presbytery and Elder Cynthia Bolbach of National Capital Presbytery, who serve as co-moderators of the task force. “We found the feedback very helpful as we drafted the new proposed Form of Government that will soon be before the church and the 219th General Assembly.”
The 218th General Assembly (2008) referred to the Office of the General Assembly the report of the initial Form of Government Task Force “for a period of consultation and study with churches and presbyteries through a system or systems designed and implemented by the Form of Government Task Force and members of the 218th General Assembly Committee on Form of Government Revisions.”
The assembly’s action called for the new task force to “revise the Form of Government Task Force Report, taking into account the concerns and suggestions gleaned from the consultation and study process. The guidance of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the overtures and testimony received by the 218th General Assembly (2008) Assembly Committee on Form of Government Revisions and the committee’s comments are referred to the task force for serious and studied consideration.”
Among the key items the task force members discussed last week prior to their vote was whether an interim pastor of a congregation could become that congregation’s installed pastor. The task force voted to include that provision in its work.
“Our proposal allows for the possibility of interim succession if presbytery believes it is the best interests of their mission strategy,” said Bolbach. “The specific succession would have to be approved by a super majority (three-fourths) vote. Presbyteries are free to preclude such succession if they feel that best fits their mission strategy.”
As the meeting concluded last week, Williams said, “We commend this work to the church with the hope that it will help provide a new way and a new day as we continue to participate in Christ’s mission within the world.”
The task force plans to post its final draft online by Sept. 1, which will be nearly six weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline to submit its work to the stated clerk of the General Assembly for consideration by the 219th General Assembly (2010).
Between now and next summer’s assembly, members of the task force will be making themselves available to interpret their work to governing bodies and other groups. Requests for visits can be made by calling (888) 728-7228, ext. 5808, or by sending an email.
In addition to Williams and Bolbach, the task force members are Elders Diana Barber (Synod of Lakes and Prairies), Carol Hunley (Pittsburgh Presbytery); and the Revs. Grace Bowen (New York City Presbytery), Gemechisa Guja (Donegal Presbytery), Paul Hooker (St. Augustine Presbytery), James Kim (Grace Presbytery), Neal Lloyd (John Knox Presbytery), Paige McRight (Central Florida Presbytery) and Stephen Smith (Pacific Presbytery).