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Form of Government Revision Committee stands behind flexibility of proposed revision

Also discussed: pastor-call process, dissolution of pastoral relationship in a presbytery

July 6, 2010

Meeting for a full day Monday, the Form of Government Revision Committee stood behind the flexibility within the proposed revision to the Form of Government, rejecting those overtures and amendments that would place specific organizations and structures within the document.

The committee seemed to hear the call of Pieter Visscher of the Presbytery of Northern New York, who testified in support of the revised Form of Government. He said the new document would “give us flexibility … to do the work God is calling us to do.”

The committee left nearly intact a proposed new Foundations of Presbyterian Polity that contains the vast majority of the first four chapters of the current Book of Order.

The committee rejected an amendment that would have changed the words “catholic” to “universal” in the Marks of the Church.

And when the committee looked at the section on Unity in Diversity, the committee rejected a motion that would have added the phrase “consistent with reformed tradition” to persons united by God, and also rejected an amendment that would have replaced “governance” with “decision making.”

The committee sought to eliminate two issues that had arisen during its earlier sessions. It removed wording from the pastor call process that required a pastor nominating committee to obtain approval from the presbytery prior to making its report to the congregation. The new wording states the nominating committee will “receive and consider the presbytery’s counsel.”

It also voted to remove the authority of a presbytery to dissolve a pastoral relationship without a congregational meeting, removing the phrase, “unless the presbytery expressly finds that the church’s mission under the Word imperatively demands dissolution of the relationship without such a meeting.”

In Chapter 3 of the revised Form of Government, the committee accepted the task force language in reference to participation and representation, voting down overtures that called for specific committees on representation. While not naming a specific committee, the task force language states, “Councils above the session shall establish by their own rule committees or entities” that would address diversity issues.

The council also rejected an overture that would have specifically mentioned the Organization for Mission manual of the General Assembly Mission Council within the new Form of Government’s section dealing with the General Assembly.

Rebecca Blackwell of Cherokee Presbytery said she believes that “God can handle the new Form of Government. The question is, can we?”