Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

GA Committee Recommendations

Several committees at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting in Pittsburgh have issued reports. These will now be voted on by the General Assembly and if they pass, will be sent on to the presbyteries for voting during the year ahead.

While I’m sure the commissioners did their work as well as they could, I’m personally disappointed with several of their recommendations, including these:

There’s another recommendation that I’m still trying to figure out.

  • Changing the ordination standards to include “repentence” and “grace.” Since it involves ordination standards, I assume the underlying issue is human sexuality, but of course we prefer to speak in generalities.
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High-Percentage Tithing “Accelerators”

Here’s an article about some things that are found in Presbyterian churches with a higher-than-average proportion of people who contribute a high percentage of their income to the church.

(Did you get that? These are factors that, when you find them in a church, give you grounds to predict that the church will have a more high-giving contributors than average churches. The article calls these factors “accelerators” but that suggests causation, as if these factors somehow stepped on the tithing gas pedal. From my reading, a better term would be “predictor.”)

Anyway, these “accelerators” are as follows:

  • More conservative worshipers.
  • More people who attend at least weekly.
  • More (i.e., a higher-than-usual proportion of) men.
  • Larger congregations.

It’s interesting to speculate what the connections are (besides statistical anomaly) between these factors and higher giving.

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Various Changes in the NFOG

I thought I would note some of the changes I’ve run across as we begin operating under the NFOG. I may update this post as I find other items worth mentioning.

  • There’s no longer a requirement for deacons to meet annually with session. (The old G-6.0405.)
  • The category of “inactive member” has been eliminated: G-1.0401. (Amen.)
  • Congregations decide their own rules for the minimum notification time preceding a congregational meeting: G-1.0502.
  • Congregations also set their own quorum to conduct business: G-1.0501.
  • Robert’s Rules is no longer mandated (old G-7.0302c).
  • The composition of the nominating committee is defined by the congregation, except it has to have (in addition to the ex-officio pastor) three active members and at least one currently-serving ruling elder: G-2.0401.
  • After the election of new officers, session examines them, and, if they pass, session decides when they get ordained and/or installed: G-2.0402.
  • Sessions decide their own quorum: G-3.0203.
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Overheard Chuckle

I just had a conversation with someone, and laughed when I heard this:

Another factor, perhaps overlooked, in understanding why Presbyterianism thrived in Scotland, is, of course, whiskey.

“And all God’s people said, ‘Amen.'”

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Picking Elders

It’s time to pick new elders. If someone on the nominating committee calls you and asks you to serve, and you ask what you have to do, they might go to that horrible laundry list in G-10.0102 that enumerates all the specific areas of responsibility held by Session.

But that’s the wrong place to start. It leads to Sessions full of people who want to balance the budget or fix the roof. Those are great people, and every pastor wishes their church had more of them who were willing and able to serve.

But you can’t start there. In this brief video, Gradye Parsons, the PC(USA) Stated Clerk, argues instead that the right place to start is G-6.0304, and specifically the following sentence:

It is the duty of elders, individually and jointly, to strengthen and nurture the faith and life of the congregation committed to their charge.

That’s what we’re here for, after all. It’s what distinguishes the church from every other type of business or civic or fraternal organization. We desperately need people who can balance budgets and fix the roof. But if we aren’t helping people grow in faith, there’s no point in being here.

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