The GAPJC White Paper Redux

Certain groups are still trying to gain traction against the proposed new Form of Government (nFOG) by giving the “ninth commandment treatment” to the so-called General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) “white paper.”  This paper was addressed in depth by an earlier blog entry on this site, “The Proposed Form of Government and Interpretive History.”

When you encounter this argument, please keep the following things in mind:

  • Even though these groups present the “white paper” as if it were an official report of the GAPJC to the 219th General Assembly, it was not.  Log on to PC-Biz, the online repository of official papers before the General Assembly, click on the Committees tab, and click on Committee 07, Form of Government Revision.  There you will find the eighteen reports, papers, and overtures assigned to the committee that considered nFOG.  You will NOT find anything from the GAPJC, this “white paper,” or otherwise.  The “white paper” was intended as an internal document to advise the GAPJC moderator and clerk on a host of issues before the 219th GA, was never intended to be made public, and certainly is not an official action of the GAPJC.
  • All actions of the GAPJC arise out of appeals generated by the permanent judicial commission system of the PC(USA).  There has been no case before the GAPJC involving nFOG, so there is no “trigger” for the GAPJC to make an official ruling, interpretation, or comment on it.  (Check the listing of the GAPJC’s decisions on the web site; you will not find any cases related to nFOG.)  Absent a such a case, it is the Advisory Committee on  the Constitution’s (ACC’) responsibility, and not the GAPJC’s, to offer interpretation and comment on constitutional matters before a General Assembly.
  • What you will find assigned to Committee 07 is Item 07-11, “Effect of a Major Revision of the Book of Order on Previous Authoritative Interpretations,” a request for interpretation from the General Assembly Committee on Representation.  This request, and the answer to it by the ACC, was developed before the GAPJC “white paper” became public.  This report provides the framework by which decisions will be made as to whether any current Authoritative Interpretations (AIs) will be discontinued if nFOG is adopted.
  • The special committee that is working to identify and classify AIs according to the ACC’s five guidelines from Item 07-11 was a recommendation that was put together by the FOG Task Force and the ACC, in consultation with the moderator and clerk of the GAPJC.  That special committee, which is now at work, is made up of former members of the ACC and GAPJC, and two staff persons in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).  In other words, the GAPJC is on board with the current process regarding AIs.
  • Yes, the GAPJC “white paper” was given to Assembly Committee 07, because a member (or members) of the committee requested that it be distributed.  Even so, it was not before the committee as an official document requiring the committee or the GA’s action.  Its status was no different from testimony which the Committee received during open hearings.  And, it obviously had little sway on the Committee’s action to recommend nFOG to the GA for adoption, which they did by a vote of 37-5

The next time you see or read of this “white paper” supposedly containing “the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission’s … advice not to adopt this new Form of Government,” or that their concerns were not addressed by the Assembly, or other such rubbish, see it for what it is: a desperate attempt to confuse the issue before the church, and to discourage you from reading the proposed Form of Government for yourself. When you do read it, you will see that nFOG does not “so [alter] our way of living and working together that we can hardly imagine the differences,” but rather maintains the core principles of Presbyterian polity by which we have been living for the past 28 years, while freeing up the councils of the church from the one-size-fits-all regulatory structures and procedures into which our Form of Government has ballooned.  Our councils will still have the same responsibilities.  They simply will be freed to accomplish them in new, creative, and fresh ways, that best meet the priorities of the mission within their bounds.

Dan Williams


5 responses to “The GAPJC White Paper Redux

  1. Rev. Williams,

    Your accusations of those who oppose the nFOG are unbecoming and uncalled for. Such behavior ought to be beneath your dignity, and you should apologize.

    You accuse others of “a desperate attempt to confuse.” In doing so, you make mean-spirited assumptions about their emotional state (desperation) and their motives (to confuse).

    In truth, you know neither their emotional state nor their motives, but you choose to assume and impute negative emotions and motives. That is unfair and not right. It may, in fact, infer more about your mental state and motives than it does about theirs.

    You appear to be so wed to your work that you feel compelled to personally attack the motives and character of those who come down on the issue with a conclusion different from yours: They cannot simply disagree with you; they must be bad people. You do not need to treat the others as enemies. Indeed, it is highly unbecoming and weakens your stature and arguments considerably.

    The truth of the matter is that the white paper was written for the GAPJC, it bears concerns about the nFOG, and many people believe that the concerns raised in that internal GAPJC paper remain valid, despite cosmetic attempts to deal with them.

    It does no good, Wizard of Oz-like, to proclaim, “Pay no attention to the white paper meant to remain behind the curtain!”

    The flaws of the nFOG, its intended vagueness, its troubling theology, its destruction of well-honed practices, and its regrettable introduction of years of chaos and confusion as everybody rewrites their practices and makes anew mistakes once fixed–all of this AND the white paper argue against the adoption of nFOG.

    Rev. Williams, you gave it an honest effort. Thank you. But we are not fond of the product. Please don’t become petty and accusatory simply because not everyone lauds your work.

    James D. Berkley
    Bellevue, WA

    • Jim, get a grip.

      I did not question the motives or the emotional makeup of those who oppose nFOG. I called into question the strategy of presenting the GAPJC paper as something it wasn’t (an official report to the 219th GA), and continuing to ignore that the leadership of the GAPJC was consulted and agreed with the creation of the special committee on AIs now at work. A sure sign of a losing argument is one that ignores what was presented in the bullet points of the post in question, and instead tries to convert it into an ad hominem issue.

      The facts remain that the Assembly Committee saw the concerns raised in the GAPJC paper, and the overwhelming majority of the Committee were not swayed by them. The task force and the ACC spoke to the issues raised by (as well as errors within) that paper, in the context of the discussion on Item 07-11, with the leadership of the GAPJC present in the room. (Either the moderator or the clerk of the GAPJC, or both, sat directly across the aisle from me in the committee room.) They raised no objection to what the committee recommended and the Assembly approved regarding the issue of AIs.

      What then would you call a strategy that ignores all of this, represents the GAPJC paper as something it was not, and characterizes the GAPJC as having somehow officially acted to oppose nFOG? “A desperate attempt to confuse the issue” sounds fairly accurate.

      What makes your response so amusing — and sad — is that it comes from someone who works for a publication that regularly is accused of doing what you say I have done. The old adage about pots and kettles and declarations of color appearances comes to mind here. One thinks you would be more sensitive to this and make sure your response stuck to the arguments presented, instead of making allegations of personal attacks. “Open can of worms,” anyone?

      How do you good folks at the Layman say it? We stick by our story.


  2. Thanks for this factual refutation of those opposed to the proposed nFOG! Truth is a thing of beauty.

  3. Pingback: Mission Support and Per Capita « The nFOG Blog

  4. Pingback: nFOG Approved; Updated FAQs | The nFOG Blog

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