Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thoughts on The 2012 PCA General Assembly

It is the case that hardly anyone leaves General Assembly (GA) entirely satisfied. There are always things that commissioners wish had gone differently. However, in this first reflection on the Assembly, I'd like to focus on the positive.

Two committees do most of the heavy lifting for GA: the Committee on Overtures, and the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records (RPR). The RPR actually meets a month or so before GA, spending a full three days consolidating the reviews that individual members of the committee have already produced. Most members of the committee spend hours reviewing the minutes of three or so presbyteries before the meeting of RPR. Depending on the presbytery, this review process can be lengthy. The reviews produced by the individual reviewers are then further reviewed by subcommittees made up of two members of RPR. The reviews produced are then reviewed by the committee as a whole, and the entire thing consolidated into a report for the GA. In this process, the officers of the committee bear the brunt of the work, especially the recording clerks. The chairman of the committee then presents the report to the GA, and field questions or comments from the floor. For the three years I have been on the committee, Per Almquist of Northern New England Presbytery has been the chairman, and he has done a marvelous job. So if you know Per, give him the thanks of the Assembly.

The Committee on Overtures (CO) meets just prior to the Assembly and reviews all the overture to the GA that have come from the presbyteries since the preceding GA. This year, there were 44 overtures. While some of these overtures are rubber-stamp considerations (for example, overtures requesting the re-drawing of presbytery boundaries) most of them are substantive, and require a great deal of time. The Committee is often pushed hard to finish their work before the Assembly begins. As with RPR, the chairman of the Committee on Overtures then presents the report to GA, dealing with questions from the floor. This year's chairman, Frederick "Jay" Neikirk of Ascension Presbytery did a great job. Again, those of you who know Jay, extend to him the thanks of the Assembly.

The situation for both committees was complicated this year by the fact that more than one minority report accompanied the committee report. For those who don't know the arcana of GA Committees, each committee presents a recommendation to the Assembly on each of the matters with which it deals. Thus the CO presents a recommendation on each of the overtures it dealt with, while the RPR presents a recommendation regarding each of the presbyteries of the denomination (this year there were close to eighty presbytery recommendations). Generally, the recommendations are virtually unanimous. However, when there is a strong minority opposed to the recommendation of the committee, that minority will usually present a minority report. It will then be the responsibility of the GA to choose between the committee recommendation and the minority report.

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