Monday, December 09, 2013
PCA GA for Beginners, Part 1
It is about six months until the 2014 meeting of the PCA GA (Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly). I am planning to do a series of posts over the next several weeks that will provide an introduction for those for whom this will be their first GA. GA can be overwhelming to the first-time attender. These posts are intended to reduce that difficulty.
First of all, get used to acronyms. The most prominent ones will be, of course, PCA and GA. Others that you will see frequently, and that I will use in these posts are: BCO (Book of Church Order, available online here: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013BCOReprintALL10-13.pdf); and RAO (Rules of Assembly Operation, included in the BCO at the above link). I will introduce others along the way.
First, what is the GA? It is the annual meeting of representatives of the churches that make up the PCA. A fuller description of the GA is found in Chapter 14 of the BCO. I recommend that you read it. The GA meets at different locations around the nation, usually in a city that has sufficient hotel accommodations and a meeting place large enough to hold a full contingent of commissioners.
As for attendees, all teaching elders (TEs) in good standing may attend, as well as ruling elders (REs) as elected by their churches (see BCO14-2). The PCA has 4,321 TEs, and 1,474 churches, as well as 303 mission works. Given that each church may send at least two REs, theoretically the attendance at GA could be about 7,000 commissioners. Usually, though, it runs between 1,500 and 2,000. That can still be an overwhelming number for a first-time attender.
Preliminary meetings take place on Monday and Tuesday of the week of the meeting (I’ll explain more about these in a later post). GA officially opens with a worship service Tuesday evening of the meeting week. After the service, the assembly takes care of some basic business (electing a moderator, declaring a quorum, approving a docket, and so forth), then recesses until Wednesday. The work of the GA as a whole begins on Wednesday morning. The docket is set to wind up Friday at lunch time, but in recent years there has been a concerted effort to finish business Thursday evening.
In all, it can be a busy and tiring week. In future posts, I’ll outline some of the structure of the Assembly, and try to give some counsel on the best way to maneuver through the week.