Wednesday, June 25, 2014
More Thoughts on a Delegated PCA General Assembly
My previous post suggested four men (two TEs and two REs) from each presbytery as delegates to the Assembly. Responses have wondered about other ways of determining the number of delegates; for example, determining the number of delegates by the size of the presbytery or suggesting a much larger number of delegates. Also some suggested that one of the problems with preceding proposals for a delegated assembly was that men simply enjoy having the time to meet with other elders that they haven’t seen in a year.
While I recognize that some would like a larger attendance, even at a delegated assembly, four from each presbytery struck me as the right amount. It is a small enough number to enable the GA to function as a committee of the whole (in other words, no more “Committees of Commissioners”) and is sufficiently representative. In dealing with the “more representatives for larger presbyteries” question, it seems to me that the four per presbytery also avoids the problem of larger presbyteries having too much sway. In addition, the delegates from each presbytery would be instructed that they are going as representatives of the entire presbytery, thus perhaps giving greater representation to small churches.
In addition to the above, I would suggest that GA meet biennially. There is, as far as I can tell, no good reason for annual meetings. The reports and budgets of the denominational committees and agencies can be done on a biennial basis, as can review of presbytery records. In fact, having to submit records only every two years instead of every year may help some of our delinquent presbyteries come into accord with requirements.
As for the fellowship aspect of GA: if you take a look at the docket of GA, there is currently precious little time for fellowship, especially as each year the assembly seems to press harder and harder to get done before Thursday evening. As a result, fellowship takes place late, after the evening services, or it takes men away from the assembly itself, resulting in one-fourth to one-third of the commissioners commonly being absent from counted votes. My suggestion is that in the years between assemblies there be a “conference of presbyters.” It would be set up something like an academic conference. It would begin Monday evening with a plenary session presentation by someone picked by the GA on some topic relevant to pastoral work. Then, Tuesday through Thursday there would be smaller sessions, much like those currently done in the early mornings at GA. I would suggest two session periods each morning and one session period in the afternoon. There could be several alternatives at each of these periods, perhaps dealing with a general theme, but not required to. With only three session periods during the day, and with the evenings entirely free, there would be plenty of time for fellowship. Perhaps a final plenary session could close things out on Friday morning. REs would certainly be encouraged to attend, but since this is not a meeting of a court of the church, the presence or absence of REs would not be a problem. TEs could use this as a week of study leave, since the various presentations would be applicable to their pastoral labors.
This is admittedly a big-picture proposal. The devil is in the details, and perhaps these suggestions would not work. But unless we begin talking about alternative ways to doing GA, it is not going to improve.