Monday, June 08, 2015
The PCA GA: What is it?
The PCA GA is the annual denominational meeting for the Presbyterian Church in America. The PCA is the second-largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, though it is only about one-sixth the size of the largest: the Presbyterian Church (USA).
In large part, PCA GA is a convention, much like a business or academic convention. There is a large Exhibit Hall in which the PCA Permanent Committees and Agencies (to be explained later) have informational and promotional booths set up. Other institutions have displays as well. As might be expected, there is a bookstore run by the Committee on Discipleship Ministries (one of the Permanent Committee). In addition to the exhibit hall, there are seminars on various topics related to ministry and missions scheduled around the business sessions.
The PCA at the national level has five Permanent Committees: Administration, Discipleship Ministries, Mission to the World, Mission to North America, and Reformed University Ministries. In addition, it has five agencies: Covenant College, Covenant Theological Seminary, PCA Foundation, PCA Retirement and Benefits, Inc., and Ridge Haven Conference and Retreat Center. Each year, these committees and agencies submit reports, with recommendations for the coming year, to the Assembly. These reports are reviewed by ad hoc committees of commissioners (CoC: committees made up at each GA out of attendees from the various churches). These committees are made up of one person from each presbytery (82 presbyteries total). Most of the time, fewer than half of the presbyteries are represented in these committees of commissioners. These CoCs review the report of the committee or agency then present their report to the Assembly as a whole for action. For the most part, these reports and the votes on them are pro forma.
Court of the Church
Part of the responsibility of the GA is to handle cases that come to it from the lower courts (sessions and presbyteries). These cases come in one of two ways. They may come from the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). In these cases, the SJC has already rendered a verdict in the case. It is, however, the responsibility of the GA as a whole to either approve or disapprove the judgment of the SJC.
The other way in which cases come to the Assembly is through the Report of the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records (CRPR). If some exception of substance is taken with some aspect of a presbytery’s actions, then the GA as a whole must deal with that case. Most of these are pro forma, as the Assembly will often simply go with the recommendation of the CRPR. But in cases where there is not a unified report from the CRPR, the case may induce a fair amount of discussion at GA.
Finally, in some sense, the GA is a church. The meeting of the Assembly is opened with a worship service (Tuesday evening), and each other evening of the meeting (Wednesday and Thursday) there is also a worship service.
It should be obvious that with all that to be done, and three-and-a-half days to do it, the schedule can be pretty hectic.