The 45th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America convened their plenary sessions last night, 13 June, in Greensboro, North Carolina and will continue through noon on Friday 16 June. In their first action following worship they elected RE Alexander Jun the Moderator of the Assembly. The theme of the Assembly is “Come To The Table.” The meeting will be live streamed and they have their GA app available for several platforms to follow along. There is also a ShareFile! app there for registered commissioners to download reports and other documents.
While the full volume of reports is available only to commissioners, the docket and overtures are available on-line. [Tech note to the GA organizers – it is once again the case this year that you might want to change the title in the GA docket PDF properties so it no longer says “40th General Assembly.”] A more general schedule of events is also available. There is a nice page with links to all the forms and schedules for the meeting. And the Zika Virus Advisory is still on the web site, although I don’t think it is as applicable this year as it was last year in Mobile.
To track the polity of the PCA you can access the Book of Church Order online.
News updates will be posted through the official news website and online publication byFaith.
Turning to social media, you will probably want to keep an eye on the byFaith Magazine Facebook page. There are numerous opportunities to follow the meeting on Twitter including the official feed from byFaith (@PCAbyFaith). The hashtag for the Assembly is #pcaga. For pictures, keep an eye on the PCA Flickr site.
Other related Twitter accounts include Reformed University Fellowship (@RUFnational), PCA Discipleship Ministry (@PCACDM), and the Mission to North America (@pcamna). I would also include in this group the denomination’s schools, Covenant College (@CovenantCollege). and Covenant Seminary (@covseminary).
As for individuals to watch – round-up the usual suspects. Some who will be at the meeting and are, or will probably be tweeting include Fred Greco (@fredgreco), Ligon Duncan (@LigonDuncan), Sean Michael Lucas (@SeanMLucas), Melton L. Duncan (@MeltonDuncan), and Jemar Tisby (@JemarTisby) and his Reformed African American Network (@RAANetwork). Having included one organization there I will also mention Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing (@prpbooks) and Reformed Theological Seminary (@ReformTheoSem). (And as a note, there are other Twitter accounts for the different RTS campuses.) Let me also include Jim Moon Jr. (@jimmoonjr) and Allan Edwards (@edwardsae1) who in past years has given us the Bingo Card and the Selfie Scavenger Hunt. And for a Twitter feed that is posted decently and in order there is the @PCAPresbyter himself.
Regarding business to the Assembly, from the social media chatter the hot topic will be the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church. This report was authorized by the last GA and attempts to balance a recognition of women’s gifts for service in the church with the PCA’s understanding of the complimentarian nature of ordained office. It comes with a pastoral letter and nine recommendations. Among those recommendations is one that says:
3. That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly strive to develop, recognize, and utilize the gifts, skills, knowledge, and wisdom of godly women in the local, regional, and national church, and particularly consider overtures that would allow qualified women to serve on appropriate committees and agencies within the church.
There is another recommendation that, after quoting the Book of Church Order adds:
6… Thus, for the well-being of the church, the committee recommends that sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the ordained leadership; these godly, unordained women have often historically been referred to as deaconesses.
This one is sure to elicit a discussion about the nature of deaconesses and any parallels it may have to the ordained office of deacon. An opportunity to recognize and incorporate all in a more inclusive ministry or the camel’s nose under the tent? This report is docketed for 2:45 PM EDT on Thursday afternoon.
That report will be preceded at 2 PM by the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Racial Reconciliation, a continuation of a discussion that began two years ago and as part of last year’s discussion this Ad Interim Committee was formed.
Having the news update from Monday, we know the recommendations of the Overtures Committee (OC) of Commissioners and can anticipate a few other items of business. Overture 2 was advanced on a divided vote and will come with a minority report. It would give the BCO section on Solemnizing of Marriage full constitutional authority and is aimed at “strengthening the PCA’s public witness to a biblical definition of marriage.” Overture 16 was advanced with a near unanimous vote and would add a requirement that congregational meetings for a church to withdraw from the PCA would have a higher quorum requirement of one-half of the members. And Overture 18 has both practical considerations and polity nuances for the polity wonks in the audience. It would require requests for ad-interim or study committees come only by presbytery overture. The rationale for the overture argues that assembly business, particularly those items strongly connected to doctrine, should be bottom-up and not top-down. In other words, business like this should be generated from the presbyteries not committees of the higher judicatories. It also points out that having it come as presbytery overture provides a path that allows assembly debate, amendment and perfection of the requests.
All this and more is on the table for the next three days. It should be an interesting meeting and a barometer, or maybe a Rorschach test, of where the PCA is at the present time. Be ready to read the tea leaves.
Our best wishes to the commissioners and leaders of the PCA General Assembly for this important meeting and prayers for your discernment the next few days. May the Spirit guide you in your work.