Follow Up from General Assembly

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America wrapped up its business, and I think I’ve finally recovered from the experience.  I don’t mean to say that the General Assembly was an ordeal one had to suffer through. In fact, it was a great time of fellowship, study, worship and prayer as the presbyters assembled to conduct the business of the church.  Still, the drive to and from Alabama was exhausting, and I followed General Assembly with a week of Church Camp as a Counselor and Teacher, then came back home just in time for our Community’s 4th of July Celebration.  I need to make sure that this perfect storm doesn’t hit my calendar like this again.

I thought I’d take the next couple of weeks on my blog to share some follow up thoughts from the Assembly.  One of the downsides to going to a conference like this alone is that I’m the only one who had the experience, and much of what I heard or picked up is beneficial to the entire church.  So I’ll try to share some insights (hopefully they’ll be helpful).

Today – some personal observations from the floor of General Assembly.

  1. I don’t have, nor will I ever have, enough seersucker to be a fully vested PCA Teaching Elder.  Ok, this might not be the earth-shattering, revolution causing insight you might be looking for, but I found it interesting that there were so many Southern, “hipster-ish” among the Elders of the PCA.  I know we are a predominately Southern church, having come from the PCUS, but the dominance of the Southern influence is overwhelming at an even like General Assembly.
  2. I scored points by being from South Dakota.  Having stated that the PCA is a predominately Southern church, it was remarkable the reaction from our brothers and sisters in the church when I told them I was from South Dakota.  You might have thought I told them that I had planted a church on Mars.  They acted as though living this far north qualified me for hardship duty.  For many, the prospect of pastoral ministry in the “outer rim territories” was simply inconceivable.
  3. I never want to speak on the floor of General Assembly.  During the business of the Assembly, microphones are placed throughout the assembly room for people to come and speak for or against a motion, to present new business, or to question the order of business on the floor.  It’s all very “politic-y”, and I hope never to get caught in the middle of it.  There were people who stood in line to speak on every item of business before the Assembly – they always had something to say or a point to make. I pray that I may go my entire life without having to rise to speak on the floor of the Assembly.
  4. There are some brilliant people in this Church.  The real blessing of attending GA was to see how God has richly blessed this church with those who will intelligently and passionately engage this world with the truth of God’s Word.  The preaching in worship, the instructional seminars, and the conversations in the halls were uplifting, informative, and encouraging.
  5. We are a church that is searching to find its voice.  We are in our 44th year as a church.  We broke away from another denomination in an effort to remain faithful to the inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God, and have grown through the years as we have faithfully proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the majority of mainline and other evangelical denominations, the PCA continues to grow in numbers, and is financially strong.  Yet it is obvious that the pressure to look like the other denominations and to concede in certain areas to social and political influences  is high.  How will the church move forward in a culture that is more and more clearly post-Christian and even antagonistic to the faith?  How do we proclaim the gospel to a generation that is technologically proficient, but is meanwhile spiritually illiterate, lacking even the most basic understanding of who God is or what the Bible teaches?  How we answer these questions will shape the next 40 years, and more, of our church. I pray that our answer will be the same as that which led to the establishment of the PCA, a faithfulness to the Word of God and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I do have audio recordings of several seminars that were offered at General Assembly if anyone is interested.  Here are the topics:

  • Advancing The Gospel In A Changing North America
  • Recovering The Biblical Office Of Elder
  • The Pulpit And Public Theology In The Public Square Presbyterian Style
  • Making Session Meetings The Best Night Of The Month, Or How The Session Is Supposed To Work (2016)
  • Transformational Discipleship

The Business of GA

Setting aside my worries about the “Tom-Foolery” at GA (which will be present in any representation of the Church on this side of Christ’s Return), I thought it would be helpful to give you a little taste of what business is expected at this year’s GA.  I’ve broken down the business into three categories: Overtures, Seminars, and Worship.

There are currently 63 Overtures presented to the General Assembly, and 43 of those have to do with Racial Reconciliation and Repentance. Many of these overtures are copies of an original overture from the Missouri Presbytery, recognizing and repenting of the PCA’s complicit and historical involvement in racial discrimination, calling the Church to prayer and reconciliation. What debates and dialogue is had on this issue will not be about the nature of racism as sin nor the Church’s need for repentance, but rather what the repentance looks like and how we move forward together.

The remaining overtures include several memorials to Elders who have died, and minor corrections and additions to the Book of Church Order.  All of the amendments, and those that are presented on the floor of the Assembly, will first be considered and refined in the appropriate committees, and those which pass the committees will then be debated and voted upon by the Assembly as a whole.  A complete list of the overtures is available here.

Not only is General Assembly a time to prayerfully deliberate on important issues, it is also a time of learning. I’m really looking forward to the Seminars that are offered this year.  One title that really caught my eye was: Making Session Meetings the Best Night of the Month, or How the Session is Supposed to Work!  Um, yes! This seminar does conflict with a GA for Rookies class, but I think I know which one I’ll be attending.

Other Seminar titles that seem interesting are: Sexual Confusion in the Church: Becoming a Welcoming Church While Remaining Biblical; Advancing the Gospel in a Changing North America; The Pulpit and Public Theology in the Public Square, Presbyterian Style; and Hymns for the Life of the Church: Facing a Task Unfinished.  I am encouraged by the fact that our denominations national gathering isn’t just business and politicking, but is a time for study, fellowship, and growth.

When the Church comes together, it’s primary duty is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the practice of holy worship.  I am looking forward to a time of refreshment and praise as we come together to worship God as the General Assembly of the PCA.  The messages during worship will be given by Jim Wert, Tim Keller, and Thurman Williams, and the music for worship on Wednesday night will be led by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I found out also that there is a choir rehearsal on Tuesday night before worship, so I might be able to join the choir one evening as well.

As I promised before, I will be trying to give daily updates from GA, providing I have a reliable internet access, and the time to process my thoughts and reflections.  I encourage you to be praying for the gathering of the General Assembly, and stay informed by reading the updates, or following along at, or by reading the news updates from By Faith magazine at

Grace and peace!