General Assembly 2017
I promised a report from the PCA General Assembly in Greensboro, NC. I've had a month to gather my thoughts and they are still scattered.
For those who are new to the PCA, General Assembly is our denomination's annual meeting. Ideally, both ruling elders and teaching elders are free to attend. However, due to the time commitment required for travel, the majority of the men attending are pastors. As one elder told me, "I had to tell my wife that I was going to use some of my vacation time to spend a week with my pastor." It's a challenge. But over 1500 men were in attendance.
The theme this year was "Come to the Table", with an emphasis that Jesus calls people from every tribe, tongue and nation to the Lord's Supper where we all get to feast on the grace of Christ. The theme was reinforced by the three different preachers:
George Robertson, First Presbyterian Church; Augusta, Georgia Irwin Iynce, City of Hope Church; Columbia, MD Duke Kwon, Grace Meridian Hill; Washington, D.C.
This year was the first time in the 45 year history of our denomination that a non-white moderator was elected. Alexander Jun is a ruling elder in California, who was also the first moderator to rock the man-bun.
We sang songs in English, Spanish, and Korean. There was a variety in musical style and instrumentation each night as well: bluegrass, black gospel, Korean choir, and traditional hymns. Here is a brief recording of a Korean song, "Ososo (Come now, O Prince of Peace):
Below is the poem that was read to start the Assembly.
Come to the table my son, my laughter,
Take wood and knife and let us walk away
Up into His provision.” When Isaac calls after,
“Without a lamb? Do we only go to pray?”
Come to the table stand packed and waiting
Holding your staff, eating pilgrim’s bread
List’ning to the stories of God’s emancipating
Which leaves the darkened kingdom’s firstborn dead.”
“Come to the table; long have I waited
To celebrate this Passover with you;
Which I give and pour in love consecrated:
The meal of my body, my body to renew.”
“I am the narrow door, the ram provided, the lamb slain;
Come you humble, to my table, be filled, rejoice and reign.”
What do we do at a General Assembly? As mentioned above, we gather together in worship to hear the proclamation of the gospel. We also have opportunities for professional growth through a variety of seminars. I selected three: Church Planting in Small Town, Working Class Communities, Only Human: Facing the Emotional Challenges of Ministry Life, and the Roles of Women in the PCA.
And there is the business of the church. The PCA is unique in that while everyone adopts the Westminster Confession of Faith as a wonderful summary of the teaching of the Bible, not every church looks the same. There is what I think is a healthy diversity in our denomination. There are those who have a very strong robust doctrinal emphasis who we need in our denomination. There are those who have a very strong emphasis on the priority God's grace for sinners, who we need in our denomination. And there are those who are leading the way in mission and social justice and church planting, which we need in our denomination.
Diversity within our denomination also means there will be some disagreement. The main topic of discussion this year was regarding the roles of women in the PCA. Last year, the 44th General Assembly put together a study committee so that we have a clear document on what ordination is and what women are called to do by God in the Scriptures within Biblical bounds.
You can read the full report here: http://www.pcaac.org/ad-interim-committee-women-in-ministry/
Here are the recommendations that were made:
Recommendation 2 - That sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly recognize that, from the founding of the PCA, there has been a variety of views and practices regarding the ways in which women may serve the Lord and the church within scriptural and constitutional parameters, without ordination, and that such mutual respect for said views and practices continues.
Recommendation #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.
Recommendation #4 - That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men.
Recommendation #5 - That sessions consider how to include non-ordained men and women in the worship of the church so as to maintain faithfulness to Scripture, as well as utilizing the gifts God has poured out to His entire church (see exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:26 in 3 Chapter Two).
Recommendation #6 - that sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the ordained leadership.
Recommendation #7 - That presbyteries and the General Assembly consider an overture that would establish formally the right of sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly to establish the position of commissioned church worker within the PCA for qualified 22 and gifted unordained men and women.
Recommendation #8 - That sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly consider how they can affirm and include underprivileged and underrepresented women in the PCA.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask. It is joy and a privilege to be apart of a denomination that stands firm on the truth of the Scriptures and the good news of the gospel! Continue to pray four denomination's faithfulness to our God and our love for one another.