This month, I’m headed to Detroit for the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which will take place June 14-21. I am one of 4 commissioners elected and sent by our Presbytery to this biennial meeting of our national denomination. Although I’ve been Presbyterian my whole life, I’ve never been to GA before, so I thought it might be helpful to learn a bit more about GA and share it with you.
Did you know?
- The PC(USA) has approximately 1.8 million members in over 10,000 congregations in the US? These congregations are organized into 173 presbyteries (district governing bodies) which make up 16 synods (regional governing bodies). FPC Yorktown is a congregation of the Presbytery of Hudson River which is located in the Synod of the Northeast.
- This year’s General Assembly will have 654 commissioners who are elected by their presbyteries to attend and vote on business at the assembly. Half of the commissioners are ruling elders (lay leaders) and half are teaching elders (ministers). There are also 219 advisory delegates from different groups – young adults, theological students, missionaries and ecumenical representatives.
- In addition, another 3000-4000 people from 50 states and many different countries will attend GA. Some of these will be delegates from sister denominations around the world. Others will be representatives of various organizations within the PC(USA) and the broader church. Many will have exhibits and booths set up in the huge exhibit hall. Still others will be there just to observe. Whatever their purpose, that’s a lot of people!
- The purpose of the General Assembly is to discern the mind of Christ and the will of God for the PC(USA) through worship, conversation, committee meetings, and plenary sessions. It is a weighty assignment, but one that we believe and pray will be guided by the Holy Spirit. “We begin and end with worship, and in between there are celebrations, deliberations and inspirations for everyone.”
The General Assembly will act on issues ranging from theology (what we believe) to social witness (how we live our faith in the world) to self-governance (how we organize ourselves to be the most faithful and effective church we can be). There will be a number of “hot button” issues before the GA this year, including marriage equality and Israel/Palestine relations. GA will act on hundreds of items of business which it receives through the reports and recommendations of various assembly entities and through overtures from synods and presbyteries. It will be a busy 8 days!
This year’s theme is “Abound in Hope,” based on Romans 15:13. As we have been discussing in our Thursday morning study group on the Great Emergence, our church and our world are in the midst of an era of profound transition. The church is wrestling with many challenges to its identity and purpose in the world. As we live into the uncertainties and opportunities of God’s future, our anchor is the hope we know and cling to in Jesus Christ, who promises to go with us wherever God leads.
As our General Assembly convenes in Detroit and as God leads us into the future, please pray for all those working to be faithful to God’s future. I’ll look forward to sharing my adventures with you when I return!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
P.S. If you want to learn more or follow what’s happening at General Assembly, go to www.pcusa.org/ga221 or check out Spirit of GA page on Facebook.