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What is General Assembly?

June 14 2017
June 14 2017

This week our freshly minted Assistant Pastor, Tom Breeden and I will drive to Greensboro, North Carolina for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. What is General Assembly and what goes on there?

First, this is a great time to remind ourselves that we are not an independent church. We are not only connected to one another, but we are connected and accountable to other believers in the wider church. The first level of that is called “Presbytery”- the church in our region. Before Tom Breeden could become our assistant pastor, he was carefully examined by our presbytery as to his beliefs and his Christian life. Presbytery also acted to approve the church plant which Tag Tuck is starting in Pantops. Presbytery oversees the work of campus workers like Robert Cunningham whom our church met last week.

All of the Presbyteries of the PCA are connected together as well and meet at an annual meeting called General Assembly. Every local church can send at least one “ruling elder” (non-vocational elders) and teaching elders (vocational elders like Tom and me) to this meeting. We cooperate on crucial ministries like world missions. In fact, the largest budget in the PCA is for world evangelism.  We own a seminary, a college, and a church camp together. We have a denominational discipleship agency, and a national missions agency as well. We meet to approve oversight reports and discuss issues affecting the whole church. This year we will consider a report on the role of women in the church.  You can read that report here.

It is yet to be approved, so keep that in mind. It could be voted down, or changed in some way. The idea is we come together and debate and discuss issues that affect us all. If it is something that will affect how we operate as a church, it is likely to involve a change in the PCA Book of Church Order. Those changes happen nearly every year, but are seldom of great consequence. If we were to change our beliefs, our Confession of Faith would have to be changed. That hasn’t happened since the denomination was founded in 1973. Those documents are downloadable here.

General Assembly is a great time to bump into old friends, experience great worship with several thousands of believers, and to experience resources, both through seminars and exhibitors, which have been developed to help local churches. First and foremost, it is a business meeting of the church.

Pray for us that the Lord will grant all these men wisdom and grace in their leadership together of our church.

Don Ward


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