Saturday, June 14, 2008

The 36th PCA General Assembly

As I noted in the previous post, I'm back from the General Assembly in Dallas. For some good analyses of the "main event," namely the discussion of overture 9 which sought a study committee to examine the issue of deaconnesses, see these posts from the Jolly Blogger and this from Ligon Duncan on Ref21.

I was a member of overtures this year and helped to craft the grounds for the majority's response. I'm pleased to say that the debate in overtures (which, if you include all the "deaconness" overtures, extended from 8am to 4:30pm with a 90 minute lunch break) was actually very congenial. There were only three comments that made me wince and two of those brothers cycled back around and apologized to the body. All in all, it was a good process.

Perhaps my only complaint was that only 80 elders (out of the 1100 who came) got to see and experience that good process. And perhaps this is part of the struggle with the new structures that we put into place three GAs ago. While this new "senate" (an overtures committee that has the potential of having a TE and RE from every presbytery; hence, up to 150 men) allowed good and substantial debate, with much parliamentary procedure involved, very few of the commissioners attending the assembly actually experienced or participated in it.

That was why I was a bit frustrated that we didn't extend the debate on the floor. I wished that the stated clerk had set overtures as an order of the day with a two-hour block of time to allow the rest of the fathers and brothers an opportunity to voice their perspectives. We may not have used it all, but since we finished GA early anyway, it strikes me that we could have allowed a more substantial floor debate than we did. Even though I was with the majority, I especially wanted the minority report to have a full conversation so that we could have had a good process that included all the fathers and brothers.

My other great joy during the Assembly came from all the brothers that I had the opportunity to meet and with whom I hung out. To me, one of the wonderful parts of our connectional polity is this: coming to a national assembly and realizing that Christ's work is bigger than my church or presbytery, but that it extends across North America and around the world. Every year, I remember how this is a foretaste of that eschatological moment in Revelation 7, when we will see "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10). The foretaste which is our assembly causes me to long for the last days and this scene of worship! It will be glorious!

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