Dr. Stephen Estock has graciously given Reasoning Together permission to publish his book, A Basic Guide to the PCA General Assembly. To date, we have published Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4; today we add Chapter 5.We strongly encourage commissioners (especially first-time commissioners) to purchase their own copy; you may order here (Kindle edition, here).
And for a list of common PCA acronyms found in these articles, please click here.
V. The General Assembly Docket
The schedule for General Assembly varies from year to year depending on the business before the Assembly. Nevertheless, there are some elements that are consistent, as well as some important terms. A draft docket is discussed and approved by the Administrative Committee, and the Assembly approves the docket soon after the new moderator is elected.
Before the Assembly convenes, the Committees of Commissioners meet and conduct their business, which forms the basis for the work of the Assembly. Also before the first session, there are a number of seminars and special speakers. These seminars are designed for commissioners but are open to anyone.
The Assembly opens on Tuesday night with a worship service including an address/sermon by the retiring moderator and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After the service, the Assembly elects a new moderator based on the five minute nomination speeches given for each candidate by a commissioner. The Assembly approves the docket, as well as those people the new Moderator appoints to assist him (e.g., assistant parliamentarians, timekeeper, recording clerks, etc.) during the Assembly.
More seminars are offered on Wednesday and Thursday mornings before the Assembly reconvenes. Wednesday’s morning session usually features the report of the PCA Stated Clerk and the greetings from representatives of denominations with whom the PCA has fraternal relationships. On Wednesday afternoon, the Committees of Commissioners begin their reports, which continue until the Assembly is adjourned. At the time a Committee of Commissioners reports, the corresponding committee or agency also provides an informational report on the work completed since the last Assembly or on ministry being planned for the future.
Scattered throughout the docket are a number of Special Orders. According to parliamentary procedure, a special order is a fixed time for a particular element of the docket. Regardless of what the Assembly is doing, the Moderator must stop at the time of the Special Order. By vote, the Assembly may postpone the Special Order for a few minutes or reschedule for a new time, but the decision lies with the Assembly, not the Moderator. Common Special Orders in the General Assembly include each worship service and the report of the Nominating Committee.
Sometimes the Assembly finishes the business on Thursday night, but often the work continues into Friday morning before the scheduled adjournment at noon.
One characteristic of General Assembly is the frequency of prayer. The Assembly comes to order, recesses, and adjourns with prayer. Every committee report open and closes with prayer. Throughout the Assembly, the Moderator will call for times of prayer. Before and during the Assembly, there is a group of elders and visitors who are praying for the commissioners and work of the General Assembly. This emphasis on prayer is a tangible reminder that the Assembly is not a business meeting; rather, it is a gathering of the visible Church under the Lordship of Jesus, who is the King and Head of the Church. Apart from him and his blessing, the Assembly could do nothing of value.