Dr. Stephen Estock has graciously given Reasoning Together permission to publish his book, A Basic Guide to the PCA General Assembly. Last week we published the first chapter, which you may find here. 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.
II. The “Road Map” that Guides the Assembly
The PCA is a denomination committed to the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture as the Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice. Therefore, the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture is the supreme Judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined and all decisions and doctrines are to be examined.
The Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF], together with the Larger [WLC] and Shorter[WSC] Catechisms are part of the Constitution of the PCA. These documents contain the system of doctrine that is taught in the Scripture. Though all elders (and therefore all commissioners) sincerely receive and adopt these documents, the Standards are not infallible. The Constitution prescribes a procedure to amend them (BCO 26) should the PCA believe a change is necessary for the Standards to reflect better the system of doctrine taught in the infallible Word of God.
Book of Church Order (BCO)
The Book of Church Order is the part of the Constitution that PCA officers approve as the form of government and discipline that conforms to the general principles of biblical polity. By the vows of ordination, an officer’s commitment to the BCO is less than his commitment to the Westminster Standards. Just about every year, a Presbytery requests to amend the BCO in order to reflect the needs and issues of the denomination. That is why the BCO is in a binder rather than bound in a book. The BCO serves as the manual of rules and procedures by which PCA elders agree to live in order to maintain peace and purity in this branch of the visible church. Failure to follow these mutually agreed upon procedures is a cause of division within the denomination.
Rules of Assembly Operations (RAO)
The Rules of Assembly Operations provides the guide for the organization and operation of the General Assembly in a biblical and efficient manner. These rules are found in the “yellow pages” at the back of the binder that contains the Book of Church Order.
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RRO)
The latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised provides the parliamentary standard that governs the meetings of the General Assembly. At the beginning of the Assembly, the moderator appoints two commissioners to serve as Assistant Parliamentarians. Their job is to advise the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly (who is the chief Parliamentarian) who advises the Moderator on rules of procedure as the Assembly conducts business.
Registered commissioners receive a handbook containing reports from the various GA Committees and Agencies, Overtures properly submitted from the Presbyteries, and other materials to help the members complete the business of the Assembly. Reports generated during the meeting are distributed periodically by floor clerks to the commissioners seated in the Assembly (which is usually followed by a symphony of binder clicks as commissioners add the reports to their binders). Extra copies of the distributed reports are often found on tables in the front and sides of the Assembly hall. If a commissioner needs a report, he should contact a floor clerk near him. The initial draft of the handbook is available for download usually 4-6 weeks before the Assembly. Some commissioners print a copy at home and place it in a 3-ring binder. The AC staff makes a supplement available for download just before the Assembly begins. Information about the Commissioner’s Handbook can be found on the Administrative Committee website (pcaac.org).
Many commissioners choose to keep the handbook in an electronic version (e.g., pdf). However, the reports that are generated and distributed during the Assembly are only provided in hard-copy.