At its meeting in April, the Administrative Committee approved a series of recommendations to the 41st General Assembly designed to improve Ruling Elder participation at future Assemblies. These recommendations were developed by a Subcommittee of the AC appointed to study the steady decline in RE involvement at GA that has taken place over the last 35 years. In their report, the Subcommittee cited a number of reasons for this decline:

  • The length of General Assembly discourages many Ruling Elders from attending as they have to take vacation days to attend unless they are retired.
  • Some Ruling Elders consider seminars and worship services as “down time” between business sessions and would  prefer a more business-oriented assembly.
  • Cost is a significant factor for some Ruling Elders who have to pay their own expenses, including registration fees, travel, meals, and lodging, without reimbursement from their churches.
  • Location is an issue for others, as reflected in lower attendance when the Assembly is held outside the Southeast.
  • Several perceptions about General Assembly also discourage Ruling Elder attendance: the perception that their attendance doesn’t make any difference, that General Assembly is designed as a professional association meeting for Teaching Elders, that many issues seem to have a pre-determined outcome.

To address these concerns the Subcommittee proposed and the full Committee approved the following recommendations to address these issues:

1.      To make a trained member of the Permanent Committee or Agency staff available to serve as a Recording Clerk for the Committee of Commissioner Meetings.

2.      To reduce the overall number of seminars by 25%. 

3.      To include the following suggested relevant seminars in planning future seminars at General Assembly.

       a. Relevant seminars on “General Assembly 101” to help the approximately 100 new commissioners at each General Assembly.

       b. Relevant seminars on hot-button theological issues designed to educate (not persuade) prior to important votes.

       c. Relevant seminars on “Practical Connectionalism” 

       d. Relevant seminars on “Advanced Officer Training”

4.      To re-connect the Committee and Agency Informational Reports with the Committee of Commissioner Reports and adhere to a strict 10-minute time limit for them.

5.      To schedule the most important or controversial business coming before the General Assembly at times of peak attendance. 

6.      To close the Exhibit Hall when the most important or controversial business is being conducted. 

7.      To schedule the meeting of the Overtures Committee in advance of the General Assembly, to allow all the commissioners greater time to evaluate their recommendations.

8.       To encourage the Presbyteries to defray the transportation expenses incurred by conducting an early Overtures Committee meeting.

9.       To reduce the length of the General Assembly to three days.

While realizing that these changes to General Assembly would be significant, the Committee noted that the status quo is unacceptable given the current situation of decreasing attendance and increasing costs.

For a more complete explanation of this proposal and the rationale behind it, read the article on our Issues & Answers page by clicking here.