This past week I was preparing for and then attending the General Assembly of the our denomination (PCA). It was held in the beautiful city of Greenville, SC which I enjoyed despite spending most of my time inside. So here are some of my thoughts in retrospect:
1. Visitor Status: Through most of the official business meetings I was not present. I registered as a visitor, not a commissioner (with the responsibility and privilege of voting). I went primarily went for networking purposes and had a great time connecting with a variety of people. While it is important for leaders to analyze, debate, and vote as we tackle various items of business, I’m so glad I was able to spend the time interacting with people. As I shared about our upcoming work in Worcester there were good question, thoughtful suggestions, and many who prayed right then for our work. Doing the “work” of the general assembly encompasses both attending meetings and building relationships. I was much more effective in the second category this year.
2. Take off the margins: In conversation with an older man who has been around the PCA for a while, he said, “If you take the 5% who are on either far margin of the PCA, we have a wonderfully centered and strong denomination” I have a relatively short history with the PCA and in most institutions it is the controversial or cantankerous that make the most noise. It was a great reminder to think about the wonderful center of the PCA and this was my experience in my face to face interactions. At times it is hard to know how to describe the PCA, other than it’s theology, but I think I have a better idea through the slice of people I interacted with in Greenville.
3. Strength and Weakness: Being a Presbyterian church has its strengths (rich theology, stable governance, vetted leadership) as well as its weaknesses (slow paced, overly academic, pride). I know these more on the level of the individual church and it was interesting to see them play out denominationally. I think the checks, balances, and avenues to address disagreement built into the governing structure of the PCA are necessary and rather helpful. The other side though is that we can get bogged down. In witnessing debate, it was amazing how much time it took to work through certain issues pertaining to our theology while much less attention was paid to some of the ministries of the denomination. It is good that we have the systems to work through disagreement and move change, but there are trade offs.