ABCs of the 2022 PCA GA

ABCs of the 2022 PCA GA

Submitted by TE NJW of CPCA in Raleigh, NC

(AKA: Pastor Nate Wilks of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina)

PCA.  GA.  MTW.  MNA.  RUF.  TE.  RE. ECP.  If you’ve been around a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), you know we have more initials than a closing contract for a house.  Nowhere is this more obvious than at our denomination’s annual gathering, General Assembly, aka GA, held June 21-24, 2022.  For those initially uninitiated to the world of PCA initials, I offer below both a summary and a primer on this year’s gathering, the ABCs of the 2022 PCA GA:

A. Alabama – Like the first gathering of the PCA GA in 1973, this year’s assembly met in Birmingham, Alabama, home of the USFL and the 2022 World Games.

B. Business – Contrary to popular belief, the PCA GA is not just an excuse for an exotic vacation to locations in the Southern US.  For the more than 2,300 pastors and ruling elders who gather, it’s a week-long business trip to welcome the dawn of summer.

C. Committees of Commissioners – For the various agencies and committees of the PCA, the early-week gathering of smaller committees made up of various commissioners from throughout the denomination, greatly streamlines the business done each year and further enhances the accountability and connection we long to exhibit.

D. Debate – Recognizing the diversity of opinions on various matters facing the PCA, the GA provides space for honest and gracious debate.  I personally changed my intended vote on more than one occasion, based on convincing arguments made during times of debate.

E. Exhibit Hall – One of my personal favorite features of the PCA GA is the exhibit hall, complete with scores of displays from various ministries and organizations, including Christian colleges and seminaries, publishers, mission’s agencies, and more.  This year, I met with old friends, picked up a mug from my alma mater, Covenant Seminary, as well as swag from my Geneva College, where I graduated with a broadcasting degree, knowing I would never be a pastor.

F. Food – Where there are pastors and elders, there will be good food.  I attended the MNA (Mission to North America) lunch, where I enjoyed both food for my body and food for my soul.  The denomination’s church-planting agency, MNA, shared exciting news of growing diversity among leadership in our denomination, including encouraging stories of God’s faithfulness from Korean and African American pastors.

G. Growth – In the midst of the challenges of the past two years, the PCA has experienced slight growth in the overall number of churches, increasing by 13 from 2020-2021, a sign of the Lord’s blessing through the planting of new gospel works during a time of pandemic.  The PCA’s outreach to college students, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), has also experienced growth, with nearly 400 pastors ministering on nearly 150 campuses.

H. Host Committee – Often overshadowed by the pageantry and business of GA is the yeoman’s work of the local host committee, comprising of hundreds of faithful church members, wading through thousands of details over the course of years to serve and love on the pastors, elders and families who enjoy the fruit of their labor.  Because of COVID, this year’s host committee had to regroup and extend its work an additional two years, as well as navigate massive changes brought about by Birmingham playing host to multiple sporting events this summer.

I. Irwin Iynce – A former moderator of the PCA GA, Irwin Iynce was affirmed this year as the new coordinator for Mission to North America.  He is the 1st African American to serve as coordinator of any agency in the denomination’s history.

J. John Bice – A ruling elder from Alabama, John Bice was elected moderator of the 49th PCA GA.  He had been nominated on two other occasions and served with grace, skill, and a self-deprecating wit, that provided much needed levity in the midst of a busy week.

K. Kingdom work – Often lost amidst the sea of people, making of motions, and points of order is this beautiful reality – thousands of people took time away from their homes and families to participate in the PCA’s share of Jesus’ Kingdom work.  More than once, it was stated that our purpose is to glorify God through obedience to the great commandment and great commission.  I am grateful to be part of a denomination, actively seeking to do the work of the Kingdom.

L. Logo – For those who may not know, the PCA has the world’s greatest logo, especially to those who recognize its resemblance to the helmet of the Mandalorian.  A minor, though important, part of the business of GA was to vote to protect the logo and other trademarks of the PCA from being used without permission by various blogs, websites, and other organizations.  Believe it or not, yes, that’s a thing!

M. Matt Bohling – Some of you know that I have a pastoral coach, Matt Bohling with whom I meet semi-monthly on Zoom to talk about matters pertaining to church and family leadership and my relationship with Jesus.  I had the privilege of spending a few hours with Matt face-to-face, which was an encouragement to my soul and an important aspect of a week like this.

N. Nominations – Each year, GA begins with nominations from the floor for the role of moderator, who serves both during the week and throughout the coming 12 months.  The role of moderated rotates annually between teaching elders (pastors) and ruling elders (REs) with the REs up in 2022.  Nominations are often both encouraging and entertaining, as nominators have opportunity to share the story of each man’s relationship to Jesus, the church, and impact on the world.  I’m reminded each year of the various gifts the Lord has given to our denomination in many of the faithful pastors and elders who serve Jesus in this branch of His church.

O. Overtures – One of the specific quirks of the PCA GA is the overtures process.  Overtures are essentially proposals made by individuals, sessions, or presbyteries in advance of General Assembly.  An Overtures committee, comprising of representatives from across the denomination, spend hours during GA week, debating and improving upon these overtures before they come before the entire assembly for a vote.  If an overture is approved it either goes into effect immediately, or it is sent back to the presbyteries for a vote in matters pertaining to changes in the PCA BCO (Book of Church Order).  There were 47 overtures that came before the assembly in 2022.

P. Petition the government to end abortion in the US Days prior to the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, the General Assembly voted to petition the executive and legislative branches of the US and state governments to, “renounce the sin of abortion, to repent of the complicity in the mass slaughter of innocent unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God, and to reverse the ruinous direction of both law and practice in this area.” 

Q. Qualifications for Office – Several overtures at this year’s GA, dealt directly with specific language around character qualifications for the office of elder in the PCA, including but not limited to one’s personal identity and sexuality.  These overtures will come before the presbyteries throughout the denomination in the coming year.

R. Report on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault – A significant report on domestic abuse and sexual assault was presented to a packed house.  The authors of this report included pastors and elders, as well as several women who have done extensive work in these areas.  The report includes a biblical and theological understanding of abuse, as well as a sobering reminder of the nature of sin and its impact on human relationships inside and outside of the church.  The committee also interview several survivors of abuse with connections to the PCA.  Among the important advice given, includes that sessions and presbyteries would use this report to be better equipped to protect the sheep in their congregations, and that a future General Assembly would approve a denomination-wide assessment on the state of abuse in the PCA, similar to the one reported by the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this summer.

S. Seminary Reunion – My alma mater, Covenant Seminary, held its annual alumni reunion during the week, where I enjoyed catching up with former classmates, professors, and staff members.  I was also encouraged by the address of Covenant’s new president, Tom Gibbs, who shared his excitement about how God is leading the seminary to train a rising generation of church leaders.

T. Thankful – I am truly thankful to the Session and Calvary for the privilege of participating in GA.  I recognize the sacrifices that are made to accommodate this important work, and for that I am thankful.

U. Ukraine –  Perhaps the most moving moment of the week, was when the assembly organist Larry Roff, took a few moments to first share his heart for Ukraine, where he had spent years as a missionary, before praying for that nation and playing the Ukrainian national anthem to close out the morning.

V. Value – Among the votes approved this year, was one that increases the value of participating in GA, especially for ruling elders, who will pay a decreased entry fee, beginning in 2024.

W. Worship – One of my favorite aspects of GA is joining in worship with thousands of brothers and sisters from across our denomination, led by local churches of various styles and representing diverse contexts.  My heart is filled with joy by experiencing the myriad cultural expressions that bring glory to the King of every tribe, tongue, nation, and generation.

X. eXit – One of the more public votes of the assembly was to exit from the organization, National Association of Evangelicals, after a nearly 50-year membership.  Among the cited reasons, were increasing political involvement by the NAE that may not reflect the values of everyone in the PCA, as well as high cost of membership.

Y. Year 50 – Next year will mark the 50th year of the Presbyterian Church in America and 50th gather of the General Assembly in Memphis, TN.  Decisions made this  June will be of consequence to the assembly next year, including revisiting matters no yet resolved, and building upon momentum begun or continued in Birmingham.

Z. Zeal – A popular narrative says the PCA is divided like the world.  But what I witness is a denomination filled with men and women who are unified in a zeal for the gospel, zeal for the glory of God to be made manifest in our day, and zeal for our neighbors here and throughout the world to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.   For this, I give God praise!

Click here for a more detailed summary of actions made at the 2022 PCA GA from By Faith, the official news publication of the PCA.