223rd General Assembly (2018)
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
June 16-23, 2018
St. Louis, Missouri
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets biennially in even-numbered years. It consists of commissioners elected by each of its 173 presbyteries. The GA is full of activities: business sessions, committee meetings, an exhibit hall, daily worship services, and mission tours sponsored by the Committee on Local Arrangements.
The assembly acts on hundreds of items of business, which it receives through the reports and recommendations of various assembly entities, and through overtures from synods and presbyteries.
WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by presbyteries. Half of the commissioners will be ruling elders, half will be teaching elders. Few will ever have been commissioners to the General Assembly before, but most will have served in one of the other governing bodies of our church: the session, which provides care and oversight of a local congregation; the presbytery, which provides care and oversight of a group of congregations; or the synod which provides care and oversight of several presbyteries.
It reviews the work of synods, resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church.
The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
First, reports and recommendations come from the various arms of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly.
The Office of the General Assembly, headed by the Stated Clerk, is the ecclesiastical arm of the church. The Stated Clerk and his staff work to ensure that the Presbyterian Church maintains itself as a church. The Office of the General Assembly carries out all constitutional, and most ecumenical functions at the General Assembly.
Mission programs are carried out by the Presbyterian Mission Agency which supervises the work directed to be done by the General Assembly, and can make certain decisions on behalf of the Assembly.
Overtures from synods and presbyteries are the second source of General Assembly business. These governing bodies use Overtures to bring recommendations and matters of concern before the whole church.
Commissioners Resolutions are a third source of General Assembly business. As a commissioner one is entitled to sign two resolutions which will come before the whole assembly.
The meeting begins with an orientation on Saturday afternoon and that evening the plenary, or whole General Assembly, meets together to elect a Moderator from among the commissioners assembled.
The Moderator presides over the plenary meetings for the rest of the week.
Once a Moderator is elected, the assembly breaks up into assembly committees to consider particular kinds of business. Each committee is responsible for considering a number of items, and reporting back to the General Assembly on completed actions or their recommendations
The combined insights of all those on assembly committees become the recommendations to the whole assembly. If they are approved, they guide the church in the years to come.