The Northwest Georgia Presbytery has sent an overture to the 2019 General Assembly asking to change BCO 14-2 to read: “The General Assembly, which is a permanent court, shall meet at least annually upon its own adjournment. It shall consist of all teaching elders in good standing with their Presbyteries, and ruling elders as elected by their Session. Each congregation is entitled to four ruling elder representatives for the first 350 communing members or fraction thereof, and two additional ruling elders for each additional 500 communing members or fraction thereof.”
The Northwest Georgia Presbytery has sent an overture to the 2019 General Assembly asking to change BCO 14-2 to read:
“The General Assembly, which is a permanent court, shall meet at least annually upon its own adjournment. It shall consist of all teaching elders in good standing with their Presbyteries, and ruling elders as elected by their Session. Each congregation is entitled to four ruling elder representatives for the first 350 communing members or fraction thereof, and two additional ruling elders for each additional 500 communing members or fraction thereof.”
Our sole intent is to increase the eligibility of PCA ruling elders to attend the General Assembly.
Someone has asked what affect the doubling of potential Ruling Elder (RE) eligibility, as proposed, might have on the balance of representation between smaller and larger churches. For purposes of this article we will consider churches with 350 communing members or less to be small and those with more than 350 members to be large with no other considerations made.
In 2017 there were 1568 particular churches and 344 mission churches in the PCA. Of those particular churches, 171 congregations had more than 350 communing members. Based on the various sizes of those large congregations an additional 282 REs were eligible to attend GA.
Under the existing formula there was a potential for 3417 REs eligible to represent churches at GA in 2018. This is compared to 4882 TEs not including licentiates or candidates. That breaks down to 2794 REs for churches with 350 members or less and 623 for the 171 churches that have greater than 350 members. There are 342 RE representative slots available in those 171 churches for the first 350 members and 281 more due to their respective congregation sizes.
So the difference in large church and small church representation boils down to a potential 281 men at present.
Congregations larger than 350 members made up 18.23% of eligible representation at GA. The additional 281 REs made up 8.22% of the total eligible representatives.
Under the proposed formula these same 1397 small churches would have the potential to send 5588 REs to GA, and large churches would be able to send 1246. 562 of those REs would be the additional representatives based on their congregation size. The total REs authorized to represent their congregations would amount to 6834. REs from congregations larger than 350 members would still make up 18.23% of eligible representation and the additional 562 REs would be 8.22% percent of the total. For more, see the data below.
The proposed change to the number of REs churches could send would have no affect on the percentage in potential representation by churches largerthan 350 members. Numerically , small churches would have more slots available to fill at GA.
Potential Representation at GA
- For large churches there is 1 RE eligible per 231.5 members.
- For small churches there is 1 RE eligible per 82.5 members.
- For all churches there is 1 TE eligible per 76.76 members.
- For large churches there would be 1 RE eligible per 115.75 members.
- For small churches there would be 1 RE eligible per 41.25 members.
- For all churches there is 1 TE eligible per 76.76 members.
History has shown that TE to member ratio continues to get smaller. At present the number of new ministers is growing faster than new churches 121 ministers/ 23 new churches/ 575 members for 2017.
For 2017- We added 5.26 new ministers for each new church and 1 minister for every 4.75 new members.)
The proposed change to the number of REs churches could send would reduce the ratio of REs to members more for large churches. This has no bearing on the amount of participation that large churches exercise at GA.
It would narrow the gap between RE and TE representation for both small and large churches.
2018 GA attendance: 902 churches represented
1202 of 4882 TEs attended = 24.62% of eligible men 1.33 per church present or 1 per 311.76 total members of the PCA.
335 of 3417 REs attended = 9.8% of eligible men – 1 per 2.69 church present/1118.6 total members of the PCA.
We have not determined who came to represent either large or small churches but we do know that 9 presbyteries who could have sent representatives from large churches only sent a total of 1 RE representative, and it has not been determined that he was from either a small or large church. There are 16 large churches in those 9 presbyteries that have 17,113 members combined. That number represents 11.87 % of the members of large congregations in the PCA and 4.57% of the total membership. There were 65 possible representatives in those 9 presbyteries.
At least 22 men came from 16 presbyteries that did not have large churches. We can conclude that at least 28% of all presbyteries had no large church involvement at GA. As for the remaining presbyteries it is difficult to say without knowing which men came from which church.
Getting more REs to attend GA is needed to reverse the trend of smaller participation by congregations of any size. If REs want a voice at GA now is the time to get involved.
Don Barnett is a Ruling Elder in the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Powder Springs, GA
*Raw data taken from “ Actions of the Fourty-sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America” and “PCA by the Numbers” L.Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk
Actions of the Forty-sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk Atlanta, Georgia, Site of 46th General Assembly June 13-15, 2018 The Assembly convened on Wednesday afternoon June 13, rather than on the usual Tuesday evening, due to a condensed schedule planned in response to indications that RE attendance might increase if the Assembly were one work-day shorter. Attending were 1,202 Teaching Elders and 335 Ruling Elders, for a total of 1,537 commissioners, representing 902 churches. Ruling Elder attendance for this year’s shortened format increased approximately ½ % over last year.
PCA by the Numbers The Stated Clerk reported statistics to the Assembly for 2017. · The number of churches increased by twenty-three to 1,568. · The number of mission churches decreased by three to 344. · The number of ministers increased by 121 to 4,882. · Sunday School attendance declined by 1,330 to 93,670. · Total professions of faith increased by four to 9,733. · Total membership increased by 575 to 374,736. · Total giving increased by $8,050,232 to $837,105,612