It’s Time for an Electronic PCA General Assembly

An Electronic General Assembly would be live-streamed via the Internet with some commissioners present and others in their home location.

What is an Electronic General Assembly?  Since the Assembly is presently live-streamed via the Internet, I think our high-tech people could develop something I call a Distance Voting Commissioner (DVC).  Legitimate representatives not present from a PCA church would be able to read reports from Committees and listen to the debates online.  Then, at the time of each vote, every commissioner present (and those not present) would cast a vote.

 

Yes, you read it right!  However, before you draw any conclusions, listen to what I have to say.

First, very little would change.  There would still be an annual meeting at a specific location.  There would be worship services, the election of a moderator, committee meetings, and other events such as pre-assembly conferences.  It would continue to be a reunion for many of the commissioners.

Program presentations by the various committees and agencies would be an important part of the Assembly.  Committees of Commissioners would make their reports.  A commissioner would have to be present to serve on a Committee of Commissioners. I believe this would be an incentive for physical attendance.  Business would be conducted on the floor as it is now.

What is an Electronic General Assembly?  Since the Assembly is presently live-streamed via the Internet, I think our high-tech people could develop something I call a Distance Voting Commissioner (DVC).  Legitimate representatives not present from a PCA church would be able to read reports from Committees and listen to the debates online.  Then, at the time of each vote, every commissioner present (and those not present) would cast a vote.

Representatives not present would be required to be vetted and pay a registration fee.  Passwords for commissioners not present would be required.

The attendance of ruling elders at the General Assembly last year in Atlanta was embarrassingly low.  Of a total of 1537 commissioners, only 335 were ruling elders.  That’s a little over 20%.  With this DVC Model, very little would change except in the expansion of the voting base.  Every elected representative from each church in the PCA would be able to cast a vote.

History teaches us that when ruling elder participation declines, denominations tend to move in a more liberal direction. The PCA, I fear, will be no exception.

The PCA decided at its formation that it would be a grass-roots denomination.  Power would flow from the bottom up.  We rejected the delegated assembly model where, for example, each Presbytery (rather than each individual church) would be allowed a certain number of representatives at the Assembly.  We chose to be more democratic.  However, the Assembly has become top-heavy with teaching elders and administrators (and I write this as a teaching elder and as a former agency board member).

The cost of attending a General Assembly is steep, especially for small churches.  Many ruling elders have to take a vacation week from work to attend the Assembly.  On the positive side, with additional registration fees being paid, more money could be raised for the work of the General Assembly Committees and Agencies.

I think this change would not only increase participation by ruling elders (and some teaching elders), but it also would provide an outlet for many ruling elders unable to attend the Assembly, but frustrated because of some trends they are seeing in the PCA.  Such an action could prevent a denominational division in the future.  Maybe, it’s time for consideration of a Distance Voting Commissioner (DVC).  Maybe, it’s time to go electronic.

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.