General Assembly 2018
Every year the churches of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), send representatives to a nationwide General Assembly (GA). Last week, Jeffrey Choi and I travelled to Atlanta, where this year’s meeting was held, to participate in the Assembly.
A lot of important things happen at GA: decisions are made regarding the future of the church; reports are given by denominational agencies; seminars are held on a variety of interesting topics; people gather for prayer and worship; and, friends meet to renew old bonds.
Jeffrey and I arrived for GA one day early to serve on different committees. Jeffrey served on the Committee for the Review of Presbytery Records (lots of work, little fun). I served on the Committee of Mission to the World (lots of fun, little work). As secretary of his committee, Jeffrey made a couple of reports to the entire Assembly. (He did a great job! ACC, you would have been proud!)
Some highlights of GA for me this year were:
- The pre-assembly prayer meeting – Hundreds gathered the evening before GA started to worship God and pray together. The service was led by men and women from a broad diversity of backgrounds. I was particularly touched by a corporate prayer of lament in which we repented of sinful actions and attitudes of our denomination and asked God to transform us as a church.
- The worship services – On Wednesday and Thursday evening, everyone at GA gathered for worship. Dr. Alex Jun and Rev. Joe Novenson preached. A choir of Korean church members and pastors sang. (I was fighting back tears. Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” is even more beautiful in Korean!) The Lord truly met with us both nights.
- The MTW report – Dr. Lloyd Kim, director of Mission to the World, gave a report to the Assembly that was truly inspirational. To increase our denomination’s outreach to the world, he is challenging churches to send 1% of their church members into long-term missionary work in the coming years. (We are to send our very best, he says.) He also reported on his sad discovery that many women in his agency (some serving as missionaries in dangerous and difficult places) report feeling overlooked, poorly treated, disrespected, and even sexually harassed. With tears in his eyes, he talked about steps MTW is taking to implement a sexual harassment policy. Many people hope that this policy will shape the way all the agencies in our denomination approach their ministries.
- A growing delight in diversity – The PCA has historically been a white, upper middle-class church. People from ethnic minorities and from blue-collar backgrounds have found it difficult to find a home in our church. It has been great to see how, in recent denominational gatherings, the PCA is taking steps to address this issue. These steps were evident in this year’s GA. Men and women from a variety of backgrounds led us in worship and in teaching the seminars. Also, for the first time in our history, an African American was elected moderator of the General Assembly – Rev. Irwyn Ince. I was thrilled to see ways that God is re-shaping our church.
- A spirit of love and cooperation – Church gatherings can sometimes be contentious. Important decisions are made, and not everyone agrees on the best approaches to take. It was encouraging this year to see a general spirit of love, respect, and cooperation among the commissioners to GA. I took this to be evidence of God’s gracious presence in our church. He is teaching us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).