Organizers of the first-ever Big Tent event this summer in Atlanta told the General Assembly Mission Council meeting here Sept. 22-25 that the gathering exceeded every expectation.

The Big Tent brought together 10 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministry conferences in one place June 11-13. It was conceived as a “family gathering” in the off years between General Assemblies to celebrate the church’s ministry and mission without the encumbrance of parliamentary procedure and difficult decision-making that characterizes the Assembly legislative sessions.

Curtis Kearns, executive administrator of the GAMC, said conference planners were aware of the risk of staging a major event in a down economy “The launch team thought that holding a denominational gathering in 2009 would be a bold, faithful move by the General Assembly Council [as it was then called]. It represented a statement in the face of the possibility that it would lose money,” Kearns said.

Participating Big Tent conferences were: Healthy Ministry Conference, Presbyterian Communicators’ Network Conference, National Multicultural Church Conference, Stewardship and Investment Conference, Evangelism and Church Growth Conference, National Elders Conference, Peacemaking Conference, PHEWA Social Justice Biennial Conference, Racial Ethnic Convocation and New Immigrants Ministries Convocation.

Kerry Rice, manager of Assembly services in the Office of the General Assembly, who made the report, said that it looks like the Big Tent will finish in the black. He said, “On the financial front, we don’t have the final report, but it looks like the event broke even with incoming funds covering all expenses.”

Participants’ evaluations were also positive. Rice said the overall “approval” rating was 96 percent. Every area of the evaluation received a large majority rating of “good,” “very good” or “excellent.”

Commenting in a video of the Big Tent, one person said, “It was kind of like the General Assembly without the fights.” Another said, “There was not a single book of order in sight.”

A second Big Tent is being planned for 2011.

View the Big Tent video.