When the 538 commissioners and 183 advisory delegates to the 223rd General Assembly (2018) convene on June 16, 2018, it will mark the sixteenth time the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s top gathering has been held in the “Gateway City” of St. Louis.
“We are 268 days out,” the Office of the General Assembly’s Director of Assembly Operations Tom Hay, told the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly at its September 19–21 meeting in Louisville.
The theme of GA223 is “Renewing the Vision: Kindom Building for the 21st Century.” Hay said he hopes the assembly will be about more than just conducting the denomination’s business, but will “promote a large discussion about being a witness, about being the church.”
Fewer commissioners will be conducting the assembly’s business. The 538 assembly commissioners in 2018 represents 56 fewer than the 2016 assembly. Each presbytery is entitled to a minimum of two commissioners—one minister of Word and Sacrament and one ruling elder. More and more presbyteries are falling below the membership threshold that entitles them to additional commissioners. “We probably won’t go much lower,” Hay said, “because a preponderance of our presbyteries are already at the minimum [commissioner] level.”
Hay said that he anticipates that thirteen assembly committees will be organized to consider the items of business, with each commissioner and advisory delegate assigned to one committee.
Several new events will make their debut at the St. Louis assembly:
- The Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA) of Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery will sponsor a welcome reception on Friday, June 15—before the assembly convenes the next morning but after most of the commissioners and advisory delegates have arrived. “The first thing most assembly-goers want to do is seek out friends who are also there,” Hay said. “This will give them a great opportunity and COLA is excited about giving this gift to the church.”
- The “In Memorium” recitation of Presbyterians of note who have died since the last assembly will be done during the Saturday, June 16, plenary when the new Moderator(s) will be elected. “It seems a natural place—when we’re electing new leaders—to remember those who have led before,” Hay explained.
- Bible study on Monday, June 18, and Tuesday, June 19, will be held in plenary before the assembly disperses to its assembly committee meetings.
- The Ecumenical Worship Service will be incorporated into the Wednesday morning, June 20, plenary session. At previous assemblies, that service was a stand-alone event.
- On Thursday evening, June 21, the assembly will dispense with a business session to celebrate the new Hands & Feet initiative, an effort inspired by General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II, to engage Presbyterians in service-and-learning opportunities in the cities where at least the next three General Assemblies are being held—St. Louis (2018), Baltimore (2020), and Columbus, Ohio (2022).
- Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADs) will be selected by an application process (rather than being selected by seminaries, as was the previous practice) and will be reduced to fifteen in number. To be eligible, students must have at least one year of seminary remaining and must be an inquirer or candidate under the care of a PC(USA) presbytery.
The assembly venue will be more compact than usual—all assembly hotels are within four blocks of the convention center. No shuttle buses will be needed.
For more and updated information, visit: http://www.pcusa.org/events/24276/223rd-general-assembly-2018.