Just in case you were wondering how you transform yourself from ordinary, workaday Ruling Elder into General Assembly Commissioner, here’s what you need to know:
First you need to understand some of the rules. Anyone can go to General Assembly and observe. But an elder who is authorized to vote is a “commissioner.” While we want to encourage every RE to attend as many General Assemblies as possible, you’re not really helping restore the plurality of elders principle unless you can vote once you get there.
Any TE in good standing with their presbytery is automatically a commissioner, as long as he can get himself to the site and pay the registration fee, which was $450 in 2017. (Note that he will also need a place to stay for 4-5 nights and he’ll probably need to eat a few times too. Its pretty easy to run up about $1000 in expenses to attend a General Assembly. More about that below.)
The rules are different for REs. A PCA church can only send a certain number of REs. Each church gets to send at least two REs. If its a larger church, it gets to send more. Specifically, if you have:
0-350 communing members, you get to send 2 REs;
351-850 communing members, you get to send an additional RE (3 REs total);
851-1350 communing members, you get to send an additional RE (4 REs total);
1351-1850 communing members, you get to send an additional RE (5 REs total);
1851-2350 communing members, you get to send an additional RE (6 REs total);
and so on in successive increments of 500 (See BCO 14-2)
(You’ll note that there is an inherent inequity here — there is no cap on the number of TEs that can be commissioners, while there is a cap on the number of REs that can be commissioners. Of late, TEs have been outnumbering REs by a 4:1 margin at General Assemblies. If the RE cap was meant to keep REs from outnumbering TEs, it has been a stunning success.)
At any rate, to be transformed from a humble RE into a commissioner, all you have to do is to get your session to designate you as one of the REs alloted to your congregation by a simple motion sometime before General Assembly.
From there, you just register online, make your travel arrangements, and check in at General Assembly. (Your session clerk may need to do some paperwork too.)
But that’s about it.
…. except for the money. RE commissioners have the same expenses that TE commissioners have. Both REs and TEs can employ the same strategies (sharing meals, rooms, rides, etc.) to keep expenses down, but the regular registration fee is still $450. There is a discount to a $300 registration fee but only if your entire church’s annual income was less than $100,000. The PCA does offer a commissioner scholarship and there’s a $150 “Ruling Elder Emeritus” registration fee.
However, most churches that send commissioners to GA reimburse their expenses, and of course that mitigates the financial hesitations that REs have about serving as GA commissioners. If your church doesn’t currently reimburse expenses for RE commissioners, and you’re not in a position to foot the bill yourself, you’ve got two options:
- Amend the budget to allow for reimbursement of RE expenses at GA. (You’re an Elder, make a motion!)
- If that money simply isn’t in the budget (quite understandably the case with many churches with fewer than 200 members), contact us! (Reach out to us in the comments or on Twitter; an email address will be posted once the new website is up.) One of MORE in the PCA’s purposes is to take away the financial obstacles to RE service as Commissioners. We intend to do some fundraising so we can provide stipends to cover the GA registration fees, lodging, and dining expenses of REs — particularly REs whose congregations have not been able to do so in the past.
Join us in Atlanta!