Given that there are 1,466 churches in the PCA, and 4,256 TEs, the theoretical attendance at GA this year was a minimum of 7,188. Actual attendance, however, was 797 TEs and 278 REs
The GA meets annually and “shall consist of all teaching elders [TEs] in good standing with their Presbyteries…and ruling elders [REs] as elected by their session” (BCO 14-2). The number of ruling elders eligible is a minimum of two per church, with additional ruling elders depending on the number of members in a church (specified in BCO 14-2).
Given that there are 1,466 churches in the PCA, and 4,256 TEs, the theoretical attendance at GA this year was a minimum of 7,188. Actual attendance, however, was 797 TEs and 278 REs. That means that fewer than one in five TEs attended GA, and no more than one in five churches were represented by REs.
A lot of this has to do with expense. Registration this year was $400.00 per elder (less in some special cases). When you add to that the cost of travel, the expense of hotels, and meals for most of a week, the cost becomes prohibitive for many churches, as it can easily reach $2,000.00 per commissioner.
The total number of commissioners this year, 1075, is the lowest since at least 2005. In short, the GA is hardly a representative assembly. But a further difficulty is that many commissioners do not attend the GA that they attend. On many of the counted votes at GA this year, the total number of votes cast (yea + nay) was less than 800, and in some cases less than 700. In other words, 200-300 commissioners simply were either not in attendance at that particular session, or abstained. Since abstentions are ordinarily not counted, it is hard to tell which is the case. But undoubtedly many commissioners do not, for whatever reasons, attend the business sessions.
Benjamin Shaw, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Hebrew & OT and Academic Dean at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He blogs periodically at GPTS Rabbi where this article first appeared. It is used with permission.