06.25.24 | PCA | by Adam Sanders

    While driving into Richmond, Virginia, on June 11, my 14-year-old daughter Bea had questions for me about the upcoming General Assembly, our denomination’s annual meeting.

    “What will be the big issues you all debate this year?”

    “Did you read the document I sent you last week, with the Book of Church Order (BCO) Amendments we’ll be voting to ratify and the Overtures we’ll take up?” I asked her.

    “Maybe I kind of skimmed it…”

    “OK, well, skim it harder, and you’ll have a good understanding of the issues we’ll be addressing.”

    “And do you think huge beards will be as popular as the last few General Assemblies we attended?”

    “Good question. My guess is no, but still probably all over the place. But we’ll see.”

    “And what will we do this afternoon?”

    “Let’s see. We’ll check into the hotel, go to the opening worship service, and try to connect with John Wykoff, Jake Bennett, and John Jones for a dinner afterwards.”

    “It has to be Italian.”


    “Because we’ve had Italian at all of the prior GA’s you took me to. It’s a tradition.”

    Dear CPC friends, I’m sorry to tell you that we did not have Italian; I’m slightly amused to tell you that big beards are still in; and I’m thankful to be able to tell you that the substance of this 51st General Assembly was peaceable, Christ-honoring, and a reminder that God is indeed helping our denomination hold true to its unofficial motto: “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission.”

    There are many good summaries you can read about the actions of this 51st General Assembly. (Here is one at byFaith online.) These are my main highlights and takeaways:

    • Our own Jonathan Calloway remains a GA celebrity. Responsible for much of the technology logistics, the Assembly always begins with a bow-tied Mr. Calloway instructing the 2,000+ Commissioners (for so we are called) in the use of our electronic voting devices, or “clickers.” When he steps to the podium, I hear whispers in the crowd of “it’s the clicker guy again!”, and I feel proud to know him. This year I felt especially proud that between my recommendation of the seersucker and Dr. Wykoff’s recommendation of the blue blazer, he went with the seersucker.
    • The three worship services on each of the three nights of Assembly remain a wonderful, encouraging reminder of the goodness of God and the unity in Christ that we have as a denomination (notwithstanding the important disagreements and debates that we have during our times of business). This year, the standout worship service for me was on night three, when the service was led by brothers from one of the PCA’s Korean presbyteries. The service was completely bilingual. Singing songs among a sea of people, with voices simultaneously raised in Korean and English, reminded me of the Lord’s promise that He is building a Kingdom with members of every tongue, tribe, and nation; and it made me look forward to that day when we will worship Him face-to-face with brothers and sisters who span not just continents but centuries as well.
    • Several amendments to the BCO, which were preliminarily passed last year, were ratified with finality this year. The most controversial was an amendment that specifies that the titles “elder” and “deacon” should not be applied to unordained individuals. The BCO already provides that only men may be ordained to the offices of elder and deacon, but this amendment clarifies that churches should likewise not refer to unordained people by those same titles. Two others passed with no debate: One to add language regarding sexual chastity and purity for officers of the church in their conduct and self-descriptions, and the other to allow offended parties in a church court to comment upon a written “confession” submitted by the offender before the court finally approves the confession.
    • An overture was passed that declares “biblically faithful” a letter written by a commission assigned by last year’s Assembly to write a letter petitioning members of the United States government to oppose so-called “gender reassignment” interventions for children.
    • An overture was passed that encourages presbyteries and sessions to conduct background checks on officer candidates. This item was thoroughly debated, because some in the Assembly wished background checks would instead be made mandatory.
    • An overture was defeated that would have “constitutionalized,” or made binding, Chapter 53 of the BCO, which concerns preaching.
    • An overture was passed concerning the book Jesus Calling, which was written by a former Mission to the World (MTW) missionary and includes content many in the denomination believe is unbiblical. The overture requires two committees (Committee on Discipleship Ministries and MTW) to examine the denomination’s use of the book, assess the book’s appropriateness, and provide recommendations for remedial materials, advisory statements, or other actions.
    • An overture was narrowly defeated that would have allowed atheists to testify in church courts. This was the second year in a row such an overture failed to pass.
    • Many excellent men were nominated and appointed to serve on committees of the denomination.
    • In one of the first votes of the Assembly, Bea was somewhat startled to see Dr. Wykoff and me cast opposite votes. I thought that was a good example for her (and me) of how Christian brothers and friends, both seeking to apply biblical wisdom and judgment, can sometimes come to different conclusions and do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt their unity.
    • The vendor/exhibit hall remains a wonderful place to learn about various Christian colleges and seminaries, meet missionaries, buy good books at great prices, pick up “swag” and candy to tide you over during the business sessions, and talk to representatives of various parachurch ministries. A highlight this year for Bea and me in the exhibit hall was meeting Rosaria Butterfield, author of such excellent books as The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, and Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age.
    • General Assembly is a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and co-laborers within the denomination. This year, my connection highlights were times with John Jones, Jake Bennett, Jeremiah Hill, my favorite seminary professor, my close friend and pastor from when Millie and I lived in North Carolina, and the youth pastor and his wife who were very influential to the growth of my faith in high school.

    Finally, I hope to excite you about next summer, for in June 2025 the 52nd General Assembly will be held right here in Chattanooga! There will surely be opportunities to volunteer with Assembly logistics, child and youth activities, and other tasks. More importantly, all of the General Assembly is open to the public. I hope you will make it a point to at least attend some of the worship services held each night of the assembly, if not the business sessions. Doing so, I am sure, will lift your heart as it gives you a better sense of what God is doing in the denomination you are a part of, and a sense of your connection in Christ with brothers and sisters from around the country.

    Adam Sanders, Elder & Clerk of Session

    Back to Articles
    Back to Top