Thursday, September 20, 2007

What is the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?


Across the church, in conversations, classes and session meetings, I regularly hear reference to the General Assembly. But what exactly is the General Assembly? I wonder, as I hear reference to the General Assembly, if we understand the fullness of it work and ministry.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is made up of six different organizations referred to by the acronyms listed above.

OGA: The Office of the General Assembly.
I suspect that this is the one aspect of the work of the General Assembly which people are referring to when they speak of the General Assembly. The OGA is responsible for the biennial meetings of the General Assembly. The OGA includes the office of the Stated Clerk, now headed by Cliff Kirkpatrick, who has recently announced his retirement. The OGA is responsible for the constitution – the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions – of the Presbyterian Church.

GAC: The General Assembly Council
The General Assembly Council is the program and ministry arm of the General Assembly, now headed by newly selected Elder Linda Valentine. All of our national and international mission work falls under the rubric of the GAC. All the educational, evangelism, new church development, transformation and youth ministry resources created by the General Assembly are within the GAC. In addition the Office of Theology and Worship and our Church Leadership Connection is within the GAC.

BOP: Board of Pensions
The Board of Pensions is a very, very large piece of the work of the General Assembly but generally non-controversial. The BOP is not typically in mind when we consider the work of the General Assembly. But in fact, every congregation with an installed pastor has a direct and significant relationship with the BOP. The BOP is responsible for the major medical plan, the pension plan, and disability insurance plan for all our pastors and many professional church workers. The BOP also does significant work across the church with their shared, emergency, educational grants and housing supplement grants.

PILP: The Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program
The Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program is one of the shining lights in the ministry of the General Assembly. This program, which many people do not know about, makes loans and grants to congregations for new construction and capital improvements. Using funds invested with them by individuals and congregations across the church, the PILP is able to use investment proceeds from those funds to provide loans to churches. When your congregation begins exploring any kind of construction project you should contact PILP.

PF: The Presbyterian Foundation
The Presbyterian Foundation is the autonomous investment arm of the General Assembly. By that I mean that the Foundation does not receive any mission or per capita funds. With a stellar record of investment earning, the Presbyterian Foundation deserves its impeccable reputation for its ability to make money available to the church. Individuals across the church have millions of dollars invested with the Presbyterian Foundation. Most of the accumulated funds of the Presbytery of Carlisle are invested with the Presbyterian Foundation. Every congregation should use Presbyterian Foundation resources to raise awareness about the importance of planned giving and estate giving with your members.

PPH: Presbyterian Publishing House
Obviously, the Presbyterian Publishing House is the publishing arm of the General Assembly. “The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) is the denominational publisher for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but the materials it issues under its Westminster John Knox Press imprint cover the spectrum of modern religious thought and represent the work of scholarly and popular authors of many different religious affiliations. PPC's Geneva Press imprint is for a specifically Presbyterian audience.”