It has been a couple of years since I’ve attended a General Assembly, which certainly has been a welcome relief to some. If nothing else, I have a gift for gumming up the works. I took a call as a chaplain for Chattanooga Christian School, which means I don’t have a church sending me every year. This year, in God’s Providence, he has provided a way for me to attend. I don’t expect to spend much time on the floor this year, but I thought I would offer thoughts on the Assembly as it progresses.
After two years hiatus, the first thing that jumps out to me in the packet is how much less time there is for floor debate. I’ve heard men talking for years about how the reason Ruling Elders don’t attend GA is that they are put off by rancorous floor debate with long haggling over arcane rules. What the Ruling Elders would really enjoy, they have said, are helpful workshops and interesting/inspiring reports about our denomination.
I am no longer young and won’t speak for youth, but I know why the REs in my congregation didn’t come: they felt like the floor business didn’t matter and the “powers that be” were going to find a way to push through their agenda through the denominational apparatus. The Res who DID come believed that they could still do something meaningful on the floor.
This does not mean that they didn’t appreciate some of the workshops. I didn’t, for the most part, but they did, sometimes. They were just no going to take a week off from work to go to workshops. The one thing that seemed true across the board was that there was very little interest in the denominational reports.
In my mind, the less people think that their participation makes a difference, the less they will be motivated to show up. That does work in favor of the “powers that be,” since the people not showing up would have been the ones most likely to question administrative agendas.