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Attendance of Commissioners at the General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America from 1973 to 2021

July 17, 2021

The 48th meeting of the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was held in St. Louis, Missouri, between June 29 and July 2 of this year. With 2,115 registered commissioners, it was the largest GA in the history of the PCA. As a time-honored Presbyterian tradition, elders and members of the PCA spend time analyzing and dissecting the floor debates and actions of the GA, but another honored pastime is discussing the registered attendance of elders, the relative number of Ruling Elders (RE) commissioners compared with Teaching Elder (TE) commissioners, and other topics related to the size and representation of elders at the annual meeting of the church. The increase in the number of commissioners at the 48th GA when compared to the 47th was 31%. While not “unprecedented” (to use a well-worn word of the COVID-19 pandemic era), the 31% increase did represent the largest one-year increase in growth since the 18th GA held in Atlanta, Georgia. The 48th GA was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but it was not held at that time due to COVID-19. Whether it would meet in 2021 was also in question until it seemed clear in February that the St. Louis government’s COVID restrictions would allow the gathering to proceed. Speaking as one commissioner, I experienced tremendous gratitude and joy in seeing the elders of the church coming together in such large numbers to do the work of the church.

Research Method and Future Reports: This report will provide only a glimpse into the commissioner numbers at the GA from the 1st meeting to the 48th meeting. Other reports will be forthcoming that will examine issues such as the breakdown of attendance of commissioners by state, Presbytery affiliation, church size, and other demographics. The breakdown of attendance by TE and RE commissioners will also be a feature of future reports. This report is a continuation of an attendance report published following the 46th GA (2018). While the research methods used for this report were straightforward, for those who are interested in the details, please refer to this document that describes the methodology. In short, however, the commissioner numbers, location of the GAs, and other variables for the 1st through 47th GA were taken from the minutes of the GA found on the PCA Historical Center website. The numbers for the 48th GA were taken from the On Site Attendance Report available to commissioners. The final commissioner numbers for the 48th GA will be included in the minutes available on the PCA Historical Center website later this year.

Change in GA Commissioner Attendance Over Time: A graphical representation of the percent change in commissioners over the history of the PCA (See Figure 1) shows which GAs had the highest increase and decrease in registered commissioners from the previous assembly. A complete data presentation is available in Table 1 below, but Figure 1 shows the data at a glance. The 48th GA, while the largest in commissioner numbers, was not the largest in terms of the increase in commissioner counts from the prior assembly. The commissioner registrations at the 10th and 18th GAs were over 50% higher than the prior years. An examination of the possible reasons for the increases in these and other years will be provided in a future report at fpramsay.org, but for now, please review the data presentations below, and provide your comments at Leave a Reply box at the bottom of this page or email me.

Figure 1: Percent Change in General Assembly Commissioners from the Prior Year from the 2nd through the 48th GA.

Table 1: Presbyterian Church in America General Assemblies, Commissioner Counts, and Percent Change from the Prior Year.

Readers can obtain versions of this table in either Excel or PDF at the links provided.

General Assembly Number and Year CityStateNumber of CommissionersPercent Change
from Prior Year
1st
1973
BirminghamAL387 
2nd
1974
MaconGA46520.16%
3rd
1975
JacksonMS54316.77%
4th
1976
GreenvilleSC5908.66%
5th
1977
SmyrnaGA6144.07%
6th
1978
Grand RapidsMI569-7.33%
7th
1979
CharlotteNC68119.68%
8th
1980
SavannahGA660-3.08%
9th
1981
Fort LauderdaleFL6731.97%
10th
1982
Grand RapidsMI1,04555.27%
11th
1983
NorfolkVA948-9.28%
12th
1984
Baton RougeLA945-0.32%
13th
1985
St. LouisMO871-7.83%
14th
1986
PhiladelphiaPA9519.18%
15th
1987
Grand RapidsMI873-8.20%
16th
1988
KnoxvilleTN99313.75%
17th
1989
La MiradaCA774-22.05%
18th
1990
AtlantaGA1,22057.62%
19th
1991
BirminghamAL1,218-0.16%
20th
1992
RoanokeVA1,145-5.99%
21st
1993
ColumbiaSC1,1914.02%
22nd
1994
AtlantaGA1,2807.47%
23rd
1995
DallasTX1,108-13.44%
24th
1996
Fort LauderdaleFL1,2129.39%
25th
1997
Colorado SpringsCO1,185-2.23%
26th
1998
St. LouisMO1,41119.07%
27th
1999
LouisvilleKY1,228-12.97%
28th
2000
TampaFL1,36711.32%
29th
2001
DallasTX1,293-5.41%
30th
2002
BirminghamAL1,60323.98%
31st
2003
CharlotteNC1,510-5.80%
32nd
2004
PittsburghPA1,357-10.13%
33rd
2005
ChattanoogaTN1,58016.43%
34th
2006
AtlantaGA1,415-10.44%
35th
2007
MemphisTN1,288-8.98%
36th
2008
DallasTX1,185-8.00%
37th
2009
OrlandoFL1,081-8.78%
38th
2010
NashvilleTN1,31121.28%
39th
2011
Virginia BeachVA1,183-9.76%
40th
2012
LouisvilleKY1,120-5.33%
41st
2013
GreenvilleSC1,32718.48%
42nd
2014
HoustonTX1,123-15.37%
43rd
2015
ChattanoogaTN1,39624.31%
44th
2016
MobileAL1,316-5.73%
45th
2017
GreensboroNC1,46111.02%
46th
2018
AtlantaGA1,5365.13%
47th
2019
DallasTX1,6165.21%
48th
2021
St. LouisMO2,11530.88%

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