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Jun21TueJune 21, 2022
We use that word “gracious,” in the title of our Newsletter as a little bit of a play on words with the name of our congregation, “Grace Church.” Graciousness is that ability to be kind and patient under stress and difficult circumstances. What we learned at General Assembly was that you get treated graciously when you are a part of the majority or a favoured minority. The majority at the Assembly were not very kind to the part of the Christian community that holds to traditional and biblical values, as continually is stated in our Subordinate Standards and in the Bible. We are not a favoured minority.
This appeared at the Assembly when we were trying to debate a motion from the Special Committee to Address Petitions 1 & 2 (2021), motion 9:
That the General Assembly instruct the Assembly Council, the General Assembly Office, the Life and Mission Agency, the Committee to Nominating Standing Committees and the other boards and committees of the church to ensure that there is balance and respect for both definitions of marriage in: - all correspondence sent to congregations, sessions, presbyteries and synods; - the delivery of resources and workshops, and - the membership of the boards and committees of the church; also that the Assembly Council provide progress reports on the balancing of the two definitions of marriage in the life of the church to the General Assemblies of 2023 and 2024.
I recognize that this may be too much detail from Assembly. The point here was to have mutual respect for ethnic and Caucasian groups regarding their theologies and practices, as well as, between conservative and liberal Christians within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Instead, we had an argument that no balancing was required as the Church is now fully inclusive, and conservatives do not have to do same sex marriages or go to ordinations of sexual minorities. Most of us were shocked that the Assembly seemed to care so little for conservative congregations and ethnic congregations.
Instead the final wording of the motion that passed by 53% was:
That the General Assembly instruct the Assembly Council, the General Assembly Office, the Life and Mission Agency, the Committee to Nominating Standing Committees and the other boards and committees of the church to ensure that people are not excluded from serving based on their theological conviction of either definition of marriage endorsed by the General Assembly.
This means that no balancing of the two communities’ needs are necessary, but only not discriminating against individuals serving on national committees. There appears to be a difference of opinion on what the Remits B and C (2019) mean: (1) Two communities (revisionist and traditional, liberal and conservative, non-ethnic and ethnic) of understandings of marriage and ordination need to learn how to respect one another and live together, or (2) Individuals who disagree with the change in the Church’s changed doctrine and practice don’t have to do same sex weddings and certain ordination services. The latter appears to be the understanding of a number of liberal Christians. The former was our hope and our pledge, that we might be safe in the “changed church” with a “changed understanding of marriage, sexuality and Scripture.”
So where does that leave us? Combined with a rejection of Restructuring or “Alternative Governance” and a difficult and complicated Gracious Dismissal or “Voluntary Withdrawal” which would result in only 50% of our assets, we are discouraged. But God gives us the courage to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
We will have a town hall in the Fall to go into all the details. But you should know it was a difficult General Assembly to attend. Thank you for your prayers for me and other commissioners. Thank you for your ongoing prayers for the Elders and the congregation.