Share the Pain

CLARIFICATION: Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald’s comment was a reflection of the testimony he heard at that one particular gathering. It was not intended as a summation of what he has heard generally throughout the PCC on this issue.

This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.

The court rendered its decision.

Before sentencing, the victims were allowed to speak. One by one, they opened their hearts and bared their souls, sharing how the decision had impacted them.

Many prepared carefully-worded statements. A few were off the cuff. All were spoken from the heart and testified to something which had changed their lives – and the lives of those around them – forever. There was anger, sadness, tears, emotion.

Their words were piercing.

“I don’t judge you. Only God can.”

“The pain is deep. It causes restless nights.”

“Saddened, disheartened, bitter, fearful.”

“I feel betrayed.”

“Ashamed.”

“I’m troubled in heart and soul.”

The court, in this case, is General Assembly. The victims are those who adhere to Christian orthodoxy shared by the vast majority of believers around the world – and throughout history.

The offense: the actions of commissioners to GA in approving Pathway “B” (inclusion) and Remits “B” and “C”, which propose to recognize same-sex marriage and the ordination and call/election of teaching and ruling elders in same-sex marriages.

It’s just the latest and most painful blow in The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s liberal theological drift. It’s the collective actions of elders and ministers who have turned from the whole Word of God and thousands of years of faithful tradition. It’s the selective reading of Scripture. It’s the interpretation of God’s Word through the eyes of humankind rather than God.

The victims’ testimony was delivered by members of two Moncton-area congregations on Sept. 22 in response to GA’s motion “That as a matter of urgency, the Life and Mission Agency (LMA) provide a means for those affected by this decision to express their concerns, views and pain in a safe environment, and that these concerns be reported back to the 2020 General Assembly before the report on remits is received and its recommendations considered.”

The comparison to victim-impact statements is not an overstatement. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing them in a secular court.

The concerns were raw and powerful.

“The irony is the arrogance of it,” one elder testified. “General Assembly said ‘no’ to the Doctrine of Discovery [the medieval mindset that European monarchs used to justify their subjugation of Indigenous peoples and conquered nations in colonial times] yet we’re not listening to Koreans and Africans” in the PCC who are remaining faithful to orthodoxy – along with the vast majority of Christian believers in Asia, Africa and South America, where the church is growing.

Several who were present at recent Assemblies commented on the worship and settings, which felt slanted towards inclusion. Changing the agenda and “allowing the Rainbow Communion to talk first” at 2019 Assembly, said one. Said another, “opening worship of Assembly in a church with a Rainbow flag for everyone to see.” And worship messages that sounded more political than prophetic.

“False teachers are tearing the PCC apart. We’re paying more attention to what people say rather than the Bible.”

Most powerful were the words spoken by the youngest people present – those who are more in touch with secular culture than most of us. They’re offended by the submission of the church to secular thinking.

“I’m a Millennial,” said a young mother. “Jesus was not culturally popular. He was not concerned about what people thought. He was rejected. We may be rejected if that’s what it takes. I will take up my cross.”

“We’ve become absorbed into the culture instead of being seen as different,” said a younger man. “I have homosexual coworkers, bosses and friends. They respect me because I don’t compromise on truth.”

Said another: “You’re taking our church’s energy away from our mission to the world.”

Patiently listening was the LMA’s General Secretary, the Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, who is travelling the country to hear to the concerns first hand.

“I’m very conscious of the pain I’ve heard,” he told the meeting at Riverview Bethel. “I’m very conscious of the ministers not upholding the doctrines we have. … I’ve heard a sense of the unfairness in the process.”

He will continue to listen to testimony until the February 15th deadline, either in person or through online technology.

Let’s make use of this opportunity.

Pray for more congregations to speak up. Pray for individuals to do the same – submissions can be filed by mail or email. Go to Presbyterian.ca/feedback. Or write to 50 Wynford Dr., Toronto, Ontario, M3C 1J7. Or call 416-441-1111.

Pray for the Life and Mission Agency as it meets in November and chooses the ad hoc committee that will sort through the statements and prepare a report to 2020 General Assembly.

Pray that this committee will be led by the Holy Spirit to take action. While the intent of the exercise is to listen and report – “echo” is how Ross-McDonald describes it – the LMA chief doesn’t rule out recommendations.

It’s an audacious prayer. But what’s the harm.

4 thoughts on “Share the Pain

  1. As a former elder (now in a different congregation), I am greatly disturbed by what is happening within the PCC. It appears to me that the Bible has been used with little regard to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Down through history the church has looked to the Spirit to help her interpret what this living Word is saying to the church. All the scholars of every age, with study and prayer, in every culture, have come to the same concussion: Marriage is between a man and a woman. We can’t have two doctrines that are opposed to one another. Do we see the Bible as the Word of God, or do we not? In prayer, we have to get back to listening to God through His Word. Those of us who’re retired can attend any congregation in any denomination that follows the teachings of Christ. I am concerned with the younger elders and ministers who will have to decide where they will fit in the PCC after this June. May God be with each presbyter as they vote on these remits.

  2. I believe God created men and women for the purpose of creating children, and marriage is between a man and a woman. I also believe I am to love all my fellow man as Jesus did unconditionally, no matter what their desires is. I will accept them into my church with open arms.

  3. I am hesitant to trust Ian Ross-McDonald’s efforts to “listen” to the concerns of the orthodox. At GA 2017, in a small group conversation, I tried to express my concern about the post-modern gospel having lost any sense of Christ as the “propitiation for sin”. Ross-McDonald immediately countered with, “Of course, that was a doctrine made popular by the 11th century theologian, Anselm.” I was stymied and couldn’t say another thing. Sadly, I was not quick-witted enough to ask, “Does that make it obsolete?”

    Following on this encounter, the material prepared by the Life and Mission Agency as a scriptural defence of same-sex marriage read more like a dismissal of scripture as obscure and unreliable. If this is acceptable to Ian Ross-McDonald, I am very skeptical of Ross-McDonald’s ability to hear and report on the concerns of the orthodox. I fear that any “patiently listening” he might evidence is merely a public demonstration of his compassion for those who fear change and not an effort to discern the voice of God.

  4. This is so heart-warming, and then also so very sad. I do appreciate the youth who did speak up “against the tide”. I, too, can work alongside my colleagues who proudly wave the rainbow flag, and I do feel they respect my stance as well. There is respect, and I can maintain my Christian beliefs.

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