Overture re: Safe Place for Congregations

The Session of Grace West Hill humbly submits the following overture to the Presbytery of Pickering, requesting that the Presbytery of Pickering transmit the overture to the General Assembly, preferably with approval, with the request that the overture be referred to Assembly Council.

Overture re: Safe Place for Congregations with a Traditional Understanding of the Bible

To the Venerable the General Assembly:

WHEREAS, the beliefs of The Presbyterian Church in Canada are defined in our subordinate standards – the Westminster Confession of Faith as adopted in 1875 and 1889, the Declaration concerning Church and Nation of 1954, and Living Faith (Foi Vivante and 산 믿음) as adopted in 1998; and

WHEREAS, every minister and elder in The Presbyterian Church in Canada affirmed our subordinate standards in their ordination vows; and

WHEREAS, General Assemblies of our denomination, despite these ordination vows, have nevertheless for several years been discussing changes, referred to as human sexuality issues, that would contravene our subordinate standards, and contravene a traditional understanding of the Bible held for 2000 years and still held by the vast majority of the worldwide holy catholic church; and

WHEREAS, the 2019 General Assembly approved and remitted to presbyteries under the Barrier Act that:

  • The Presbyterian Church in Canada holds two parallel definitions of marriage and recognizes that faithful, Holy Spirit filled, Christ centred, God honouring people can understand marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman or as a covenant relationship between two adult persons. That congregations, sessions, ruling and teaching elders be granted liberty of conscience and action on marriage.
  • That congregations and presbyteries may call and ordain as ministers and elect and ordain as ruling elders LGBTQI persons (married or single) with the provision that liberty of conscience and action regarding participation in ordinations, inductions and installations be granted to ministers and ruling elders; and

WHEREAS, the 2019 General Assembly did not choose “Pathway C: One Denomination – Three Streams”, which was presented by the Special Committee of Former Moderators and would have provided a safe place within the denomination for congregations and clergy with a traditional understanding of the Bible and also for those who embrace a different understanding; and

WHEREAS, many people, congregations and clergy with a traditional understanding of the Bible are feeling unwanted and excluded by our denomination; and

WHEREAS, people with a traditional understanding of the Bible are considering leaving our denomination, or have left our denomination, in response to General Assembly discussions and actions; and

WHEREAS, some congregations and clergy with a traditional understanding of the Bible are wondering:

  • whether our denomination will approve remits which will require ministers and elders to vow to uphold views which conflict with a traditional understanding of the Bible,
  • how long our denomination, regardless of the outcome of the remits, will continue to provide a safe place where they can act in full accordance with a traditional understanding of the Bible,
  • whether they will need to seek next steps in finding a place where they can be faithful to their gospel call;

THEREFORE, the Session of Grace, West Hill, Toronto, Ontario, humbly overtures the Venerable, the 146th General Assembly to seek a way forward, in the spirit of “Pathway C: One Denomination – Three Streams”, presented in the 2019 report of the Special Committee of Former Moderators, to provide a safeguarded, guaranteed and permanent place in The Presbyterian Church in Canada where congregations and clergy with a traditional understanding of the Bible can continue to do ministry in this denomination in a manner which reflects the same character, identity, ethos, and core teachings that were the way of our denomination during the formation and adoption of our existing subordinate standards; or to do otherwise as the General Assembly, in its wisdom, deems best.