A Fresh Round of Overtures

As the March 31st deadline for presbyteries to consider the Remits draws closer, there’s renewed anticipation of what new proposals might be in the wings.

Remits to change the definition of marriage and allow the ordination of those in same-sex partnerships will likely have enough presbytery support to advance to General Assembly 2020 for final consideration. At the same time, opposition remains strong. Three presbyteries approved one but said “no” to the other. In two courts, tie votes were decided by the moderator. Another two courts were unanimously opposed. And several votes were close to a tie. There’s no evidence that any court has been unanimously in favour.

Not content with pledges of “liberty of conscience and action” in either Remit, several courts are asking General Assembly for something more concrete.

St. Andrew’s Moncton is asking commissioners to “construct theological Relief Courts upholding traditional theology within the PCC, Presbyteries, Synods and General Assemblies, allowing Sessions to choose which Courts their congregations would affiliate with, as well as other supportive structures as may be necessary to exist within” the PCC.

On January 28th, the Presbytery of Eastern Han-Ca approved an overture submitted from its special committee formed out of the “A Place to Stand” gathering at Vaughan Community Church in late September. The overture asks for a “safeguarded, guaranteed, permanent place for congregations” which choose to adhere to current doctrine. This would be achieved by forming a court which possesses theological autonomy.

In a similar vein, the session of Grace West Hill in Scarborough last November overtured 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.”

The Presbytery of Hamilton is expected to receive from one of its congregations an overture seeking similar protection. Its authors say it will be made public once received by the court on February 11.

Many eyes in orthodoxy have been on Eastern Han-Ca ever since the closing minutes of its September 28th event, when organizers pledged a special committee on matters related to human sexuality, along with some special working groups representative of orthodoxy. There was also talk about a follow-up gathering early in the new year.

Even since the Atlantic Canada gathering in Moncton on Sept. 21, there’s been tacit agreement among those in orthodoxy that in order to have our voices heard and to achieve effective protection for orthodoxy, we need to be in the same boat and rowing in the same direction. With that in mind, there’s been a blanket of respectful silence and prayerful waiting to see what comes out of the Han-Ca committee. Han-Ca’s special committee has indeed been at work and has stepped up the pace in January as the February 1 deadline for referred overtures approached.

A follow-up conference to “A Place to Stand” is being planned by Eastern Han-Ca prior to the 2020 General Assembly, likely in May, but no date has been set.

(Renewal Fellowship’s annual renewal day and AGM, “20/20 Vision: Vigilant and Vital” will take place April 25th from 10-4 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. Guest speaker will be Rev. Jonathan Hong, lead English-language pastor of Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church.)

In response to a great need for those of traditional camps to talk about a way forward if the Remits are adopted, Renewal Fellowship has organized three online gatherings. The response has been encouraging. The February 11 afternoon event is now at capacity and a third event is now scheduled on February 18th at 1 p.m. Eastern. There’s still room in the February 12th evening time slot.

Email <renewalfellowshippcc@gmail.com> if you’re interested. Each conversation will be kicked off with the question, “Is some sort of formal theological separation in The Presbyterian Church in Canada now inevitable in order to avoid a mass exodus?”

The prayer of Renewal Fellowship is that these online conversations will be times of encouragement for kindred souls.