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Background on the Issue of Human Sexuality in the Church

This section of the page is intended to make available, to persons who are part of the Dayspring community of faith and care, the resources (Documents 1, 3, 4, and 5) which have been developed by the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) along with a personal reflection by a Minister-in-association who is a member of Dayspring’s Session (Document 2).

The PCC documents were created as a result of requests from Presbyteries, Sessions, and individuals from across Canada who are trying to figure out how to relate to persons who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, and/or Intersex/Inquiring (LGBTQI).

You are encouraged to download and study the documents.

Action of the 2019 General Assembly

A Special Committee of Former Moderators concerning the way forward for the PCC in relation to the human sexuality issue worked very hard to design a process for decision-making at the June 2-6, 2019 General Assembly. The report, which can be found here (scroll down towards the bottom of that page) offered four options for decision, proposing that the Assembly use a preferential ballot to make a choice concerning the following:

  • A. Current Practice
  • B. Inclusion
  • C. One Denomination – Three Streams
  • D. Pastoral Accommodation

The 2019 meeting of the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada met in Waterloo, Ontario, June 2–6, 2019.

After a process of prayerful discernment, the following recommendations were adopted:

  1. That the following be approved and remitted to presbyteries under the Barrier Act: 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.
  1. That the following be approved and remitted to presbyteries under the Barrier Act: 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.

The Barrier Act is a process of decision making within The Presbyterian Church in Canada. It is grounded in the Church of Scotland’s 1697 Barrier Act and stipulates that changes in doctrine or law be approved by two General Assemblies and a majority of presbyteries, whose membership represents a majority of the ministers, members of the Order of Diaconal Ministries and elders on their constituent rolls.

With the approval of the above two recommendations, the first of this three-step process has taken place.

Between now and the 2020 General Assembly, presbyteries will vote on the recommendations (now known as ‘remits’) and if a majority is reached in that step, the 2020 General Assembly may pass the recommendations into the law and policy of the church, which would be the third step.

Anyone who wants to express their feedback on these matters is invited to do so by clicking here . The link will take you to a page from which you can submit feedback.

Dayspring’s Process to Date

NOTE: Dayspring Session offered an opportunity on three successive Saturdays in early 2018   for persons who are part of the Dayspring community to have a conversation about the issues raised by these documents. These were not decision-making meetings – rather were “conversations” with an intent to focus on three questions:

  1. Why does it become so difficult to interpret the Word of God?
  2. Why do we want to re-interpret the Word of God?
  3. How are any of your family members or friends or persons connected with Dayspring affected by this conversation?

There was an opportunity after having read and reflected on the documents and/or participated in at least one of the Saturday morning conversations, to provide feedback to the PCC by responding to an online questionnaire. It was drawn to attention that if any change is to be made to the practice of the PCC and of Dayspring Church, the decision about that will be made by the General Assembly.

Background on PCC Governance and Prior Actions

In the PCC, congregations elect persons who are ordained as Elders to serve on Session. Session oversees the life and work of the congregation. Sessions appoint one of their number to serve as a member of Presbytery and Synod – which oversee the work of the congregations located in their geographical region.

The General Assembly oversees the overall work of the congregations of the PCC in Canada and our mission and service partnerships with Christian churches in many parts of the world. It does that work through boards, committees, and staff who report to the General Assembly when it meets, once yearly, in early June. General Assembly comprises 1/6th of the active ministers from each presbytery across the church, together with an equal number of elders selected by the Sessions of the Presbytery in rotation. With 11 active ministers, Edmonton-Lakeland Presbytery sends two Ministers and two Elders to General Assembly each year. Dayspring Session Clerk was one of the Elders who attended the 2017 General Assembly. Dayspring’s minister was a commissioner at General Assembly in 2016 and 2018.

Members of General Assembly do not “represent” anyone in the decision-making of the Assembly. Rather, they are “commissioned” to vote according to their conscience – of course with due regard for the wellbeing of the whole church.

In 1994, the PCC passed a report on Human Sexuality and that report can be downloaded here.

On February 13, 2018 acting on the decision of the General Assembly, Peter Bush, Moderator of the 143rd (2017) General Assembly, published a Letter of Repentance to the LGBTQI Community. You can find the letter here.

The work of the Rainbow Communion Listening Committee will continue through 2020. For information about the Rainbow Communion Listening Committee, click on this link. For other information on the PCC’s conversations about human sexuality, click on this link.

The 2018 General Assembly also sent a report on Unity and Diversity to Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synods, asking us to study and provide feedback on the document. You can find the document by clicking on this link. Dayspring Session studied the document and forwarded its response (click on this link to see the response) to the General Assembly.