The Assembly Council met at Crieff Hills Community from November 19–21, 2017. The Council is responsible for ensuring that the work of the church is carried out efficiently, effectively and within the policies established by the General Assembly and makes decisions about the budget. The meeting began Sunday evening. The Rev. Bob Smith, Assembly Council Convener, led the opening worship.
Joint Meeting of Assembly Council and Life and Mission Agency Committee
The Assembly Council and the Life and Mission Agency Committee held, for the first time, a joint meeting. Council and Committee reviewed each group’s responsibilities and work. The agenda of the joint meeting considered big-picture issues such as the Church’s Strategic Plan, approaches to church governance and church unity.
General Assembly Design Team
General Assembly will be at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for the next three years (2018–2020). A GA Design Team will plan themes and worship content. Feedback from commissioners at past GAs has noted that the process of decision making can sometimes feel adversarial. The Design Team recommended the use of a consensus decision-making model, which can provide more frequent opportunities for input into the discussion. Trained facilitators lead these procedures and include table group listening sessions. Consensus decision making has been used at the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches. It was agreed that consensus decision making will be used at the next meeting of Assembly Council and recommended for use during one Sederunt of the 2018 General Assembly.
Oliver Ng, Chief Financial Officer, noted that overall, spending is under budget, and that a large portion of Presbyterians Sharing support is usually received in the last quarter of the year. Proposed Budget Principles for 2019 were approved and were consistent with the 2018 budget report and principles.
Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement
The All Parties Group (with representatives from Indigenous organizations, government and churches) continues to meet. Work focuses on compiling lessons learned from the IRSSA process and responses to the Truth and Reconciliations Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action. Lessons and learnings from the All Parties group are important, especially in light of ongoing legal action regarding the sixties scoop.
Life and Mission Agency Highlights
- Presbyterian Connection newspaper has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. There are 16,500 copies printed, and these numbers increase every day.
- Take it up Tuesdays is a weekly Facebook posting highlighting worship and ministry resources.
- Presbyterians across the church are responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ Calls to Action. A statement to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery (a legal principle used in the age of discovery to assert European dominance over Indigenous lands and peoples) is being developed and will include consultation with Native Ministries.
- The 2018 E. H. Johnston award recipient is George Sabra, President of the Near East School of Theology for his work around interfaith dialogue and peace in an age of terrorism.
- Principles of stewardship as a spiritual discipline were reviewed: “Stewardship is not about giving to a church budget, but responds to the call of God in our lives with all our gifts – time, talent and treasure.”
Assembly Council and LMAC members had a discussion about ways they are using the Strategic Plan in local contexts, including: Bible studies and devotions, as guidance in discussions for grants, and as a guide for congregational mission work.
Overtures on Sexuality
The GA referred three reports from the Committee on Church Doctrine (CCD) and the biblical reflection from the LMA to the church for study and report: these reports have been translated into Korean and are posted online. All documents pertaining to this conversation are online at www.presbyterian.ca/sexuality. The Listening Committee set up by the 2017 GA to hear about the experiences of LGBTQI members of the church has met twice. Information from this group will be posted online.
50 Wynford Drive Building
The Council received a letter from the United Church of Canada with a request to formalize a process of discussion for sharing office space and services. Decisions on this matter are still several years away. An audit of used office space was done at 50 Wynford Drive (including the space formerly held by the Presbyterian Record). A plan to possibly rent out unused space is being developed.
Discussion on Church Unity
In responses to two petitions regarding church unity from the Han-Ca presbyteries, Assembly Council agreed to host a workshop facilitated by Basadur Applied Creativity. Dr. Basadur will lead participants through a process of creative communication with a focus on finding unity in spaces with diverse views.
The Raw Carrot (therawcarrot.com)
The Raw Carrot is a social enterprise developed out of Paris Presbyterian Church in Paris, Ont. The initiative provides employment for people who struggle to find or hold employment. They make and sell soup. Profits are reinvested in staff training and support. At three years in, the ministry is now self-sustaining. Startup funds were provided by the Presbytery of Paris and Canadian Ministries.
The Moderator, the Rev. Peter Bush, spoke about the need for creative responses during church discussions on same sex marriage to maintain church unity. The Moderator outlined historical precedence where the church could “put brackets” around parts of subordinate standards that address marriage and, in effect, “pause” its expression as official church policy.