Moderator Issues Letter of Repentance to LGBTQI Community

To The Presbyterian Church in Canada and all those harmed by homophobia and hypocrisy by and within the church:

The 2017 General Assembly asked the moderator to write a letter of repentance to the LGBTQI community. Although, in 1994, the General Assembly received The Human Sexuality Report that called on The Presbyterian Church in Canada to repent of its homophobia and hypocrisy, the church to this point has not acted on that call and publicly repented. However, the 2017 General Assembly established a listening committee, the Rainbow Communion, to create a safe space for LGBTQI persons and others to tell of their experiences in the church, and to report back to Assembly no later than 2020. This letter of repentance is an interim response between the call of the 1994 document and the work of the Rainbow Communion.

God calls the church to be a welcoming community where we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. In our hypocrisy the church offers welcome to heterosexual people but often shuns people who do not identify as heterosexual. In this homophobic environment, the church is often an unsafe place for people to name their sexual identity and orientation. For the church and our congregations failing to be safe and welcoming places, we are sorry, and we repent.

In this homophobic environment we are all harmed. Families have felt and still feel the church’s expectations to condemn and reject children, siblings and parents who do not look, act or speak in ways congruent with the restrictive gender definitions of the church and society. Friends feel pressure to break off connections. For the ways our congregations judge and exclude others based on restrictive gender definitions, we are sorry, and we repent.

No one should ever be harmed for naming their sexual identity. We live in a culture and a world where LGBTQI persons are bullied, brutalized and sometimes killed. Moreover, bullying and violence occurs in congregations or in the community with the support of church members. Presbyteries and sessions fail to hold church members and church leaders accountable for their hateful acts. For our failure to protect those attacked and brutalized, we are sorry, and we repent. For our ongoing failure to hold people accountable for abuse and hatred, we are sorry, and we repent.

Even when congregations and church members do not participate in emotional and physical bullying, the church’s silence condones such action when it fails to speak against the violence. By not speaking clearly and in a public way, the church is “part of the evil of the world, of its violence, neglect, and injustice.”1 Moreover church members wanting to speak fear that if they speak they will be ridiculed and bullied themselves. For our silence and silencing others, we are sorry, and we repent.

The church by its actions and inaction, speaking and silence, creates hurt, fear and distrust among LGBTQI persons who are part of the church. Deaf to the cries of hurt, fear, and distrust, the church dismisses the pain experienced by LGBTQI persons. For our unwillingness to recognize the hurt and fear our actions and attitudes have caused, we are sorry, and we repent.

Bullying, hatred and silence, have led to emotional and physical pain and personal struggle, which sometimes have led people to attempt suicide. The church has not offered and continues to fail to offer care to those who face this struggle and pain. For our failure to offer tender care to the hurting, we are sorry, and we repent.

Irrational fear in the church has created a climate where there is often more interest in condemning what is considered sin than in listening to the struggles and stories of human beings. The church is often quick to speak and slow to listen. Further, the church is quick to name and condemn certain sexual practices, while at times being slow to name and confront sexual abuse and marital unfaithfulness. For our hypocrisy, we are sorry, and we repent. For offering judgment and condemnation rather than gospel hope, we are sorry, and we repent.

The church too often puts more emphasis on a person’s sexual identity than on their identity in Christ. When the church ignores the gifts present within the body of Christ, it fails to appreciate all that God has for the church and fails to see God’s glory revealed in all people. For our unwillingness to affirm the spiritual gifts present in all the people of the church, we are sorry, and we repent.

By God’s grace, led by the Holy Spirit, and seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ we repent and desire to go in a new way and to be a welcoming church centered in the Triune God of grace who draws us into community. As such a community, we will seek, as individuals and congregations, to welcome all, as Jesus Christ has welcomed us. We will reach out, rejoice together in fellowship, and seek holiness as we worship, pray, sing, eat and listen together for God’s Word speaking to the whole church. We commit ourselves to pray with one another, weep with one another, and rejoice with one another.

This letter of repentance is neither the beginning nor the end; it is but a part of a longer conversation. This conversation is being taken up in part by the Rainbow Communion, a committee with the important mandate of creating a safe space where experiences of LGBTQI people will be told and heard.

Those who wish to respond to this Letter of Repentance can do so by sending their e-mail response to repentance [at] presbyterian [dot] ca.

In Christ,

The Rev. Peter Bush
Moderator of the 2017 (143rd) General Assembly
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Image of arrow pointing downLetter of Repentance to LGBTQI Community

Image of arrow pointing downLetter of Repentance to LGBTQI Community – Korean

Image of arrow pointing downLetter of Repentance to LGBTQI Community – Chinese

Note: French translation of this letter will be available shortly.

1 Living Faith 2.5.6

2018-04-25T10:37:58+00:00February 13th, 2018|Categories: News|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Linda Charlton February 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you, Rev. Bush. I am hopeful when I read this message. Yes we must broaden our church’s welcome and invitation so all may know the transformative power of the gospel. I want to be part of a diverse assembly with Christ, working together in God’s gospel plan of changing the world.

  2. Don MacMillan February 14, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    It’s a well-written letter, but it contains errors and false accusations.
    Bush says that the church shuns people who are not hetrosexual. Oh? A blanket statement like this is an inaccurate generalization.
    Likewise, Bush says that: “bullying and violence occurs in congregations.” Oh? … another unsubstantiated remark.
    I agree that sometimes the church is slow to confront sexual abuse and marital unfaithfulness. (I assume Bush means within a hetrosexual relationship.)
    I realize that this is likely Bush’s first draft. My thought is that before publishing such a letter, he should have it reviewed by a committee of discerning peers.
    I voice these remarks as a long-time elder with a homosexual brother and a homosexual brother-in-law.

    • Peter Bush February 15, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      The 1994 Statement on Human Sexuality called on the church to repent of its homophobia and hypocrisy. The 2017 General Assembly asked the Moderator write a letter of repentance. I began the letter writing process in the summer of 2017 by asking a lead member of the 1994 group about the 1994 Committee’s understanding of such a statement of repentance. From that conversation, and from reflecting on stories and comments I have heard over the years, a very rough draft of the actions and attitudes to be repented of was created. I consulted with the member of the 1994 committee, who indicated that I was on the right track.
      Meanwhile I set up a Reading Group of 4 widely respected leaders in the denomination who consented to read and offer suggestions to improve the document. The document went through three drafts, smoothing language, sharpening focus. That draft went to 3 staff members at the Church Offices who made further comments.
      In the fall of 2017, the fourth draft went to an additional group including LGBTQI persons, who as a collective responded in mid-November. One of the suggestions coming from the meeting I had with two members of that group was to think about the week of Ash Wednesday as a good time to release the letter.
      In January 2018, the next draft of the letter was sent to the Reading Group. Again, the group helped clarify what was being said. The subsequent draft was sent to both the Reading Group and to the staff persons from Church Offices who had been consulted with before. That subsequent draft was sent to the additional group that had been consulted with. Following that the letter was declared finished.
      So more than a dozen people have been consulted regarding the actual text of the letter, and it has been a through a seven-month period of reflection and editing.

  3. David Christiani February 14, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Thank you, Moderator for this important statement and gesture. May the conversation continue.

  4. Rev. Linda J Martin February 13, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Well done good and faithful servant!

  5. Jim Ellis February 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Shared on my FB page. Congratulations!

  6. Rev. Noble Dean February 13, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    At last. It is long overdue and is hopefully just the start of a journey of reconciliation.

  7. Janet DeWolfe February 13, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Well said, Peter. Thank you.

  8. Rev. Emma Duncan February 13, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Thank you Moderator.

  9. Margaret Vanderzweerde February 13, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Excellent letter. Thank you , Moderator.

Comments are closed.