The Presbyterian Church in Canada is studying the matter of sexuality in the church as a result of overtures submitted for consideration about the nature of the inclusion of members of the LGBTQI community in the church.
A Prayer as the Church Discerns the Mind of Christ on the Matter of Sexuality
In the law and your prophets, O God,
you have revealed your will and desire for justice.
And in the life and ministry of Christ, we see
your love and grace incarnate.
Open our hearts and minds
by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
as we pray as your church
“to be guided into truth knowing that such truth may disturb and judge us”1
but always trusting that in
your truth we may find freedom and in
your will find peace;
“for with you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light”2
through Christ our Lord,
Overtures on Sexual Orientation – What’s happening?
Reports on Sexuality Referred for Study and Report Letter – August 2017
The Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency have written a letter to the church with information about study and report process.
Sexuality Overtures—Church Doctrine Reports
Sexuality Overtures – Church Doctrine Reports part 1, Korean
Sexuality Overtures – Church Doctrine Reports part 2, Korean
Where from Here?
(A&P 2017, p. 536-39, 28)
The Historical Argument concerning Human Sexuality
(A&P 2017, p. 480-504, 28)
Covenanted Monogamous Same Sex Relationships
(A&P 2017, p. 505-36, 28)
Sexuality Overtures – Life and Mission Agency Reports
Sexuality Overtures – Life and Mission Agency Reports, Korean
Biblical Reflection on Sexuality
(A&P 2017, p. 542-48, 38)
What is an overture?
Every year, overtures are sent to the General Assembly for consideration. Usually, each overture recommends a change to the governance or doctrine of the denomination.
What happened with overtures to the 2015 Assembly regarding sexual orientation?
37 overtures were addressed to the 2015 General Assembly. 24 had to do with issues of sexual orientation and the church and related issues.
No proposal regarding sexual orientation was put before the church at the 2015 Assembly. The Assembly placed the overtures in the hands of the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency’s Justice Ministries and made the following decisions.
- Church Doctrine and the Justice Ministries are to prepare responses to the overtures referred to them and confer with each other during the year.
- The whole church is called to engage in a year of prayerful conversation and discernment along with Bible study on the topics of human sexuality, sexual orientation and other related matters raised in the overtures.
- Church Doctrine and Justice Ministries are to prepare a joint study guide on sexual orientation. (This is completed. The guide, Body, Mind and Soul, is available at presbyterian.ca and is designed to help facilitate discussion.)
- Sessions, along with others, are invited to share the results of their discussions with both Church Doctrine and Justice Ministries prior to March 31, 2016.
Committee on Church Doctrine Online Survey
The 2017 General Assembly sent numerous documents to the wider church for study and report. Among these were three important documents from the Committee on Church Doctrine—two are theological papers, and the other document is more practical. In order to facilitate your response to these three documents (“study and report”) the Committee on Church Doctrine has prepared an online survey to be completed by groups and individuals.
The committee also suggests that the survey questions be provided to participants in groups discussions, so that the group leader may complete the survey faithfully on behalf of the group. Please remember that groups and individuals need to complete the survey before January 31, 2018, in order for their responses to be referred to the Committee on Church Doctrine by the General Assembly Office.
Responses on paper can be mailed to:
Committee on Church Doctrine
c/o General Assembly Office
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
50 Wynford Drive
Toronto, ON M3C 1J7
Join the Conversation
The Life and Mission Agency has produced a report to support the church as it studies and responds to sexuality overtures.
By the Committee on Church Doctrine and Life and Mission Agency
This joint recommended reading list is commended to the attention of commissioners to the 2015 General Assembly. (Click here for the proposal for a process for dealing with overtures regarding human sexuality.)
Reports from The Presbyterian Church in Canada
Report on Human Sexuality, Committee on Church Doctrine, A&P 1994, p. 251–74.
Interim Report of the Special Committee on Sexual Orientation, A&P 2000, p. 482–92.
Report of the Special Committee on Sexual Orientation, A&P 2003, p. 526–47.
Confessing the Faith Today
Campolo, Peggy, and Tony Campolo. “Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?” Institute for Welcoming Resources. From February 29, 1996. welcomingresources.org/campolo. This is the transcript of a discussion between Tony and Peggy Campolo (husband and wife).
Cavey, Bruxy. “Are We ‘Gay Friendly’?” The Meeting House, Teaching Resources. 2005; updated 2013. themeetinghouse.com/resources/tmh/teaching_resources/Gay_Friendly_Statement.pdf).
Gushee, David P. Reconciling Evangelical Christianity with Our Sexual Minorities: Reframing the Biblical Discussion. This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, Chicago, January, 2015, 18 pages. The article is an abbreviated version of Gushee’s book, Changing Our Mind, and is found at ChangingOurMind.org. David Gushee is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University, in Atlanta, Georgia. In this paper, Gushee lays out the biblical, and ethical reasons he has changed his mind and why now supports full inclusion of men and women who are LGBT.
Grenz, Stanley J. Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998. Grenz writes to examine the question of whether contemporary culture has provided such important new insights into homosexuality that the church’s historic understanding of the scripture must be revised. He concludes it has not. Overall, he advocates a church which welcomes all people without affirming all behaviours.
Rogers, Jack. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. 2nd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009. This particular resource is important because it is specifically Presbyterian and represents an ethos close to The Presbyterian Church in Canada. It was also a key resource that led the Presbyterian Church (USA) to decide to move from an understanding similar to our own to its current position in which sexual orientation no longer limits service in the denomination.
VanderWal-Gritter, Wendy. Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2014. VanderWal-Gritter is the director of New Direction ministries in Canada. This organization was part of the Exodus network, a prominent evangelical ex-gay movement in the USA. VanderWal-Gritter tells the story of a radical change in the approach of her ministry as she encountered LGBTQ people as human beings and observed harm done to them through Christian initiatives. The New Direction website (newdirection.ca) lists numerous resources.
Matthew Vinces, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Convergent Books, 2014).
Wesley Hill, Washing and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2010).
A more extensive bibliography for commissioners to General Assembly is found in the Book of Reports beginning on page 7.1.15.
Body, Mind and Soul – Study Guide on Human Sexuality
The complete Study Guide consists of the main document and supplemental handouts. Both the main document and supplemental handouts are combined in one PDF that is available below to download and print. Alternatively, printed copies are also available to order online through Parasource. The cost for a printed publication is $11.50 for the Study Guide (main document) and $3.45 for the Booklet (supplemental handouts).
In 2015 the General Assembly adopted the following motion:
Recommendation No. 5: That the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) prepare a joint study guide on the topics of human sexuality, sexual orientation and other related matters raised in the overtures to be posted on the church’s website by the end of October, 2015 and that congregations, sessions, presbyteries and synods be invited to share the result of their conversation with both the Committee on Church Doctrine and Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) prior to March 31, 2016.
To accomplish the General Assembly’s resolution, a Design Team was established with members representing the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) to serve as an editorial body for the writer of the study guide, Body, Mind and Soul – Study Guide on Human Sexuality. The terms of the Design Team are found below.
The Study Guide is not a doctrinal statement. Its purpose is to promote and facilitate informed conversation about the topic of human sexuality and sexual orientation in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. In addition, the Study Guide is intended to help people understand what the PCC currently says about the topic, drawn from Acts and Proceedings and approved documents such as The Social Action Handbook. Thirdly, the Study Guide is designed to invite people and groups through the PCC into prayerful consideration of the matters before us regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.
Other Churches’ Documents
Below are some statements and documents from our partners and some of our sister churches on these subjects (listed in no particular order).
The Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Christian Reformed Church in North America
The Anglican Church of Canada
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Read on ELCIC website
The United Church of Canada
Mennonite Church Canada
A Report on Our Understanding of the Church’s Position Regarding Same-Sex Issues, 2003
Read on MCC website
Read on WCC website
Church of Scotland
The Church of Ireland
In 2017, the General Assembly formed a special committee to create a safe and respectful environment in which confidentiality is assured and to encourage people from the LGBTQI community to tell their stories of harm done to them within and by the church and to share their stories of God’s grace experienced by them and Christian ministry. For more information, visit the Listening Committee web page.
The Rev. Peter Bush, Moderator of the General Assembly in 2017, has written a pastoral letter to the church about the sexuality discussion the courts of the church are having.
In January 2016, the Rev. Karen Horst, Moderator of the 141st General Assembly, wrote a pastoral letter to the church about the discussion the denomination is having about human sexuality; this followed a previous pastoral letter sent in November 2015.
In January 2016, Canadian Ministries wrote a letter to presbyteries offering financial support for education events on the topic of sexuality.