Clerks of Assembly
Assembly adopted a Declaratory Act affirming the decision at last year’s Assembly permitting ministers of The World Communion of Reformed Churches congregations to preside at the Lord’s Table in Presbyterian congregations.
The Assembly affirmed that PCC polity does not include any provision for a congregation to leave the denomination while retaining its property and other assets.
Through a formal recommendation and a standing ovation, the Assembly expressed thanks to the Rev. Dr. Tony Plomp for his 29 years of service as deputy clerk, the longest serving clerk of the General Assembly in the history of the PCC.
Bills and Overtures
An overture that wished to declare overtures related to same sex marriage out of order was not adopted by the Assembly. The Assembly referred an overture on developing a Reformed confessional hermeneutic to the Committee on Church Doctrine.
Church Doctrine, History, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Justice Ministries, International Affairs Committee, International Ministries, Ministry and Church Vocations and PWS&D highlighted issues in their reports and answered questions through briefing panels.
World Communion of Reformed Churches
Greetings were sent from the World Communion of Reformed Churches as they prepare to assemble in 2017 for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. They urged us to continue to be agents of hope.
Assembly encouraged congregations to celebrate Heritage Sunday and to attend the “Sola Cristus” event in Winnipeg, MB on Oct 29, 2016 and the “Soli Deo Gloria” event at Knox College on October 28, 2017, both marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
History prizes were awarded: Still Voices – Still Heard a biographical history of 150 years of Presbyterian College; Sunsets and Gentle Breezes, Margaret Jean Taylor’s memoir; and Congregational History of Haney Church, Maple Ridge, BC.
Presbyteries were encouraged to assess their congregations $50 to support the National Presbyterian Museum.
Morning worship, led by the Rev. Hugh Donnelly, explored themes of peace, opening with the ecumenical greeting of Peace, Shalom, Salaam Alaikum. With material from the Young Children and Worship curriculum, two young adult reps explored Matthew 13: 31-34. For evening worship the Rev. Jeanie Lee read scripture and the Rev. Jeff Murray reflected on Jacob wrestling with God. Worship concluded with the benediction “go in peace, rest and prepare to be blessed as we struggle with God.”
E.H. Johnson Award
Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), was the 2016 recipient of The Dr. E.H. Johnson Memorial Award for “The Cutting Edge of Mission.” Dr. Sabella spoke of the work of DSPR—which receives support from PWS&D and Presbyterians Sharing—providing health care and vocational training to people in Gaza, education to Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and youth leadership in Galilee. DSPR also reaches out to Jewish groups working for equal rights for all citizens.
Both a Palestinian and a Christian, Dr. Sabella called for the resolution of conflict based on Christian values and challenged the church to consider how economic advocacy can foster peace with justice.
The Assembly encouraged that congregations learn about and respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is suggested as a framework for reconciliation by the Commission. The General Assembly also encouraged congregations to acknowledge the traditional Indigenous territories where they conduct worship and church business.
Permission was granted to respond to overtures pertaining to human sexuality and an overture about passive energy in 2017.
As the Rev. Karen Horst reflected on her year as moderator, she spoke of exploring gender justice issues with reformed churches in Cuba, and meeting survivors and visiting the sites of Birtle and Cecilia Jeffrey residential schools. Even amidst signs of decline across the church, she experienced hospitality, saw signs of hope and faithfulness, and celebrated new and creative ministries. She offered words of encouragement and advice to the new moderator.
Ecumenical Visitor: Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan
Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, president of the Canadian Council of Churches, talked about the council’s work. The 25 member denominations work together in a forum model, meaning decisions are made by consensus, not by resolution. This year they have grappled with difficult issues including palliative care, doctor-assisted dying, healing and reconciliation and the role of faith communities in public life. Dr. Barnett-Cowan encouraged the practice of careful listening across differences “as you wrestle with difficult questions of scripture and culture.”
The Rev. Lisa Aide thanked The Presbyterian Church in Canada for their prayers and support for the congregation and people of Fort McMurray. She reported that the manse and the school where Faith Presbyterian Church worships survived the fire, but four families in the congregation lost everything. Pray for the congregation as they search for a new minister and as they rebuild.
The Assembly approved that the Presbyterian Church in Canada provide $50,000 to The Record to address fiscal challenges. The courts are also instructed to find ways to assist The Record financially in the coming year.
International Affairs Committee
The Assembly recommended writing to government and church partners on the treatment of minority and Indigenous people who experience discrimination, in particular Koreans in Japan, Haitians in the Dominican Republic, Roma in Ukraine and Hungary, Indigenous Maya in Guatemala and LGBT people worldwide.
The Moderator will write to the Minister of International Development encouraging the government of Canada to ensure their overseas development assistance policies are consistent with the values and objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Moderator will also write to the Government of Canada asking how the Government will ensure that the sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia will not be used against civilians.
The church will write to partners in Guatemala regarding concerns over Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in Guatemala, following up on ongoing dialogue with Goldcorp.
The three colleges spoke of their work and highlighted new initiatives. Presbyterian College has developed a mentoring program, and General Assembly concurred with the new Memorandum of Understanding between McGill and the Montreal School of Theology. Knox College has introduced a new Master of Pastoral Studies program focusing on spiritual care and psychotherapy, preaching and worship and social service ministry. Vancouver School of Theology introduced the work of the Centre for Missional Leadership.
Elizabeth Bartlett was thanked for her 16 years of service in the General Assembly Office as she prepares for retirement.
View photos on the Presbyterian Record photo stream
Watch for more daily briefings
online at presbyterian.ca/ga2016 and a summary newsletter on Monday.