A variety of commissioners helped lead morning worship before and after the 8th Sederunt. They shared scripture, prayer and reflections on what it means to be stewards of the mysteries of God. Piano, cello and acoustic bass accompanied today’s reflective hymns. During the meditation, the Rev. Emily Bisset shared, “If we are to be trustworthy stewards of the mysteries of God, we must be people of prayer – people who seek to know God’s nature by listening to God’s voice.”
Bills and Overtures
Assembly referred an overture requesting the development of a bereavement leave policy to Ministry and Church Vocations. Another overture was referred to Canadian Ministries to research the causes of church decline, in consultation with Assembly Council.
Several overtures requesting a policy for congregations wishing to leave the denomination were deemed answered through Recommendation No. 2 under the Clerks of Assembly report.
Assembly referred an overture on ministry, eldership, and performing marriage of those in same gender relationships to the Church Doctrine Committee and Justice Ministries.
Life and Mission Agency
The Rev. Tim Archibald spoke about church planting and shared examples of new ways of reaching people. Having planted 400 new ministries, in their campaign to plant 1001 new churches, PCUSA colleagues have found that coaching and mentoring leaders of new church plants significantly increases the success rate of these ministries. Five Canadian Presbyterians, trained by the PCUSA network, are coaching church plant leaders in Canada. .
John Gilbert, the Clerk of the Presbytery of Grey Bruce Maitland, shared that more than half of their charges are vacant. The Presbytery developed a mandate to help renew congregations. In one region four churches have come together to establish a cooperative council that plans sustainable ministry and programs. This is not a cluster or multi-point charge, but a new and creative agreement to share resources and establish sustainable ministry. “The excitement and enthusiasm – the hope – is literally palpable,” Gilbert reports. This cooperative has successfully run for over a year, and now several other congregations in the region are talking to each other.
Assembly passed a motion from the floor asking the Moderator to write a letter to the Canadian government, urging them to work diligently for the release of The Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, who is imprisoned in North Korea.
Assembly then celebrated those who have remembered the mission and ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Canada through their bequests in 2015. Thanks were given for the legacy of faith and hope they are providing through the PCC.
Assembly passed an amended motion that the Committee on Church Doctrine report to the 2017 General Assembly in response to a number of overtures relating to human sexuality. The committee was also instructed to consider Romans 14:1-13 and a possible two-prong approach in response to these overtures.
Assembly adopted a recommendation that any change in the church’s teaching on marriage should be sent through the Barrier Act.
Assembly commended the document “Understanding and Interpreting the Bible” and asked that congregations and presbyteries report back to the Committee on Church Doctrine with comments.
YARs and Student Representatives
The Young Adult Representatives expressed thanks for being welcomed and included, with special thanks to YAR advisors Jo Morris and the Rev. Dr. Blair Bertrand. They then offered prayers in a variety of languages. One YAR prayed, “As we leave each other today we pray for your guidance and for your love, and for your spirit to be with us as we implement the decisions we have made here together.”
The student representatives were also thankful for being included in this year’s Assembly. Shelley Chandler, from St. Andrew’s Hall/VST, shared, “Scattered throughout this assembly have been moments of God’s amazing actions. I believe, based on what I’ve heard at GA, that the PCC is being called to re-imagine our collective calling. We are entering into a very exciting time in our church, in our ministry.”
“The passion generated this weekend and within our church is encouraging. I have been delighted with the debate that has happened.” – Lisa Dolson, Knox College student
Clerks of Assembly
Assembly deleted a section from the Book of Forms related to allowing a member of the court to dissent from any decision that may occur in their absence.
A revision—for the purpose of improving clarity—to the Book of Forms regarding overtures and petitions was sent to presbyteries for consideration under the Barrier Act.
A motion from the floor asking the Clerks of Assembly to assign time allotments to presenters of reports, commencing at the 2017 Assembly, was carried.
After considerable debate and an amendment, Assembly passed a motion that effective September 30, 2016, the proceeds from the sale of assets of dissolved congregations would be shared, 50%, up to $2 million, to the pension solvency fund and 50% to Presbytery for mission and ministry. After $2 million is reached, the formula will revert back to 70% for presbytery and 30% for new church development.
The 2017 budget and 2018-2020 forecasts were passed. It was noted that the 2018 budget group will be dealing with hard issues in the coming year and prayers were requested for their work.
Assembly passed an additional motion from the floor which directed Assembly Council to consider having agencies, committees and colleges of the PCC report to GA on a rotational basis.
Women’s Missionary Society
The WMS highlighted Glad Tidings, resources for Mission Awareness Sunday and the Together We Can projects in Guatemala (Mayan Women) and Canada (Arise Ministry). They introduced their new Women to Women ministry, designed to connect women and support them in personal discipleship, spiritual development and service opportunities. Women can begin connecting through The Hub (womenshub.ca), an online space to share their Reformed faith and how it relates to their daily lives. The WMS also reminded Assembly that the third National Women’s Gathering will be May 19-22,2017.
Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee
Assembly said the Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding prayer in a council meeting doesn’t impact public prayer.
Resources for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were commended.
Courtesies and Loyal Addresses
Gratitude was expressed to all those who helped with General Assembly, including the many staff, volunteers, local hosts, organizers, resource people and commissioners.
Courtesies were sent to Chief R. Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, and his Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto and members of city council.
View photos on the Presbyterian Record photo stream
View all daily briefings online at presbyterian.ca/ga2016
Download the printed GA Briefing summary of events from Friday to Sunday