Sunday morning worship celebrated and explored the mystery of baptism. Scripture was read in a variety of languages reflecting the diversity of our church. Worshippers were invited to reaffirm their baptism by dipping their hands in the baptismal font. The Rev. Katherine Fraser shared these encouraging words: “In those moments when you feel small and powerless, remember that you have been baptised. The power of God is at work in you to transform the world!”
Sunday evening worship began with a reading from Luke 5:1-7. The Rev. Dr. Blair Bertrand reflected on the busyness of our lives, saying, “Calm and quietness and stillness, like spending time in a boat on the water, is necessary for the clarifying of the mind, the hearing of the Spirit.” He invited worshippers to shut out distractions and head out into deep waters, where the danger is great but so is “the catch.” Worship ended with a benediction that God fill all with joy, peace and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of Christ.
The strategic plan was passed, adding goals, objectives and methods to the previously approved mission and vision. “It will be a living document proven in use and improved over time with feedback. We pray this will be a useful tool for you,” the Rev. Bob Smith explained. Congregations, standing committees, college boards and agencies are encouraged to implement the plan and report back to future assemblies.
Assembly approved a reduction in the size of Assembly Council, allowing current members to complete their terms.
General Assemblies will now be normally held within the geographic region of Hamilton, the greater Toronto area and Waterloo and will continue to meet in the east or west every five years.
A motion from the floor to move to biennual Assemblies was defeated and the process for appointing Associate Secretaries will remain the same.
Bills and Overtures
An overture asking that Church Doctrine discuss Indigenous Spirituality and put the endowment fund on hold until the Church Doctrine reports back was not received.
Committee on Church Doctrine
The document “Presbyterian Polity: Its Distinctives and Directions for the 21st Century” was commended to the courts for study and response by August 31, 2017. In consultation with the Life and Mission Agency, the Committee on Church Doctrine will continue to reflect on the nature of Christian marriage in relation to LGBTQ and intersex people and on their spiritual needs, reporting back in 2017.
Atlantic Mission Society
The AMS report highlighted the Presbyterian Message, Discovery Days and the Society’s support of international projects, Atlantic camps and student ministry bursaries. Declining revenue has lowered AMS contributions to the national church by 10%, but they continue to give faithfully.
Moment of Appreciation
Assembly expressed a moment of appreciation for Denise van Wissen and the two decades she worked for peace with justice in Central America on behalf of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. She served as a nutritionist from 1998-2016 with partners in Nicaragua (Soynica) and Guatemala (Association of Mayan Presbyterian Women). During this time she helped facilitate life-changing experiences for many Presbyterian and ecumenical youth and adult mission trip participants.
Dr. Gerald Filson, the Director of Public Affairs, Baha’i Community of Canada, commended Christian communities for leadership in creating interfaith forums for dialogue and action. He shared, “Two of the important principles of the Baha’i community are the oneness of humanity and that religion is a system of knowledge about how to live together and learn about the transcendent.” He expressed a desire for continuing interfaith conversation.
The Rev. Lara Scholey highlighted PWS&D’s work. She noted that $110,000 has been raised in response to the fire in Fort McMurray. Assembly commended individuals, congregations and presbyteries for their faithful and generous support of refugee and humanitarian crises, and long-term community development work. Assembly encouraged ongoing support of PWS&D over and above Presbyterians Sharing allocations.
Pension and Benefits Board
Assembly approved several amendments to the constitution of the pension plan. In response to a 2015 overture asking that the board consider permitting church workers with access to other coverage to opt out of the Health and Dental Plan, while permitting access to the plan by other eligible staff, Assembly voted to maintain the current policy, which requires that all non-clergy employees within a congregation participate in the plan.
Committee to Nominate Standing Committees
Standing committees of the General Assembly were elected.
Assembly welcomed the Rt. Rev. Béla Kató is Bishop of the Transylvanian District of the Reformed Church in Romania and The Rev. Tibor Kiss, Counselor, Department of International Relations of the Transylvanian District of the Reformed Church in Romania. They reflected on the history of the Reformed church, noting the impact of the 1948 confiscation of church property by the state and challenges to restitution with the 1989 fall of the dictatorship. Words of gratitude were expressed: “We anticipate that our partnership with The Presbyterian Church in Canada will continue in new ways. Thank you very much God bless you.”
Assembly expressed a minute of appreciation for the Rev. Dr. Pamela McCarroll as she leaves Knox College after 8 years to take up the faculty position of Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Emmanuel College.
Peter Ross, Convener of the Knox College Board announced Dorcas Gordon’s intention to retire as Principal of Knox College in June 2017. She has served as Knox faculty for 24 years, 18 as Principal. Peter expressed thanks for Dorcas’ dedication and service. He asked that Presbyterians keep Knox College in its prayers as it commences a leadership search.
David Phillips, Convener of the Maclean Estate Committee, reported on the programs at Crieff Hills. He expressed thanks to Presbyterians for their support. The committee looks forward to a future that is challenging, exciting and fulfilling.
View photos on the Presbyterian Record photo stream
View daily briefings online at presbyterian.ca/ga2016 and a summary newsletter on Monday.