October 10, 2018
To the people of The Presbyterian Church in Canada,
Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
As you are aware, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has been struggling for some time with the place of the LGBTQI community in The Presbyterian Church in Canada and our appropriate response as a denomination. Unsure of how to move forward without causing further divisions and tensions, the 2018 General Assembly decided to make an unprecedented move: to assign the task of finding a way forward to twelve former Moderators of previous General Assemblies* with the mandate “to propose a way ahead that allows the mission and ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Canada to continue” and to report back to the 2019 General Assembly with its proposals.
The Special Committee held its first face-to-face meeting September 28 and 29, 2018. The members of the committee entered the meeting with the expectation of a respectful conversation even as we are aware of the deep pain and significant divisions present in the church. Our first order of business was to rearrange our meeting room so that the tables formed one large square with each side of equal length so that each of us could clearly see and hear each other – a symbolic reminder that Christ calls us to gather as one family of mutual love and respect around His Table. As a result, our time together was truly a meeting of friends, filled with heartfelt dialogue, careful listening and yes, even laughter.
Among the tasks assigned to the committee was to receive and reflect upon the responses from the church to “On the Question of Unity and Diversity” study document produced by the Church Doctrine Committee. While the deadline for responses is January 31, 2019, if sessions and presbyteries can send in their responses to the General Assembly Office earlier than this it would be greatly appreciated. The Assembly Office will forward the responses to the Special Committee.
We will meet again, having scheduled meetings on November 22 (conference call) and on February 1–2, 2019 (face-to-face). We know the people of The Presbyterian Church have been praying, we value that prayer and we ask you to continue to pray for us even as we continue to pray for the church throughout this process.
We ask as well that, as Presbyterians in Canada, our conversations with one another be marked by respectful language. Heeding the Apostle’s advice to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), may we use words and tone that aid respectful conversation rather than words and attitudes that enflame and anger those with viewpoints different from our own. It is possible to have a conversation between people of divergent opinions in which the differences are acknowledged but the tone remains respectful. We would encourage such a conversational style in the church. May we choose to highlight our common commitment to following Jesus, humbly recognizing that none of us knows exactly where the Triune God of grace may lead the church while remaining hopeful that together we can find a way forward as we seek to follow him who is our Living Way (John 14:6).
Yours in Christ,
*The Committee members, in order of their moderatorial year from earliest to most recent, are as follows: the Rev. Dr. Jean Morris, Dr. Wilma Welsh, the Rev. Dr. Hans Kouwenberg, the Rev. Dr. Cheol Soon Park, the Rev. Dr. Herb Gale, the Rev. Dr. Rick Horst, the Rev. Dr. John Vissers, the Rev. Dr. David Sutherland, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris, the Rev. Dr. Karen Horst, the Rev. Doug Rollwage, the Rev. Peter Bush, and the Rev. Daniel Cho (ex-officio).