Following worship, the moderator took a moment to highlight the Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning, of the Canadian Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian partnership through which Canadian Churches work toward intercultural leadership development and ministry learning in Canada and globally.
The Rev. Currie also took a moment to speak of the need for empathy, the need for listening to one another.
Committee on Roll and Leave to Withdraw
The Rev. Meridyth A. Robertson presented the morning’s update on the Committee on Roll and Leave to Withdraw. Commissioners from the Eastern-Han Ca and Western Han-Ca presbyteries requested to leave the assembly, and this generated a great deal of discussion with commissioners. The assembly paused for prayer, led by the moderator. This motion passed out of respect for their request. The Assembly expressed a genuine desire to help the Han-Ca presbytery members feel welcome.
Sandra Cameron Evans delivered the report of the Assembly Council. She highlighted the church’s Strategic Plan. The Assembly approved a recommendation that church courts be encouraged to have their records copied on microfilm by contacting the Presbyterian Archives.
A question on the floor of Assembly asked about reducing expenses given the decline in income. Oliver Ng, Chief Financial Officer, spoke of the church’s increase of transfers of the church’s restricted funds to go into operations, and the growth of investments. “We can continue to use the funds for a very long period of time,” he said. “There are enough investments to support our continuous spending.”
The Assembly approved changing the weekly pulpit supply rate from $150 to $175, plus accommodation and meals as required, with travel reimbursed at the rate of $0.45 per kilometer, effective January 1, 2020, and that this amount be increased by $5 per year afterwards.
The Assembly also passed recommendations that individuals, congregations and presbyteries be encouraged to give to the Indigenous Ministries Fund, and that $200,000 be added to the Life and Mission budget to support ministries with Indigenous peoples and that the National Indigenous Ministries Council have control of the funds.
The Assembly Council was instructed to create a process and terms of reference that would constitute the National Indigenous Ministry Council (NIMC) as a committee of Assembly with the same access as other Assembly Council committees, with control of its own budget for the 2020 General Assembly.
Presbyterian Church Building Corporation (PCBC)
Neil Coutts, recently retired convener of the PCBC, presented the report outlining how the Building Corporation has served the church for over 50 years. The corporation continues to meet with congregations to assist with decisions on improvements/repairs to buildings, discuss potential projects, and to find ways that financing can be structured to provide the funding needed to complete them.
The PCBC received and accepted with deep regret the retirement of Mr. William B. Collier from the position of General Manager. A process to find a replacement has begun. A minute of appreciation was adapted with a standing ovation.
Pension and Benefits
The Rev. Cameron Bigelow presented the report of the Pension and Benefits Board. The report outlined the financial status of the pension plan; updates regarding the changes to funding rules from the Ontario Ministry of Finance for Single Employer Defined Benefit Pension Plans, the Asset Liability Management Study, congregational assessments in arrears, a group benefits and on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP); and a communications update.
It was noted that there are several congregations that are in arrears regarding their pension payments. The convener of the Pension and Benefits Board has written a letter to Assembly Council outlining the full breadth of the situation, timeline and actions taken to date to collect these funds. The board will continue to monitor and address this critical issue.
The Pension and Benefits Board will be conducting a marketplace review of our Group Benefits Plan in 2019, as part of due diligence and in a continued effort to look for cost containment strategies to manage annual premiums.
In the fall of 2018, the Pension and Benefits Office assumed administration of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). There has been consistent utilization of the services available.
Life and Mission Agency
Members of the National Indigenous Ministry Council joined the Assembly for discussion over the Doctrine of Discovery.
Call to Action No. 46, ii of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report calls upon the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Agreement (the Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Churches) to repudiate all concepts endorsed by or created by the church used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
The Assembly agreed to repudiate the concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius. In doing so, the PCC joins other denominations in the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Agreement who have already repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery is only the beginning: the church will have to work diligently to find ways to identify and change policies, attitudes and practice that overtly or covertly advocate for the superiority of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or cultural difference, and to build relationships with Indigenous peoples.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada affirmed that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating for superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada will seek to engage in relationships with Indigenous peoples that reflect the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the basis for right relationships. Congregations were encouraged to study these concepts in order to understand the contemporary ramifications of concepts used to justify European dominance, and Justice Ministries will produce a resource to assist in these efforts.
The entire report of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has been referred to the LMA and NIMC for study with recommendations for action to be brought to the next Assembly.
The Rev. Margaret Mullin was invited to speak as a representative of the NIMC. She expressed that repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery was a historic moment for the PCC. “It’s just such a momentous moment for all us in the council,” she said. She asked that studying the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report be done with a sense of love, understanding that it was written by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people, and that it continues to allow us to continue towards reconciliation and healing. “I want to applaud this General Assembly for moving forward in the way that it has to help with Indigenous rights.”