The Assembly Council has issued a statement with the summary of implications and proposals regarding the cancellation of the 2020 General Assembly.

March 31, 2020

Earlier this month, the Assembly Council met and took the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 General Assembly in light of the COVID-19 situation. This decision was taken to ensure the safety of commissioners and staff and was in keeping with what we know of Public Health and government recommendations and directives.

The Assembly Council is the body within our church responsible for carrying out General Assembly decisions between Assemblies and serves as a coordinating and prophetic body within the church. At its meeting the Assembly Council referred the implications of cancelling the General Assembly to its executive to work with the Clerks of Assembly. The following plan was approved by the Executive at its meeting on March 31, 2020. If you have any questions regarding these implications, you may contact the General Assembly Office.

Committee to Nominate Standing Committees

  • The Committee will ask those in their final year to continue one more year.
  • Members completing their first term will carry on to their second term unless the member does not wish a second term.
  • In keeping with our usual procedures, the Committee will invite Standing Committees to fill any vacancies until the next General Assembly and offer to them any relevant nominations that have been submitted to help with this task. A convener may also be named by a committee if necessary.
  • Any vacancies that are filled will be reported to Committee to Nominate Standing Committees.

Committee to Advise with the Moderator

  • The Moderator will continue in office until the next General Assembly (Book of Forms 285).
  • Members of the Committee will be requested to continue for the next year.
  • The April 1 ballot counting re 2020 Moderator has been cancelled since there is no General Assembly to moderate.
  • 2020 Nominees have been informed and invited to a pastoral Zoom call with the Moderator.
  • The Commission on Matters Left Uncared for or Omitted will authorize the destruction of ballots and report this to next General Assembly.
  • Presbytery clerks will be informed that any outstanding ballots are to be destroyed, unopened.

Participants to the General Assembly

  • Participants will be contacted and notified that commissions to the 2020 General Assembly now have no effect. Presbyteries will be asked to name commissioners to the 2021 General Assembly along the usual timeline. Information about this will be sent out by the General Assembly Office. Presbyteries may wish to maintain the same clergy and elder commissioners as submitted for the 2020 General Assembly, provided they are still eligible (e.g., members of a church court).
  • Participants will be asked to obtain, when they can, any cash refund on flights and send it to General Assembly Office. Those who can only receive credit will be invited to donate a portion of their choice if they use that flight for a personal trip.
  • Reimbursements will be made to participants who have paid for a Book of Reports and presbyteries who have paid their Young Adult Representative contribution.

General Assembly Worship Team

  • The members of the worship team (Richard Topping, preacher; Janet Ryu-Chan, liturgist and Glen Soderholm, musician) have all indicated willingness to serve the 2021 General Assembly. The Design Team will be informed of this and continue with their work.

Location and Date of 2022 General Assembly

  • Wilfrid Laurier University has been informed that the 2020 General Assembly is cancelled. No costs have been incurred. They are holding the same dates in 2021 (June 6–10) pending a further decision.
  • Officers of Halifax-Lunenburg Presbytery have indicated a willingness to host in 2022 instead of 2021 so that we have the opportunity to fulfill our three-year commitment with Wilfrid Laurier. Visiting and securing a venue in Halifax for 2021 is problematic at this time.
  • Assembly Council will set the revised time and place of the 2021 General Assembly, to be homologated in the opening sederunt.

2020 Acts and Proceedings

  • An Acts and Proceedings cannot be produced. The General Assembly Office will, however, produce a 2020 book, but only the back part, with statistics, financial statements, memorial minutes, and address and ministry lists. Interim (2020) reports of Standing Committees (with concurrence of the committee) will be shared online, preferably without recommendations.

Business for the 2020 General Assembly

Reports of Standing Committees

  • Almost all reports are in the General Assembly Office (GAO) now.
  • GAO will work with Standing Committees to post (interim 2020) reports for information on the website in May, preferably without recommendations. These will serve as helpful study documents and be a way of informing the church of the committee’s work.
  • Standing Committees will have the opportunity to continue to work in their subject areas and on any further referred overtures that are received, for report to the 2021 General Assembly. They will therefore be reporting on 24 months of work.


  • The Barrier Act provides for a three-step vote. The first took place at the 2019 General Assembly. Then presbyteries voted by April 1 following that Assembly. Finally, the next General Assembly votes. The final voting on remits will take place at the next Assembly

Overture responses in currently prepared reports

  • Decisions on responses currently prepared will be made at the 2021 General Assembly.


  • Referred overtures received up until 1 February 2021 will be sent directly to Standing Committees for consideration in the usual manner.
  • Unreferred overtures intended for the 2020 General Assembly: Presbyteries will be asked if they would like them now to be referred to a Standing Committee or remain unreferred for the 2021 General Assembly.
  • Unreferred overtures intended for the 2021 General Assembly will be received in the usual way up until April 1, 2021.

College appointments

  • The Boards of St. Andrew’s Hall and Presbyterian College have been informed they can make ‘Acting’ head of college appointments anytime, for confirmation at the 2021 General Assembly.

Pension and Benefits Board

  • The convener believes all 2020 proposals can wait for the 2021 General Assembly. The retiring convener has agreed to continue. The Board will confirm this at their next meeting.

Rainbow Communion

    • The Rainbow Communion has a three-year mandate, concluding this June. A report will be posted to the website in the same manner as the interim reports from other committees. The committee’s work will thus be complete, except for reporting to the 2021 General Assembly with recommendations. Assembly Council and the Life and Mission Agency are exploring what aspects of the work of the Committee that has already been before the church can be followed up on.

Education and Reception

  • This is a committee of the Life and Mission Agency that reports directly to the General Assembly. They anticipate four candidates for approval at the 2020 General Assembly.
  • Assembly Council will be asked to authorize the Life and Mission Agency to approve the necessary and time sensitive recommendations of the Committee on Education and Reception, with this action being homologated by the 2021 General Assembly.

Assembly Council

  • Assembly Council has a number of items to be dealt with that are within the jurisdiction of the Council itself (e.g 2019 Financial statements, Human Resources policies). These can be decided through the year and reported to the next Assembly.
  • The 2021 operating budget is the purview of General Assembly, but since the Assembly Council has final authority in financial matters between Assemblies, it will approve a 2021 operating budget subject to homologation (express agreement for the action) by the next General Assembly.
  • Assembly Council also has a number of items under consideration that require a decision of the General Assembly. These will need to wait for decision by the next General Assembly but can be discussed by Zoom or, when possible, in person, prior to the 2021 Assembly. The Executive will make a recommendation to Assembly Council regarding dates and agendas for Assembly Council future Zoom and in person meetings.

A Pastoral Message from the Moderator

Image of arrow pointing downA Pastoral Message from the Moderator