The 2021 General Assembly appointed a Special Committee to prepare a Confession to LGBTQI people for harms done within the church. The committee (David Robinson, convener, Charles Fensham, Lela Burt, Chris Fisher, Paulette Brown, Daniel Cho and Linda Patton-Cowie, chaplain) have been meeting regularly and are pleased to share the following interim report on their work.

November 9, 2021

The Special Committee re: Confession to LGBTQI People was established by the General Assembly in 2021. It arises from Recommendations No. 3 and 4 of the Rainbow Communion final report “Not All are Welcome” both of which were approved by the General Assembly.

  • Recommendation 3: That the Presbyterian Church in Canada offer a public confession to all individuals and congregations that have been harmed by the church in excluding and marginalizing people who identify as LGBTQI. The confession would acknowledge the church’s responsibility for the harm done, seek forgiveness from God and from those who have been harmed, and commit the church to a true change of heart and behaviour.
  • Recommendation 4: That a Special Committee be appointed by the General Assembly, to prepare the Confession for harm done to LGBTQI people before the next General Assembly. The Confession will be given public expression in a Service of Worship led by the Moderator which will be live streamed and recorded and made available for use in the church.

Accordingly, the following individuals were appointed to the committee: the Rev. Paulette Brown, Lela Burt, the Rev. Daniel Cho, the Rev. Dr. Charles Fensham, David Robinson, and as advisor, Andrew Holmes.

The committee held its first meeting on September 29, 2021, and was joined by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Scott, Moderator, and by the Rev. Stephen Kendall, Principal Clerk and the Rev. Don Muir, Deputy Clerk. In addition to expressing great interest in and support for the work of the committee, the Moderator asked the committee to set a possible time for completion of the Confession so that he could plan for its use in the desired public Service of Worship. It was noted that while this committee is preparing the Confession, the General Assembly Office will be responsible for organizing the intended public Service of Worship. The Clerks kindly offered secretariat services to the committee, an offer which was gratefully accepted.

At the first meeting, David Robinson was elected committee convener. There was general discussion about possible key elements of the Confession. It was noted that work on the Confession may be mentally and spiritually taxing, and it was suggested that provision be made to support the committee’s members in this regard. It was also noted that Andrew Holmes had to resign from the committee due to the press of other responsibilities. The convener was asked to explore who might replace Andrew Holmes as a committee member.

The committee held its second meeting on October 14, 2021. The convener reported that, having liaised with Sue Senior, former co-convener of the Rainbow Communion about suitable candidates, was able to recommend to the committee that Chris Fischer be added to the committee as a member, and that the Rev. Linda Patton-Cowie serve as chaplain to the committee. Both nominations were approved. Considerable time was spent discussing a draft outline for the committee’s final report to General Assembly, as this document will serve as a road map to what the committee needs to achieve.

The timing of the Confession’s development was discussed, so that we could respond to the Moderator’s request about when the intended public Service of Worship might be scheduled. It was agreed that the Confession should be presented to the 2022 General Assembly for adoption, prior to being used in a Service of Worship incorporated into the body of the General Assembly. The Rev. Stephen Kendall indicated that these objectives should be achievable as long as the General Assembly Design Team was given sufficient notice of the recommendation. Consequently, the Convener wrote to the Moderator and the Principal Clerk informing them of our recommendations regarding the adoption of the Confession and the timing of a subsequent Service of Worship. The Rev. Stephen Kendall offered to provide the committee with information on the process used to adopt the PCC’s Confession to Indigenous People in 1994, as this may offer useful guidance to us in our work.

The committee will be holding its third meeting on November 9, 2021, and plans to start to address the substance of the Confession at that time.

The prayers of the Presbyterian Church in Canada are asked for as the committee works on the important task that it has been given.

Respectfully submitted,

—David Robinson, Convener