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 Final Report of the Rainbow Communion, “Not All are Welcome,” both of which were approved by the General Assembly.
Recommendation No. 3 is: 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 No. 4 is: 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.
The following individuals are members of the Committee: the Rev. Paulette Brown, Lela Burt, the Rev. Daniel Cho, the Rev. Dr. Charles Fensham, Chris Fischer, David Robinson, and as chaplain, the Rev. Linda Patton-Cowie.
The Committee held a meeting on November 9, 2021, during which considerable progress was made on fleshing out our plans for both the Confession to LGBTQI+ People, and the report to the 2022 General Assembly that will accompany it.
We commenced the meeting by welcoming Chris Fischer as a member of the Committee, and the Rev. Linda Patton-Cowie as our chaplain. Both immediately began proving their value as members of our team, bringing very useful perspectives and suggestions to bear on the issues we are addressing.
We next undertook a review of the process through which the Confession of the Presbyterian Church in Canada to Indigenous People of 1994 was developed and approved. We were materially assisted in this review by the Rev. Stephen Kendall, Principal Clerk, and the Rev. Don Muir, Deputy Clerk, who provided background documentation and insights. It became clear to us in reviewing this history that the failure to adopt the initial draft Confession in 1992 arose in good measure out of the lack of an appropriate document outlining the historical context for the Confession. Once further research and supporting documentation had been done during 1992–1994 in support of the Confession, it was adopted by the General Assembly of 1994. We drew the inference from this episode in the PCC’s history that our own report to the 2022 General Assembly should include a supporting section that outlined the historical context for the Confession to LGBTQI+ People.
In addition to our consideration of historical issues, we had a fruitful discussion about the proposal that our report include Calls to Action. It was agreed that our Confession would mark just one step in an ongoing process of reconciliation with LGBTQI+ people. It was felt that the development of Calls to Action would provide guidance to those who, having adopted the Confession, wanted to take further action to affirm our LGBTQI+ siblings and continue pursuing reconciliation thereafter. It was also agreed that the recommendations of the Rainbow Communion might suggest a number of potential Calls to Action.
These matters were followed by a useful discussion of just what, exactly, we wished to confess. A list of things to be confessed was developed, to be used as a reference in writing the draft Confession itself. The Committee also appointed a sub-committee to undertake the drafting of the first version of the Report to the General Assembly and incorporating our draft Confession. This task was entrusted to the Rev. Paulette Brown, the Rev. Daniel Cho and David Robinson.
The Committee was scheduled to meet on December 10, 2021, but this meeting was cancelled due to the unavailability of a number of Committee members. In the absence of a December meeting, members of the writing sub-committee proceeded to work on a draft Report and Confession. This led to the circulation of an initial draft in advance of our meeting on January 7, 2022.
Our meeting of January 7, at which all members were present, was a very productive one. We reviewed most of the draft Report and Confession that had been circulated. Members of the Committee brought their various and diverse life experiences and perspectives to bear on refining the draft, and the result was a much improved document. It contains, in its present form, eight sections: (1) Mandate and Membership; (2) Nomenclature and Abbreviations; (3) Background; (4) The Meaning of Confession; (5) Our Confession; (6) The Public Expression of our Confession; (7) The Importance of Calls to Action; and (8) Resources.
Various members of the Committee volunteered to produce refined wording on some of the more problematic aspects of the draft, and report to the next meeting, scheduled for January 28, 2022. The Rev. Stephen Kendall offered, and the Committee gladly accepted, the assistance of Carragh Erhardt, LMA Program Coordinator, Sexuality and Inclusion, in developing our approach to nomenclature and abbreviations for sexual and gender minorities. We hope to balance a desire to be as inclusive in our language as possible, with the desirability of producing a document, especially a Confession text, which is both readable and relatable.
We continue to ask for the prayers of The Presbyterian Church in Canada as the Committee works on the important task that it has been given. The Committee is working very well, and intends to have a finalized draft document ready for submission to the national church by March 15, 2022.