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FALL 2021
Made at
 Decisions Regarding Sexuality: Where Do We Go From Here?
By Carragh Erhardt, Program Coordinator, Sexuality and Inclusion
At General Assembly (June 6–9, 2021), The Presbyterian Church in Canada made several decisions relat- ed to ministry with LGBTQI people, in- cluding marriage and ordination. After years of prayerful debate and study, and much passionate and hear tfelt discussion, The Presbyterian Church in Canada agreed to make changes to its theology and practice regarding marriage, which may now be defined either as a covenant relationship be- tweenamanandawomanorasa covenant relationship between two adult people. The church agreed that LGBTQI people (whether married or single) can be ordained and are wel- come to serve as ministers and rul- ing elders. The General Assembly also approved 23 recommendations from the Rainbow Communion to acknowl- edge harm the church has caused LGBTQI people and establish policies and programs that will help the church include LGBTQI people more fully in all aspects of ministry.
What Has Changed?
Because the decisions regarding marriage and ordination change church doctrine and practice, they were considered and adopted through a multi-year process known as the Barrier Act. The decision about marriage is as follows: “The Presby- terian Church in Canada holds two parallel definitions of marriage and recognizes that faithful, Holy Spirit filled, Christ centred, God honouring people can understand marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman or as a covenant relationship between two adult per-
sons” (Remit B, 2019). This motion ensures that “congregations, Ses- sions, ruling and teaching elders are granted liberty of conscience and ac- tion on marriage,” meaning that min- isters may choose to officiate or not officiate the marriages of same-sex couples. Sessions, as before, are re- sponsible for making decisions about how their sanctuary is used.
This change to the church’s defini- tion of marriage is accompanied by the additional decision that “congre- gations and presbyteries may call and ordain as ministers and elect and ordain as ruling elders LGBTQI persons (married or single) with the provision that liberty of conscience and action regarding participation in ordinations, inductions and instal- lations be granted to ministers and ruling elders” (Remit C, 2019). The Clerks of Assembly have prepared provisional guidelines to facilitate the calls and election of LGBTQI candi- dates that outline relevant informa- tion about human rights legislation, liberty of conscience and pastoral considerations.
How is the Church Addressing Harm to
LGBTQI People?
As part of the church’s discernment regarding doctrine related to mar- riage and ordination, the church is working to acknowledge and address the painful impacts of discrimination against LGBTQI people. The Rain- bow Communion was established by the General Assembly in 2017 to respond to the call to repent of the harm caused by homophobia and hypocrisy in the church, which was initially recognized in the 1994 report to General Assembly about Human Sexuality. By adopting all recommen- dations from the Rainbow Commun- ion, the Assembly affirmed that all people, whatever their sexual orien- tation or gender identity, are equally beloved by God. Congregations are encouraged to provide opportunities for all to offer their gifts in worship and in the life and ministry of the
church. The Assembly also agreed that identifying as LGBTQI and/or being in a same-sex marriage is not grounds for discipline in The Presby- terian Church in Canada.
The Presbyterian Church in Can- ada will offer a public confession to all individuals and congregations harmed by the church through ex- clusion and marginalization, seek- ing forgiveness from God and from all those affected. Resources will be created to equip congregations working to become more inclusive and a fund will be established to suppor t psychotherapy or counsel- ling for those who have experienced harm done by homophobia, hypoc- risy, transphobia and heterosexism in the denomination.
What Happens Now?
Congregations have had a diversity of experiences participating in con- versations about sexuality, marriage and ordination. The decisions made at the 2021 General Assembly will bring about a variety of reactions from members of the church. Each congregation will need to consider their unique context as they discern how these decisions will impact their policies and practices. The following are some things to consider in the months ahead.
Communicate the Decisions of General Assembly to
Your Congregation
Ministers and elders should ensure that their congregation is aware of the decisions that were made at Gen- eral Assembly regarding the remits and the Rainbow Communion’s rec-
ommendations. Depending on how closely the congregation has followed the denomination’s discernment pro- cess, it might be helpful to include some background information from the PCC’s Social Action Hub. Visit
Gather Feedback from
Your Congregation
In times of change, it’s important for leaders to create opportunities to hear from members of their con- gregations. Consider coordinating a group of leaders in the congregation who are available for pastoral visits with members of the congregation who want to express their views or ask questions. Sessions may also wish to gather additional feedback about next steps through a congre- gational meeting or survey. This can help elders and ministers assess whether there is interest in particular areas for study, community partner- ships, or other activities to help the congregation live out the decisions made at General Assembly.
Education or Study
After hearing from members of the congregation, it might be clear that there is an interest in studying top- ics related to LGBTQI inclusion in the church to understand how The Presbyterian Church in Canada ar- rived at the decisions made at Gen- eral Assembly and to consider ways of becoming more welcoming and inclusive as a congregation. Some of the resources at the end of this arti- cle, including the Rainbow Commun- ion’s Final Report, are a good place to start.
Policy Review
The decision about which weddings may take place in a congregation’s sanctuary is the responsibility of Ses- sion. While discerning how General Assembly’s decision about marriage may be applied to their congrega- tions, Sessions are also encouraged to review other relevant policies, pro- cedures and practices to ensure they reflect the full inclusion of all people (Rainbow Communion Recommen- dation No. 11). Such policies may relate to church rentals, baptism, communion, or other areas of min- istry. Having clear policies that are known within the congregation and that are clearly communicated to the public can benefit LGBTQI people but also others who may be affected by church policies. The Life and Mission Agency is preparing resources to suppor t congregations in this work.
As we navigate these changes in our ministries, we pray that the grace of God, the love of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit will guide the church towards reconcili- ation with LGBTQI people.
Visit for resources, reports and statements, including:
• Provisional guidelines to facilitate calls and elections of LGBTQI candidates
• Clerks’ statement on liberty of conscience and action
• The Rainbow Communion’s Final Report
• Resources related to LGBTQI pastoral care
• Discussion and study resources.

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