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Responding to the Remits
FALL 2021
accommodation over this decision. It in turn begs the question as to whether making decisions out of fear is ever justified by a church body in the short or long term.
In 1991, I was the editor of the Presbyterian Record magazine and preparing to celebrate the 25th an- niversary of the ordination of wom- en. In preparing for this issue, I at- tempted to contact that significant group of commissioners at the 1966 Assembly who had recorded their vote against the decision to ordain women. Of course, by then some had died. Others did not respond, I suspect, because they were now embarrassed that they had once vot- ed against the ordination of women. But the majority replied that they had changed their minds and could no longer maintain their previous views in the light of the effective ministry of ordained women they had experi- enced.
Perhaps, the same evolution will take place with LBGTQI candidates as with the ordination of heterosexual women, if the Presbyterian Church is granted the time. Meanwhile, LBGTQI people will be ordained to minister in a denomination that does not fully recognize nor accept them.
nations, each claiming to possess the best and highest truth.
Thus, there is not only no univer- sal agreement on the highest and best authority in Christianity, but also there is no rule for singling one out as acceptable to all. This accounts for the phenomenon where one person researches the teachings of many denominations and chooses a par- ticular one as the only true or truest, while another seeker may undergo the same study and joins a com- pletely different denomination.
Instead of searching for a neutral and uncluttered authority that might never be found, a more practical ap- proach is to accept the guidance of a church near enough to your home that you can attend and participate in readily; one that provides geographi- cal closeness, opportunities to help others, services for your spiritual and moral growth, regular worship services, Sunday School and other Christian training, and a depth of meaning you find worthwhile in its particular worship format (liturgy). These are the circumstances in which you live and where you need to search for spiritual and moral guidance, rather than seeking it in the doctrines and claims of thirty thou- sand Christian denominations.
  By the Rev. John Congram, former editor of the
Presbyterian Record magazine
Having lived for over 80 years now, it has been interesting to compare some of the decisions our church has made in response to the big is- sues it faced within that time period. One of these challenging movements took place in 1966, when the church agreed to ordain women. Another
similarly controversial decision was voted on more recently, during the last General Assembly—the agree- ment to ordain LGBTQI people, mar- ried or single.
Both of these movements have at least one thing in common: the fi- nal decisions were made only after years of multiple committee reports and recommendations, many studies and discussions, and much prayer throughout the church.
But in at least one respect the decisions bear a distinct differ- ence. In 1966, the agreement to ordain women seemed to be gener- ally accepted by the whole church, although a significant sector of the church remained vehemently op- posed. However, a few years after that decision, a young man appeared before the Presbytery of East Toronto seeking ordination. In every respect he seemed eminently suited for min- istry, but during his examination he announced not only was he against the ordination of women but that he would not participate in their ordina- tion. The presbytery decided to set aside an evening to decide whether or not his ordination should proceed. Those who supported the young man argued that in this matter the church should exercise freedom of conscience and action. However, the presbytery decided they could not ordain him. That decision was ap- pealed to the synod. It was then ap- pealed to the General Assembly. The Assembly, in their report, ordered the presbytery to ordain this young man, but declared that he should be the last person ordained who held these views. Ordaining women was so im- portant that freedom of conscience
and action could not be allowed.
In this regard, the recent deci- sion regarding LGBTQI people is in marked contrast to the 1966 rul- ing. Here, the church went to great lengths to ensure that those who opposed this action were accommo- dated within the church. Presbyterian ministers could not only exercise freedom of conscience in this matter but could exercise freedom of action
with regard to LGBTQI people.
This begs the question as to what had happened in the church between 1966 and 2021 to cause this change in attitude. Perhaps sixty years ago the church had become more gen- erous and accepting of differing views in its ministry and constitu- ency? Does today’s decision reflect that the LGBTQI candidates would somehow be inferior ministers to or- dained women in the church? Or did the free-will option enacted by the church in this instance arise more out of fear than anything else—fear that a denomination already statisti- cally weakened could face a major disruption (i.e., mass exodus) that might mean the end of The Pres- byterian Church in Canada as a de- nomination? That, I suspect, was the major motivation around attempts of
  Searching for Authority in Christianity
 By David W. T. Brattston, Lunenburg, N.S.
There is an abundance of Chris- tian leaders and denominations that claim to be heaven’s best spokesper- son and representative of the church most approved by God. Some claim authority by having been in direct conversation with God as a prophet, or as having restored pure original Christianity in our day from their superior interpretation of the Bible, or by possessing new holy books, or tracing lines of succession back to the Twelve Apostles, or declaring more faithful adherence to state- ments of faith written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Which one can we accept, from an objective and neutral point of view, as a true
church gifted with true authority? Unfortunately, there is no uni- versally accepted collection of reli- gious truths or method of finding it. There are too many ways of desig- nating one institution or person as the paramount font of true doctrine and practice. There are at least nine grounds for asserting authority: charismatic leaders, prophets, per- sonal experience with the divine, rational thinking, correct interpreta- tion of the scriptures, conscience, appointment by person previously in authority, election by the laity, long history of the same doctrine and practice, adopting the church of one’s family and neighbours for the sake of peace and fitting in (community standards), and vary- ing combinations of them. How can
an individual Christian decide which is the most important considera- tion? There is no general rule, and Christianity has no supreme cour t to decide which is more impor tant than another. Even something as simple and direct as tracing au- thority through lines of succession of bishops is not helpful, for some denominations reject those of some others as invalid.
Even more questions arise: Can authority be delegated? Can author- ity be limited? How can authority
be gained? Can authority be lost? Can church authority be divided or shared, as in a secular federal union? How can authority be increased? Who can punish those who abuse their authority? Who today possess- es the powers of Jesus that he did not specifically grant to the apostles? These are all difficult questions, and well beyond simple answers. Come to think of it, it is the answers to these questions, each in a different way, that accounts for the existence of thirty thousand Christian denomi-

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