For the past several decades, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has studied and discussed questions related to sexuality, particularly questions related to same-sex marriage and the roles of LGBTQI people in ministry. During the 2021 General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Canada agreed to make changes to its theology and practice regarding marriage, recognizing that people may define marriage either as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman or as a covenant relationship between two adult people. These decisions provide Presbyterian ministers with liberty of conscience and the freedom to choose to officiate or not officiate at the marriages of same-sex couples. Additionally, the church agreed that LGBTQI people (whether married or single) can be ordained and are welcome to serve as ministers and ruling elders.
In 1994, the church recognized that we are called to be a welcoming, nurturing, loving and supportive community, a true church family, and to repent of homophobia and hypocrisy. In 2017, the church formed a special committee (also known as the Rainbow Communion) to listen to the stories of LGBTQI people and others related to harms done due to homophobia, transphobia, hypocrisy and/or heterosexism to them within and by the church and to share their stories of God’s grace experienced by them and Christian ministry. The Rev. Peter Bush, Moderator of the 2017 General Assembly, wrote a letter of repentance to LGBTQI people and reminding the church of God’s call to be a community where we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.
In 2021, General Assembly adopted the final report and recommendations of the Rainbow Communion, which outline ways for the church to acknowledge harm to LGBTQI people through public confession and apology, as well as necessary policies and programs that will help the church include LGBTQI people more fully in all aspects of ministry. Funding is available to support psychotherapy or counselling for those who have experienced harm done by homophobia, hypocrisy, transphobia and heterosexism in the denomination.
The pages below provide links to decisions and statements the church has made regarding sexuality, resources for study and discussion, and pastoral care resources. If you have any questions or would like to request further resources, contact Carragh Erhardt, Program Coordinator – Sexuality and Inclusion.
Links to Resources
As ministries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada discern their next steps following the adoption of Remits B and C, 2019 at the 2021 General Assembly, the following resources may be helpful for study or review:
Guidelines for Safer Church Courts and Committees
The guidelines in this resource will help make the courts and committees of the church safer spaces for all.
Resources to Address Situations that May Arise within a Church Court
This resource is to be used by courts, agencies and congregations of the church to resolve disputes related to inclusion.
Guidance to Help Amend Policy, Procedure and Practice to Reflect the Church’s Decisions about Gender and Sexuality
A 12-page resource to assist church courts, agencies, colleges and camps as they review their policies, procedures and practices, including the language used to identify and revise aspects that fail to reflect the full inclusion of all people.
Social Action Hub
Read about The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s statements and actions regarding gender, sexuality and LGBTQI inclusion.
The PCC’s Confession to God and LGBTQI People
The 2022 General Assembly adopted a confession regarding the harm caused by homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and hypocrisy in The Presbyterian Church in Canada, and committing the church to a true change of heart and behaviour. The whole church is called to live out this confession as individuals and communities of faith so that harm does not continue.
Letter of Repentance (2018)
At the direction of the 2017 General Assembly, the Moderator issued a Letter of Repentance to LGBTQI people and all who have been harmed by homophobia and hypocrisy in the church.
In 2017, the General Assembly formed a Special Committee re: LGBTQI Listening (also known as Rainbow Communion) to hear stories of harm experienced by LGBTQI people and others, and to provide an appropriate response to the issue of homophobia, hypocrisy, transphobia and heterosexism in the denomination.
Session Decisions and Definitions of Marriage
In 2021, the General Assembly adopted two parallel definitions of marriage. Since it is the Session that is responsible for all policy and procedures with respect to the use of church buildings and property, subject to the oversight of presbytery (Book of Forms 109.2), the question of whether the church will host same-sex weddings rests with the Session and not the congregation. The Clerks of Assembly have prepared guidance for Sessions regarding wedding policies, including a sample wedding policy that may be adapted.
Guidelines re Ordination and Marriage
The Clerks of Assembly have prepared guidelines intended to ensure that calls to LGBTQI ministers and the election of LGBTQI elders are facilitated in presbyteries and congregations. The guidelines outline relevant information related to human rights legislation, liberty of conscience, pastoral considerations, and session decisions about wedding policies.
Liberty of Conscience and Action
Read the Clerks of Assembly’s statement about liberty of conscience and action regarding Remits B and C, 2019.
The Assembly Council obtained a legal opinion on the implications of Remits B and C, 2019, from independent legal counsel, Edward Meehan, QC at Supreme Advocacy, LLP.
- Read the summary here
- Read the full legal opinion