WATERLOO — Faced with a divisive vote on same-sex marriage, General Assembly 2018 chose a more peaceful path, directing a special committee of former moderators to recommend a way forward in an effort to preserve unity.
The committee, which will consist of moderators from 2005-2017, is tasked “to propose a way ahead that allows the mission and ministry” of the PCC to continue. It would take into consideration the reports and recommendations of three committees and agencies studying the issue whose recommendations were put on hold. The most contentious was the Committee on Church Doctrine conclusion that “traditional teachings of the church on human sexuality and marriage are not inherently homophobic or hateful.”
While that conclusion was greeted with relief and joy by evangelical Presbyterians, it prompted a strongly-worded alternative minority report, which called for assembly to recognize the “diversity of opinion” and that “covenanted relationships of LGBTQI persons be accorded equal justice and equity rather than discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Assembly’s decision, which was supported by approximately two-thirds of commissioners by a show of hands, will not impede the work of the special Listening (Rainbow) Committee – tasked with hearing the stories of LGBTQI people and their allies and making recommendations on “the issues of homophobia, hypocrisy, heterosexism and transphobia within The Presbyterian Church in Canada.”
Rev. Andrew Allison presented the motion calling the special committee, telling assembly “we’re tracking to a collision.” Added Rev. Alex Douglas: “The direction we’re heading is not just two tigers heading to a fight, but the one who wins will also die.”
Some commissioners on both sides of the issue were disappointed, saying they wanted an opportunity to vote. Many of those on the side of change were not hopeful the special committee would produce what they wanted. Some pointed to the fact that of the 13 potential members only one is a visible minority and only three are female.
Still a majority of commissioners were relieved and hopeful.
“We’ve been very blessed by the spirit and desire for unity in this assembly,” said Rev. Joseph Gray. “If we need to take time to get it right, it’s worth it.”
Said Barb Sargent: “The brain trust and experience (on the special moderator’s committee) are phenomenal.”