A Joint Statement from PSALT and the Renewal Fellowship.
Since the denomination’s beginning, there have been unofficial groups gathering within The Presbyterian Church in Canada. They have been structured to pursue particular goals of Christian ministry. Some have been of an ad hoc nature, with both leadership and focus changing regularly. Others have been organized in more detail. PSALT and The Renewal Fellowship within The Presbyterian Church in Canada are two of these unofficial groups. Both have their roots in the self-described evangelical, conservative stream of the PCC.
These two groups occasionally find it prudent to act cooperatively and to speak as one. Information found in the October minutes of the Assembly Council has prompted us to circulate this joint comment. This comment offers concerns about process and offers no opinion on the topic at hand.
Leaders in PSALT and the Renewal Fellowship have served in many positions of responsibility in the various courts of the church. We know that sometimes it appears politics more than theology is directing process, but we have long trusted both our Book of Forms and our traditions [wont and usage] to offset this appearance and to assure that not only does justice get done, but also that it appears to be done.
The October minutes indicate that the Assembly Council has taken a far different and a deeply concerning detour from this understanding. The matter of Gracious Dismissal [see its history below] has been before the church since 2015. While its journey has been lengthy, the General Assembly gave it to the Assembly Council to prepare a report. As per custom the Council named members (task force/sub-committee) to do the initial work of designing a response. They did.
In the long-standing practice of the church, the Assembly Council would now consider the report of their task force and from it prepare an answer for the General Assembly. They have voted to not follow this practice and without seeking the permission of the General Assembly not to perform their duties as given to them.
We believe this a dangerous precedent. In turbulent times, we certainly do not need rogue behaviour if we are to promote unity and respect among ourselves and into our community. We find the recorded dissents in the October minutes compelling in their passion and reason and commend them to the whole church. The Task Force Report was included in one of the dissents and can be found here. We are well aware that these are perilous times in our society, but especially within the church. We need to be able to trust those given authority to act responsibly and with integrity.
We are speaking neither for nor against the task force report as prepared – that is a decision for the General Assembly. We are concerned about the divisive spirit evident in a very few seeking to undermine our conciliar system. If we are to move forward as a denomination in mutual respect, we must have the integrity to honour the process that we’ve agreed upon in the Book of Forms, our Subordinate Standards and our traditions.
We encourage Presbyteries and Sessions to examine the October minutes of the Assembly Council and to voice their serious concerns with this deviation from our traditions and well-developed practices.
Courts interested in the General Assembly history of the overtures related to Gracious Dismissal can find it in the following Acts and Proceedings:
2015 (pp. 17, 249, 610,11);
2016 (pp.16,23,25,37,38,246ff, 281-83, 500-03,505-06, 509-11);
2017 (pp. 14,23,30,39-42,45,234-35,275-77,586-601, 604);
2018 (pp. 36, 250-55)
The final appeal in the related matter of human sexuality, marriage and church leadership, as in all matters, is scripture alone. If General Assembly is unable or unwilling to bring the truth of scripture to bear upon this fundamental and basic question, then with or without the deliberation on gracious dismissal, we are simply delaying the inevitable removal of the candlestick. That said, to subvert due process and deliberately hold back crucial information that bears directly upon the decision making of General Assembly on such a weighty matter is anarchy or rule by mob. If this were a civil law court the body responsible would be held in contempt of court. In the gospel of Luke we read..”For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost..”