This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.
Support is growing for the landmark petitions by Korean-speaking congregations which accuse The Presbyterian Church in Canada of racism by "demonizing" ethnic congregations.
This week, a coalition of Chinese congregations, known as the Chinese Consultation, issued a statement in support of the petitions.
"We thank the members of the Han-Ca Presbyteries for calling attention to the situation for visible minorities in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Our experience as Chinese Christians is similar to the experience of our Korean Presbyterians congregations in Canada," the May 10 statement said.
The Chinese statement accompanies a letter asking General Assembly not to approve Remits 'B' and 'C' which propose a redefinition of marriage and the ordination of those in same-sex relationships.
The Chinese Consultation consists of six congregations – Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Markham, Mississauga and Celebration Chinese Presbyterian churches – whose ministers signed the statement. Rev. Hugo Lau of Mississauga Chinese is convenor of the group and says the letters will be presented to General Assembly by a commissioner from the Victoria, British Columbia, Chinese congregation.
In March, Western and Eastern Han-Ca presbyteries joined forces to adopt petitions alleging that they are being treated as "nothing more than a marginal group whose voice is deemed as one which can, and should be ignored." They accuse the "primarily Anglo-driven dominant culture" of the denomination for sidelining the beliefs of ethnic minorities, most of whom adhere to conservative theology.
"We have experienced treatment at the hands of many in the PCC which has caused us much pain and raises alarm, for we have collectively experienced many instances of slander, ridicule, racism, and even sadly demonization, which all unequivocally seems to be saying that there is no place for 'the Korean' in this denomination," the Western Han-Ca petition stated in part.
The Han-Ca presbyteries compare their treatment to that of Aboriginal peoples, whose "cultures, beliefs and practices" were subjected to assimilation into the "dominant culture." The PCC played a role in that abuse, for which it formally apologized in 1994.
"Is our denomination now really different from the denomination of our past, and should the dominant culture in our denomination not entertain the possibility that they are perhaps again following in the hegemonic sins of their ancestors?" both petitions ask.
Both the Han-Ca petitions and the Chinese statement claim to speak on behalf of other ethnic PCC congregations. They specify African, Arabic, Taiwanese, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese and others.
Some of those groups have already spoken out.
In April the session of Chapel Place Presbyterian Church – an Arabic-speaking congregation in Markham, Ont. – released a strongly-worded letter to the Clerks of Assembly.
"As an ethnic Arabic speaking congregation, with deep roots in the Presbyterian church in the Middle East, and history exceeding 50 years in the GTA (40 years of which as members of the PCC) we concur strongly and support the serious and genuine concerns expressed by our dear sisters and brothers in Christ within the Eastern and Western Han-Ca Presbyteries in their recent petition," the April 17 letter stated.
"We feel their petition describes our current perception of the strong trend within the PCC, and our sense of alienation within the denomination."
Rev. Miklos Szigeti, of First Hungarian Vancouver, says he and his ethnic colleagues find themselves in a similar position.
"The vast majority [of the Hungarian-language congregations in the PCC] are supportive, 100 per cent, of the petition from Han-Ca's. We are in the same shoes," he told Renewal Fellowship in an interview.
Pastors from six Hungarian-language PCC congregations meet weekly for Bible study, he says. While they have not published a statement, Szigeti says members of that group are in complete agreement with the message of the Han-Ca petition.
Rev. Sampson Afoakwah, Montreal West Presbyterian Church – an English-speaking multicultural congregation – says he can't speak for the African community, but "I will support it [the Chinese Consultation statement] and if I was to take a wild guess I'm 85 per cent sure that the other African Congregations would support it," he said in a statement.
The ethnic congregations maintain that the dominant culture has not given serious consideration to their requests for space to adhere to traditional doctrine, as expressed in the subordinate standards as currently written.
This theological issue extends far beyond ethnic lines. A total of 12 overtures seeking theological-based courts, rather than geographical or cultural boundaries, are before General Assembly along with 30 overtures seeking a process for a congregation to leave the PCC with its assets. Many of those requests come from Anglo or French congregations. Commissioners to 2021 General Assembly will be asked to refer those overtures to Assembly Council and the Clerks of Assembly, who are already working on responses to earlier requests.
As for the Han-Ca petitions, the Committee on Bills and Overtures is asking commissioners to receive them and refer them to a special committee for study and response to a future Assembly.