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.
I am a life-long member and now minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. My continued presence and ministry in our denomination has not been because of loyalty, nor of a celebration of heritage, but of calling; seeing a vessel that has the mechanism and postion to do so much good.
But the denomination has much to be ashamed of. Too much of our heritage of mission has been about improving others, in proving Christ (rather than sharing and offering Christ in grace), in a display of who we are and not who Christ is; as if we were ‘right’. When we embrace it, it has always been our humility that has been our greatest strength.
In this system, we have embodied the seeds of racism that I have seen right across this denomination – an attitude of superior culture – and that has fed an attitude that our courts and our process have authority, where only Christ is the authority.
As soon as we begin calling anyone “them, those, they”, whether it is views on sexuality, or by cultural root, ethnic background, nationality, colour of skin, or political stance, we become the barrier between “them” and Christ, and while we must be discerning we must – most of all – embody and display grace.
I pray that we will hear the prayer and concerns of our church before we come to the point in our journey where we discover whether we are right or wrong, and in so doing, we might also seek and discover righteousness in Christ again.
Andy states in his blog that 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. I am sure that all visible minorities have experienced the same rejection of their more traditional belief systems. And I can think of other visible minorities as well, that were not named. When we sent missionaries to these countries a hundred and more years ago, they were taught sound biblical doctrine, which unfortunately the Western World has moved away from. I am grateful that the nations we have sent missionaries to, are now sending us ministers and missionaries who still hold to the traditional interpretation of Scripture that we gave to them. We no longer train enough ministers and missionaries for our own need let alone sending them abroad again. We can be grateful for these nations who now provide ministers and missionaries to help meet our needs. I give thanks to the minorities in our denomination, who stand ready to correct the dominant culture in the error of our ways.
Thanks for sharing this, Andy. Powerful voices from our Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Hungarian, and other non-Anglo brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am concerned that to send these petitions and letters of concern to a Committee to be studied and in effect sidelined to a future GA, would be a further insult to those who are already feeling marginalized. Please humbly accept them and show respect for these our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
I was privileged during my teen years to attend a church that attracted people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. They enriched my life and taught me much about faith and faithfulness to God. I grew to respect many and stood in awe of them and the way God was working in their lives. I still have a great respect for these fellow Christians and feel humbled by those who have known hardship for their faith and have been refined by it in ways we who grow up in comfort have never experienced.
I stand with all those in the PCC who are like-minded. General Assembly needs to apologize and guarantee them a voice.
The PCC has displayed a huge rift for a number of years. I myself have been aware of abuse hurled at those who hold traditional views over the last 30 years or so. I have pointed it out to those who have abused in this way and for the most part they have backed down, at least in front of me. When I became aware of young teens abused over the ‘phone for their parents’ traditional views, I knew we were in trouble. I can only imagine how easy it would be to add racial slurs. My apologies to those of different ethnicity. I thought it was just those of us who hold traditional views who were shunned and verbally assaulted. I did not realize, but should have, that racism had entered into it. Please know that this octogenarian Canadian upholds and loves you as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This saddens me tremendously…I wish that it is not true, but I had the same experience.
My ancestry lies in Scotland and northern Europe; giving me basically the same genes and what our Korean brothers and sisters call the “primarily Anglo-driven dominant culture” of the PCC. Although I look the same and act the same as the majority in the PCC, I still have a South-African accent that I cannot get rid of, even after thirty years in Canada. Outside the PCC I am treated very well and am told that my accent is “beautiful, and should not change”. Inside the church, I can relate one incident after another where I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am “not from here and do not belong.”
This discrimination has never happened in the presence of the Psalty people or in the Renewal Fellowship. Thank you! But the “Progressives”, although they claim to be tolerant, can be extremely judgemental.
I am sorry for writing this, but want to underscore the truth that our brothers and sisters are telling.
For any Commissioners to GA, an amendment to Committee on Bills and Overtures recommendation would be in order, seeking that GA respond to the Han-Ca petitions prior to dealing with Remits B and C.