Departure Gate, Destination Unknown

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.

Precisely 60 seconds after the adoption of Remit ‘C’ by General Assembly, which allowed the call, election and ordination of those in same-sex partnerships, a motion was made to investigate the establishment of a separate theological synod for those who adhere to traditional standards.

The timing spoke volumes. It was evidence that the compromises in the remits, allowing parallel definitions of marriage and liberty of conscience regarding participation, failed to bridge the theological divide.

“A large number of congregations cannot accept this,” said the mover.

It wasn’t just about integrity. There was a practical concern.

“I bring this motion really to plant a seed … and perhaps stave off people or even churches leaving the denomination… . I am also really concerned about the sustained division within the church. I believe that by creating a separate theological space … the church can preserve its deeply held theological perspectives,” he explained.

The bid failed by roughly the same proportion that adopted the remits.

Some of those who spoke against the motion promised conservatives that they would be given the same safe space others have lacked for decades.

Give peace a chance, they said.

“Trust each another… Trust the new process for a year, for six months, but for longer than 30 seconds. Give God a chance to make us into a new people,” said one detractor.

But in the hearts and minds of many in orthodoxy, trust had already been broken, the process had already been lengthy and the denomination had walked away from God. The remits were non starters.

The departures have begun.

“I have had some people leave, or about to leave, from both ends of the spectrum,” one Ontario pastor told me recently. “Someone said they were leaving the congregation because they couldn’t be associated with a church who wouldn’t marry same-sex couples, and then two weeks ago someone said they couldn’t support a church in a denomination who would tamper with the definition of marriage.”

In another congregation, session exercised its liberty of conscience as promised in Remit ‘C’ and issued a statement upholding traditional marriage. It was met by a mixture of resignations of liberal-minded members and applause from others.

Behind the scenes across the PCC, ministers, elders and congregants are supporting one another in online gatherings and letters of encouragement.

While most departures so far have been in dribs and drabs, that was not the case in Trenton, Ontario, where in late June, all five members of St. Andrew’s session handed in their letters of resignation.

“This has been a difficult decision as I have served the Lord through The Presbyterian Church in Canada for many years in three congregations,” wrote clerk of session and representative elder Alan Brewster.

Citing 2 Timothy 4 and Jeremiah 6:16, he pointed to the remits as contrary to scripture. “I believe The Presbyterian Church in Canada is interpreting the scriptures to agree with society’s opinions at the expense of the truth.”

Fellow elder Andy Van Bodegom said he has been preparing for this possibility for years. God’s word “stands in opposition to the plurality of the definition of marriage. God’s word stands in opposition and I can do no less,” he wrote, citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Ephesians 2:12. “The denomination is (if not already so), headed toward a state of apostasy,” he added.

Elder Sue Van Bodegom has attended St. Andrew’s Trenton for her entire life – baptized, confirmed, married, and raising a family there.

“I love my church but I realize I do not own it, nor does it own me. I have one Master to whom I answer and that is Jesus Christ. Being brought up on His Word and being faithful to it is what is important to me. Knowing that the Church is straying from it by passing remits ‘B’ and ‘C’ breaks my heart and I do not wish to continue being a part of it. Resigning from the eldership was not an easy decision but it was necessary,” she wrote.

She added: “I want it known that I love my brothers and sisters who are LGBTQI oriented and in no way do I mean to be hurtful. My prayers are with them.”

While the resignations were noteworthy, so too was the manner in which they came about. Interim moderator Rev. Jennifer Cameron was fully aware of their discomfort after Assembly, so she reached out a pastoral hand.

“I thought about the position they were in, knowing the challenges faced by the congregation over the past seasons of transition, and tired after waiting and wondering how things would unfold in the denomination,” she wrote in In a July 12 letter to the congregation.

“I felt led to open a door for them to be relieved of the burden of leadership, so they might sit alongside you in the congregation as brothers and sisters and discern a path forward with you. I approached the Elders with this prayerful insight and raised the possibility of them resigning as an act of care for them. Just to be clear, I did not seek these resignations, but made the Elders aware that they had options.”

For now, the elders remain in the congregation and are working with Cameron to maintain a semblance of stability until presbytery can appoint assessor elders.

“I will … if needed, assist my brothers and sisters in Christ as they discern their next steps,” said Brewster.

Andy Van Bodegom added: “I will … stay with my church family until their future is decided. After that I will be leaving the PCC. Like Luther said many years ago, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other.’ ”

Cameron said she appreciates their servant leadership: “I respect these elders. They are unbelievably gracious.”

As noted in her letter: “They love the Lord and this congregation and did not want it to seem like they were walking away from their commitments. It is quite the opposite.”

Like travellers approaching the departure gate with no immediate destination in mind, the Trenton elders – and many in their congregation – are watching and waiting. Theological separation in the PCC may still happen, as formal responses to the myriad of overtures calling for theological synods have yet to happen. At the same time, the report on the feasibility of gracious dismissal also awaits formal consideration.
One thing is for sure: they and others who have resigned in recent weeks are not alone.

18 thoughts on “Departure Gate, Destination Unknown

  1. I understand that General Assembly has concluded and ruled that the Holy Spirit as third Person of the Trinity leads some Christians to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, but also the Holy Spirit leads some Christians to believe that marriage between two people of the same sex is Spirit led. Can this possibly be true? It seems the G. A. has decided that the Holy Spirit must have a split personality.

  2. We, traditionalists, are Scripturally Sound & most relevant to God for our Faith in the Word rather than those who think the God who created us can be dictated to by the world who claim God got it wrong. The strange thing for we Presbyterians is that we gave up on God to appease folks who could have been married & ordained in the United Church rather than vote the Holy Word out of our Church . If satan is the whispering manipulator that the Bible warned us of the hierarchy of the Presbyterian Church of Canada victimized the whole Church 60% to 40%. Thus as an elder, manager, Treasuer, trustee & a man that had Faith in the Presbyterian Church of the Holy Word I had to pass in n my resignation from my Church. This is why I resigned.

  3. I found Matthew Henry’s commentary on Amos 3:3 to be helpful..

    “Can two walk together except they be agreed? No; how should they? Where there is not friendship there can be no fellowship; if two persons be at variance, they must first accommodate the matters in difference between them before there can be any interchanging of good offices. Israel has affronted God, had broken their covenant with him, and ill-requited his favours to them; and yet they expected that he should continue to walk with them, should take their part, act for them, and give them assurances of his presence with them, though they took no care by repentance and reformation to agree with their adversary and to turn away his wrath. “But how can that be?”
    says God. “While you continue to walk contrary to God you can look for no other than that he should walk contrary to you,” Lev. 26:23, 24. Note, We cannot expect that God should be present with us, or act for us, unless we be reconciled to him. God and man cannot walk together except they be agreed. Unless we agree with God in our end, which is his glory, we cannot walk with him by the way.”

    • In reply to Nigel Wilson:
      Nigel, thank you for sharing this insight. I agree with the need the church to be united in its theological thinking. The remits, in my mind, do not represent a resolution. (In fact, I imagine progressives saying the same thing.) Reconciliation, as Matthew Henry points out, is fundamental. We prayerfully await next steps. Pray for gracious responses to the overtures calling for separation and for the grace to receive the Gracious dismissal report.

  4. To the Congregation that I love.

    It is with a heavy heart but a clear conscience that I offer my resignation from the Presbyterian Church of Canada. I do so because my Church has traded the Word of God for the easy edicts from tin God’s who say they will meet God on judgment day & say,”, you got it wrong buddy!” This was quoted in the Cape Breton Post on Monday, June 28th of this week with an arrogance that defies God’s authority over His family. Sadly, the point of view was enforced by 60% of our Church leaders who voted to work against the Word of God because those same leaders have handed over Church Authority to the Rainbow Community. The argument that Jesus would condone such a move is in direct contradiction to the Truth of His Ministry as the Word of God in the Flesh. He is first & foremost the Word in the Flesh. When He was baptized, He went into the Wilderness to face the temptations of Satan with the Words from His Heavenly Father ringing in His Soul. Mathew 3:17 “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” That gift to the Son from God was what enabled Christ to answer every Temptation from Satan with the authority of the Holy Word as imported into the human family with, “It is Written.” Our Church has chosen to give in to the Temptation & ignore the importance of His Word in our Church while pretending that Jesus was not the Holy Word in the Flesh. In that measure, the Church is telling God “You, got it wrong buddy.”
    I want folks to accept gays into our Church just as I would want our Church to offer spiritual guidance to all who sin but we have stepped beyond guidance & given Authority over God to folks who preach that their sins are beyond reproach. That can only be done by pretending Jesus was not first the Word & thus continuation of God’s authority over the human condition. When the Church stops preaching that a thief, adulterer murderer needs to mend their Souls & instead succumbs to giving those sinners authority over the Church Congregation, it becomes obvious that we are working against His Authority as defined in the Holy Word. I can not serve in such a Church despite my belief that all sinners must attend to their spiritual guidance in the Church & the Word. However, the Holy Word is where that guidance must come from for the Church & me on a personal level. Pretending the loyalty of Jesus is not to God & Himself as the Word in the Flesh is false doctrine. The new Presbyterian doctrine gives authority to sinners who express the lie that God, got it wrong. In Truth God is the author of Life & we are duty-bound as His Children to preach His Authority over us as defined by the Holy Word which became Christ in the flesh. When our Souls reach the point that we can answer every temptation with “it is written,” we will know God could never be told He got it wrong Buddy. In essence, I am not leaving my Faith in Presbyterianism nor this Congregation. The Church leadership & to a spooky extent, educators of Ministry in the Holy Word has lost their former Faith to World Views rather than the Authority of God & His Holy Word. The Pretense that “It is Written” was not the defining role of Christ’s ministry ignores who Christ was as the Son of God. In closing, I pray that all sinners as defined in the Bible allow their Souls to acknowledge that God is so Righteous that He could not look upon His Son because of my sins. That is why Christ lamented that His Father had forsaken Him. Mark 15:34 At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” as He went through death’s door. The Churches of all Faiths better come to terms with the reality that we are no better than Caiaphas, The High Priest of Israel who sought the death of Christ for the nation because he had refused to see Christ as He really was. I know that my choice will be snickered at by 60 % of the Church Leadership these days but my belief in His Holy Word which became the Savior in the flesh as it was written gives me peace in my soul after a long hard journey since I attended General Assembly. I do so with love for God, His Holy Word, His Son who was first the Word & renewal of the Holy Spirit in my life. God Bless & let it be known that I do not offer this resignation with malice for gays or other sinners but in support of His Authority over Humanity. In that choice to have His Holy Word as a Moral Compass, all believers need to know God never got it wrong but human Pride has failed man since Adam & Eve wanted to be gods under the serpent’s whispers.

    Sincerely & respectfully yours
    Donald Allister Mac Leod

    • In reply to Donald MacLeod:
      Don, my heart goes out to you and all others who are stepping away in good conscience. To your words, I simply say, “Amen.” You make several excellent points, notably, ‘The new Presbyterian doctrine gives authority to sinners who express the lie that God, got it wrong. In Truth God is the author of Life & we are duty-bound as His Children to preach His Authority over us as defined by the Holy Word which became Christ in the flesh.’ Again, Amen. Secularism has always been a threat to orthodoxy. It’s rising once again in a new way. In its face, we must stand our ground, but don’t engage. I recall the advice of Paul in 2 Timothy 3 not to engage with foolish arguments. There’s no winning on a human level. Keeping standing for the authentic truth, Don. And keep praying for something new to arise. Bless you.

  5. I have been a member of Christ’s Presbyterian Church since infant baptism almost 72 years ago. I have been an elder for many years, chairman of the board of managers, now clerk of session and I served as a commissioner of our recent GA.. Last week i received an email asking me to moderate our presbytery this coming year. After prayerful consideration I do not feel that God is “calling” me to this position. He has given me three callings and I believe He is affirming that that is where He wants me to be right now.
    I firmly believe that a presbytery moderator should uphold all of the laws of the PCC. I now cannot do this.
    I do plan to stay and pray and hopefully help lead my congregation to be a faithful Philadelphian Church which Jesus was full of praise for.

    • In reply to Bruce Hunter.
      May the Lord bless and protect you as you strive to follow His way. You are not alone. My prayers are with you and all who patiently and dutifully work to restore and renew the church and place it once again on a firm foundation.

  6. Andy, sincere thanks to you and the Renewal Fellowship as we all seek God’s way forward in spirit and in truth.

    • In reply to Len Wolstenholme:
      Thank you. Please continue to pray for strength, wisdom and protection for all in orthodoxy who are working together.

  7. Thank you, Pastor Cornell, for sharing this blog. I would hope that elders holding the same convictions as those of the Trenton congregation be encouraged to remain in place for this coming year, rather than pulling away from the PCC before the final two decisions that you mention that will be taken next June – theological separation and gracious dismissal.

    The suggestion offered by Trenton’s interim pastor seems to me to be counter-productive for the conservative cause, as elders who resign will no longer be eligible to provide Biblical teaching and encouragement to their congregations or to attend General Assembly next June to cast their vote about theological separation and gracious dismissal.

    Rather than one of resignation and retreat, for many conservative congregations and individuals across the country, I believe that this interim period is being seen by many conservative congregations and individuals across the country as a time to watch, pray, and consider together possible options should the decisions of next year’s General Assembly reject the two remits above. Until then, pastors, elders and congregations can be consulting with each other on how best to respond should both of the above possible alternatives fail to be adopted.

    If and when that sad day comes, we will need to decide on the best way forward outside the PCC. Should this happen, may we be ready to graciously move forward together into a new association which chooses to continue in conformity to Scriptural teaching in the joy of participating with our Lord in His great project – that of building His Church!

    • In reply to Rosemary:

      The Trenton elders were in a difficult situation and they acted according to their conscience. Keep in mind that they remain elders, as they are ordained for life, although they do not serve as a voting member of any court. They, along with anyone anointed by the Holy Spirit and on the authority of the session, can continue to teach and witness. I agree that this is an interim period in our history as a denomination. no matter what our official standing is in the church, “we are invited to watch, pray and consider together possible options,” should a future GA reject the cries of the overtures.

  8. I have been a Presbyterian for almost all my life although I now attend a small town United church.
    I am also a retired Presbyterian minister since I live in the the same town I retired from I was required to go to another church for a 2 year period. I did go back but because of infighting and the way they forced out the minister who followed me I went back to the United church.
    I had hoped to go back to my old denomination after this past assembly but now find that impossible with the passing of remits B & C.
    I have friends in the gay community and have no problems of sitting in church with them but cannot go along with them holding teaching positions or entering into same sex marriage.
    For this reason I will be withdrawing my position as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian church.
    I hate to do this and do so with a heavy heart but I need to follow my conscience and go where I feel God is leading me.

    • In reply to David Leggatt:

      I also extend my heartfelt prayers to you, as I do with Don MacLeod. We are weaker without your bold and vibrant witnesses. This is a reminder that the church is much larger than the confines of one denomination. May the Lord bless you on your continued journey.

  9. At all costs, we need to. Abide by Scripture. Our humanity is governed by the word of God.
    As humans, we can deviate from God’s standards, but what a cost to pay. Where does it stop. Once that option is open, we are in violation of so many life-saving
    Roads of behaviour. It cripples us. We are now severely handicapped. No Thank You.

  10. I do not hate the alphabet group or any kind of homosexual people, but nor do I love them. Why? Because they are the people splitting, bringing division into the church because they want to sin. We would not encourage someone who cannot stop wanting to commit adultery to remain in the church! Why? The answer applies to both “whys.” Just because something is natural does not make it normal. When we change what is normal although natural such as sexual interest so as not to be considered a sin, then we go against God.

    This desire to change what is a sin into what isn’t a sin is from people who do not read enough of their Bible, or they presume psychology can change a sin into a non-sin. There is one definition for this: stupidity and intellectual bigotry is a willful narrow mindedness.

    • In reply to Bruce Metzger:

      We are told that we are allowed to do anything. But Paul reminds us that not everything is good or beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23.

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