The denial of “balance and respect for both definitions of marriage” appeared to be a watershed moment at General Assembly 2022.[i] It revealed what many in orthodoxy have suspected – or feared:
- That The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) is officially “affirming” in accordance with the adoption of Pathway ‘B’– “inclusion” – in 2019.
- The “liberty of conscience and action” regarding participation in ordinations etc. and adherence to traditional definition of marriage approved in 2021 as part of Remits ‘B’ and ‘C’ are just accommodations which will probably be lifted in time.
- Each year, the thin welcome mat of liberty would be gradually nipped and tucked until nothing remained.
- Assuming the online gatherings of GA over the past two years (which resulted in the parallel definitions of marriage) aren’t successfully challenged in a secular court as illegitimate then the PCC is likely on its way to being fully affirming.
A bit of recent history. Recall the report the Special Committee re Implications of Pathway ‘B’ (Inclusion) which stated in its report to 2019 General Assembly: “No minister or elder currently serving (or actively preparing for ministry) should be forced to change their convictions. At the same time we understand that if inclusion becomes the doctrine of our church that, following a reasonable time of transition . . . those wishing to serve as ministers or elders need to accept this doctrine as a part of the whole doctrine and life of the church.” The key words were “time of transition.”
Are we, who adhere to Biblical orthodoxy, relegated to slow decline within the PCC?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Consider that while much attention centred on the “balance and respect” debate – which resulted in some memorable quotes and a very divided court – another decision may produce results in the long run.
A greater majority (155-33) supported the creation of the Office of Cross Cultural Liaison, suggesting support from across the theological spectrum.[ii] It was a cornerstone recommendation from the Special Committee which recognized the fact that the non-Euro elements of the PCC have been a “growing edge in the denomination . . . Over the last 20 years while the membership in the denomination has dropped by 55,000 members, the non-Euro Canadian presence in the denomination has doubled.”
The recommendation was more than just a tangible step to righting wrongs and encouraging a welcoming environment for Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Hungarian people and other congregations and people who have been marginalized.
It’s also common sense:
“If the church were a business where one section of the business had doubled over the previous 20 years, while the rest of the business had shrunk by 45 percent, the business would be putting resources and energy into the growing section of the business. The data strongly suggests that time and energy is called for to be put into this growing part of the church.”
The new office will enjoy wide-ranging power and responsibility with General Secretary (top bureaucrat) status and will answer directly to General Assembly.
A significant factor in the poor treatment sustained by non-Euros is the fact that the large majority of Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Hungarian and other congregations hold to conservative theological views. There’s a colonial mentality at work:
“An ethos exists throughout the Euro Canadian elements of the denomination that non-Euro Canadians are not really part of The Presbyterian Church in Canada until they have been assimilated into the dominant culture. This ethos frequently underlies acts of welcome which often have the goal of making the newcomers “like us” as quickly as possible.”
“Like us” means progressive and inclusive.
Let’s add it up. If “diverse Presbyterians” are offered a place at the table, and if most of them adhere to orthodoxy, and if their presence is the source of growth, then would the lack of “balance and respect” even matter in the long run? Of course, this all hinges on them remaining within the fold.
This is a long game, with results that would bear fruit after many of us have departed. Can we wait that long?
[i] The Special Committee Responding to Petitions 1 and 2 (2021) from the two Korean-language presbyteries alleging generational “silencing, slander, ridicule, racism and “mistreatment” to ethnic groups recommended, among other things, that Assembly “instruct the Assembly Council, the General Assembly Office and Life and Mission Agency and Committee to Nominate Standing Committees and the other boards and committees of the church to ensure that there is balance and respect for both definitions of marriage in all correspondence sent to congregations, sessions, presbyteries and synods; the delivery of resources and workshops, and the membership of the boards and committees of the church; also that the Assembly Council provide progress reports on the balancing of the two definitions of marriage in the life of the church to the General Assemblies of 2023 and 2024” (SCP-009). Commissioners approved an amendment by a vote of 106-85 to remove all references to “balance.” The amended motion (“That the General Assembly instruct the Assembly Council, the GAO and LMA and Committee to nominate standing committee and the other boards and committee of the church to ensure that people are not excluded from serving based on their theological conviction of either definition of marriage endorsed by the GA”) carried by an even slimmer margin: 100-89.
[ii] Commissioners approved the following: “That the General Assembly approve the creation of the Office of Cross-Cultural Liaison and that it be staffed to accomplish the tasks and roles outlined above; and that this recommendation be referred to Assembly Council for implementation with members of the Special Committee on Petitions Nos. 1 and 2, 2021” (SCP-005.) An amendment to downgrade the office from General Secretary status to that of Associate Secretary was defeated, 65-122. The “tasks and roles” are fully outlined in the report of the Special Committee Responding to Petitions 1 and 2 (2021). All reports to General Assembly can be found at https://assembly.presbyterian.ca/#/committee.