PCC amends guidelines after outcry.
PCC’s Life and Mission Agency has amended its Calling a Minister guidelines in response to criticism from Renewal Fellowship and others within orthodoxy.
The issue was a new section added last fall that advised presbyteries not to appoint interim moderators who have exhibited discriminatory behaviour against LGBTQ+ people. This was in response to the redefinition of marriage to include two persons (along with one man and one woman) and allowed the call and ordination of ministers in same-gender marriage. The new section appeared one-sided and didn’t address the need to be open to traditional views in keeping with parallel definitions and liberty of conscience. Renewal Fellowship’s board of directors had a healthy conversation on the matter. In the words of one director: what we now have is “not an inclusive definition; in fact, it’s discrimination in itself.” Said another: “As someone in orthodoxy, I’m a second-class citizen; I’m feeling muzzled. If I believe someone is unfit for ministry (due to lifestyle choice), I discriminate.” In practical terms, “They’re favouring one child over another.”
In response, RF proposed a reworded section: “The presbytery shall instruct interim moderators when proceeding to a call to give equal consideration to all candidates. Any who, in the view of their presbytery, have exhibited discriminatory behaviour toward LGBTQI2+ individuals or have exhibited discriminatory behaviour towards those who adhere to traditional Biblical orthodoxy shall not be appointed interim moderators.”
We replied to the clerks and got the word out via social media and a Dec. 29 blog. Others of like mind in the PCC raised similar concerns.
On Feb. 15, we received n email from Ian Ross-McDonald, General Secretary of the Life and Mission Agency, who thanked all parties who “raised important and helpful questions and concerns about “Calling a Minister”. We have done some more reflection on and review . . .”
The offending section was dropped. The focus was shifted away from advice on appointing to advice on instructions on how the Interim Mods should act. It no longer potentially marginalized those who adhere to Biblical orthodoxy — not that that was the intent of the old section 1.2.3 — it just would have been interpreted that way by some courts.
The “reflection and review” took into account “best practices in the areas of human resources and human rights legislation as they relate to the work of calling a minister; the standards and principles of the church’s polity; and changes the church has made by adopting two equal, parallel and protected definitions of marriage etc.” Ross-McDonald wrote.
“We also wanted to make changes to some wording in the document so that the document better articulated the roles and responsibilities of interim moderators, of search committees and of presbyteries in the important work of seeking and calling a minister.”
Old section — revised 2022
1.2 Appointing the Interim Moderator. The presbytery will appoint an interim moderator of Session . . . after considering the recommendation of the Presbytery Pastoral Relations/Ministry Committee. . . .
- The presbytery should avoid appointing the same few people to serve as interim moderators. Interim moderator appointments should reflect the diversity in our denomination and involve equal consideration of all those eligible to serve.
- The law of the Church does not permit discrimination against women ministers. The presbytery shall instruct interim moderators when proceeding with a call to give equal consideration to women candidates. Any who, in the view of their presbytery, have exhibited discriminatory behaviour toward women shall not be appointed interim moderators (A&P 1980, p. 398, 64; A&P 1988, p. 391–92, 21).
- The law of the church prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI2+ individuals (A&P 1994, p. 251–74, 56; A&P 2021, p. 617, 22). The presbytery shall instruct interim moderators when proceeding to a call to give equal consideration to LGBTQI2+ candidates (BF Appendix L). Any who, in the view of their presbytery, have exhibited discriminatory behaviour toward LGBTQI2+ individuals shall not be appointed interim moderators.
- The presbytery will ensure that the interim moderator is in a secure and stable ministry and is not likely to consider a call to the vacant position. This will ensure fair treatment for all candidates (A&P 1987, p. 363).
- Neither the departing minister nor any other minister currently serving in the same pastoral charge should be appointed interim minister or interim moderator.
1.3 Instructions to Interim Moderators. The presbytery is responsible to ensure that its interim moderators understand which categories of people are eligible for a call . . .
New section — revised 2023
1.2 The presbytery will appoint an interim moderator of Session . . . after considering the recommendation of the Presbytery Pastoral Relations/Ministry Committee. . . .
- [unchanged — see above].
- [same as 4 — see above]
- [same as 5 — see above].
1.3 Instructions to Interim Moderators. The presbytery shall instruct interim moderators when proceeding with a call to present to the search committee the personal profiles and applications of all eligible individuals. The presbytery is responsible to ensure that interim moderators understand that individuals are eligible to serve as ordained ministers in The Presbyterian Church in Canada regardless of their age, gender, race, marital status or identification as LGBTQI.