In recent months, we’ve heard a lot about the need for clarity as we share statistics and information pertaining to the COVID-19 virus. There is a similar need for openness in the church. This week, Assembly Council published the minutes of its October 27, 2020, meeting in which the report of its Gracious Dismissal Committee was on the agenda. A majority on the council voted not to receive it “until at least after the General Assembly has dealt with Remits B and C.” Notwithstanding this decision, the report in its entirety was included in the minutes as part of a written dissent. We believe this report is of deep interest to the church. Therefore, without taking sides, we present the report of the Committee.

Final Report to Assembly Council from Gracious Dismissal Committee

March 22, 2020

To Assembly Council:

Background

Over the past 5 years Overtures have been made to General Assembly requesting, in general, that The Presbyterian Church in Canada permit congregations to leave the denomination with their property if the denomination approves either a redefinition of marriage to include same sex couples or the ordination of those leaders who are in a same sex marriage. The phrase “Gracious Dismissal” was used to describe the process articulated in and the prayer of the Overtures (further discussion about the term “Gracious Dismissal” is set out below). An ancillary issue is whether congregations that owned their property prior to 1925 are treated differently than other congregations.

In response to the Overtures, in 2016 the Clerks of Assembly presented to General Assembly a subsequently adopted response that concluded that there was not a process to permit Gracious Dismissal due to both the polity of the denomination and the statutory restrictions set out in the Act to Incorporate The Trustee Board of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (1939) (“Trustee Board Act”). The polity of The Presbyterian Church in Canada does not allow for a congregation to leave the denomination: the congregation by definition must dissolve if it does not remain. If the congregation dissolves, its assets and liabilities vest in the Trustee Board … Read more