Following the Assembly Council’s refusal to receive the report of its own Gracious Dismissal Committee, several members of Psalt drafted the following letter to the Assembly Council, which was signed by 303 people. It was received for information, but unfortunately, no discussion or action was taken on it.
Stephen Kendall sent the following reply after the Assembly Council meeting:
“I wanted to let you know that the Assembly Council members all received your letter and it was placed on the agenda under correspondence. It was received for information. Given the timing of both the receipt of the letter and the work Assembly Council is needing to accomplish before the Assembly, we are not able to provide a more substantial response. However, very similar concerns have been raised with the Council and will be responded to in the Council’s report to Assembly.”
We have asked the Assembly Council to address this more fully at its May meeting.
March 1, 2021
To the Assembly Council,
First, we thank the members of the Council for devoting time and effort to the orderly running of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Being willing to step into a leadership role shows a servant heart. We also acknowledge this may well be a stressful time for many of you, in which the weight of leadership is keenly felt. Know that we are praying for you regularly, asking God to grant you wisdom and a peace-filled “holy indifference” that leaves you truly open to God’s leading as you seek to care for the church Jesus paid for with his blood.
While at times the PCC’s careful following of our Book of Forms and our traditions can seem onerous, we recognize the wisdom of being very careful to follow tried and true protocols with faithful transparency. This will reassure all groups and build trust. We also believe it will protect the Assembly Council itself. Thus, we are deeply concerned to read that the Assembly Council has taken a significant detour from regular proceedings. The matter of Gracious Dismissal has been before the church since 2015. The General Assembly gave it to the Assembly Council to prepare a report and permission was granted for this report to be presented at the 2020 General Assembly. We are grateful the Council’s sub-committee worked hard to prepare a carefully researched report in a timely manner. We fully expected the Assembly Council to carefully consider the report of their task force and use that hard work to prepare an answer for the General Assembly’s prayerful consideration. You have voted to not follow this expected practice. We find this very troubling.
We quote from the dissent found in the minutes of October’s Assembly Council meeting, “The Assembly Council’s terms of reference includes the obligation to ‘assist the General Assembly in making responsible decisions by ensuring that both the Council, and the Assembly, have before them all the information that is needed and that is pertinent to the matter in hand in order to make a wise decision’. General Assembly specifically asked for such assistance and the Assembly Council has now chosen to deny such assistance during a time when the matter is contentious and relevant. That is a failure of leadership; that is a dereliction of duty.”
We believe the Assembly Council’s refusal to receive the sub-committee report in October is an unwise decision and potentially a dangerous precedent that will heighten tension and could place the Assembly Council in a difficult and defensive position. We also “find the recorded dissents in the October minutes compelling in their passion and reason”. While we recognize some in the Assembly Council felt the report should be left until after the remits have been addressed, we strongly feel complete, truthful and well researched information faithfully shared with transparency is always best. Decisions made out of fear and without all the relevant information are never good ones. Truth really does set us free, facilitating a prayerful and holy openness to God’s leading and avoiding any semblance of human manipulation or pressure.
We are also concerned that the Assembly Council has not even discussed the report. We are aware that David Jennings, Linda Shaw and Barbara Sargent have spent countless hours of volunteer time in meetings and research and believe “they have worked diligently and seriously to produce a report that would be fair to any and all congregations and not just one group”. We agree with another quote from the October minutes: “The debates about the human sexuality / authority of scripture / justice matters should be based on theology and ecclesiology, not on property. By providing a clear, neutral answer to the question of Gracious Dismissal as an option, the debates can focus on the issues themselves, without the fear of the practical imposition of results on a congregation feeling threatened with the removal of its sanctuary and other church property. If Gracious Dismissal as a concept is found to be both possible and desirable by the General Assembly, it is the goal of the Committee to make Gracious Dismissal accessible, just and rare.”
The Assembly Council receiving a report for consideration does not require unanimous agreement with the report. Our confidence and trust in the national leaders would be enhanced if Council had received the report, considered the concerns that motivated the overtures, and offered a theological rationale for saying no. As it is, Council’s decision not to receive the report suggests a disregard for the concerns behind the overtures.. We also believe it is the place of the General Assembly to make the final decision on this issue, bearing in mind the advice of the Assembly Council.
We understand the Assembly Council previously felt there was no possible way to move forward with Gracious Dismissal, but asked your sub-committee to research the question more deeply. Their report suggests there well may be a way forward that allows all to be treated with grace. Whether the remits pass or fail, there will likely be congregations who will seriously consider their future in the PCC, if not over this issue, then over other deeply held convictions. Those who prepared the remits have sought to show compassion and fairness to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who hold different views on some matters; we believe carefully considering a Gracious Dismissal process continues on that same path of grace, compassion, fairness and justice.
Assembly Council has repeatedly indicated it welcomes input, a heartening and welcome message. Overtures are the accepted way for Sessions and Presbyteries to express their prayerful desires. They are not submitted lightly. Twenty or more overtures from across the country asking the General Assembly to address this issue have been submitted already. This is a broad concern. It is one thing to ask for input; how the Assembly Council responds to that input sends the real message. How can we feel we will be real partners in the future if concerns raised now are not taken seriously? The decision not to prepare a recommendation regarding Gracious Dismissal to the upcoming General Assembly has already damaged the bonds of partnership between the national leaders and local congregations. Dealing with the report on Gracious Dismissal and presenting a recommendation the Assembly can consider along with the remits this year won’t undo that damage, but it is a necessary first step in rebuilding trust.
We respectfully ask that the Assembly Council give this report the attention it deserves in a timely way. We ask that the report be made available for the upcoming General Assembly as planned. We also ask that this report be addressed before the Remits are discussed for the reasons given above.
Jonathan Dent — David Chung — Rev. George Robertson — Jan Robertson — James A. Dunlop — Rev. Timothy Ferrier — John Matheson — Rev. Sandra Copland Dufour — Rev. Dr. Martin Kreplin — Joan Knox — Andy Van Bodegom — Carol Van Bodegom — Benoit Cousineau — Don Nicol — Len Wolstenholme — Freddie Saleh — Ronda Bosch — Mary Moore — Ron French — Philip MacFie — John Van Gyssel — Grant Wilson — Ken Oakes — Anne Hawes — Brian Wilson — Rev. Miklos Szigeti — Robert Ferrier — Norine Love — Rev. Stephen G. Dunkin — Susan Dunkin — Bernard Skelding — Jos Haye — Harry Austen — Myrna Austen — Alvin Kim — Rev. Joel Coppieters — Rev. Dr. Neal Mathers — Nagi Said — Ross Davidson — Jon Dykeman — Joan Wilson — Linda Clarke — Virginia Head — Karl Reichert — Blake William Walker — Douglas Cameron — Erin King — John Roycroft — George Malcolm — Anne Houston — Alan Brewster — Anne Stewart — Okechukwu Chukwu — Rev. Alex Douglas — Irene Oakes — Terry Hagen — Susan Mattinson — Cathy Faubert — Stephen Kwon — Ed Renaud — Jonathan Dennis — Donald Bartlett — Shannon Bell — Glenn Marnoch — Rev Grant Gunnink — Paul Barrett — James Statham — Bruce Wilcox — Henry Heung Ryeol Han — Yongwan Cho — Winston Newman — Kathy Newman — Alfred Lee — Shirley Quinn — Rev. Munhyun Ryu — Martyn Van Essen — Jong Woog Kim — Rob Allan — Hyo young Joo — Rev. Andy Cornell — Lois Wallace — David Charles Wakeham — Peter J. Morrison — George Habib — Donna Dawson — Dr. James Gordon — Adel Shenouda — Makram Barsoum — John Park — Stanley Cox — Daniel Nortes — Wadie Rezk — Kevin Livingston — Nan St. Louis — Don Lipsett — Sean Lee — Inkyu Park — Taesic Ha — Chris Little — Janet de Groot — Seong In Chin — Sunghwan Jang — Douglas Johns — Carey Jo Johnston — Sherif Bakhoum — Rev. Murat Kuntel — Christopher Jorna — J Richard Hendry — Mary Jane (Jay) Hendry — Heather Butterfill — Dr. Terry Fellows — Stuart W. McKim — Karen McKim — Tom LeBlanc — Nancy LeBlanc — Loreen Newman — Murray Park — Jean Park — Hugh clugston — Lorraine Clugston — Chris Gleimius — David Chambers — Priscilla Anderson — Donald Scott — David Spencer — Henk Vanden Beukel — Emese Zaduban — William Pettit — Terry Hibbert — Barbara Ferrier — Floyd McPhee — Jim Mason — Lyle Beckett — Roy Stevenson — James Knott — Ruth Ann Beckett — Linda Paquette — Linda Low — Steve Lindsay — Kenneth Kupisz — Cahl D. Brown — Jane Wright — Sylvia Dresser — Brian Wright — Ingrid Navidad — Heather Wilson — Wayne Dewart — Jerry Low — Rev. James Perrie — Marion R. Perrie — Les K. Ferrier — Lorraine Webber — Bill Harrison — Maureen A. Brewster — Philip Marais — Diana Wadsworth — Graham Finlayson — Colleen Finlayson — Bernard C. Coram — Duncan Cameron — Jim McIntosh — Rhonda McIntosh — Muriel Barrington — Joseph Mick — Peter Bloom — Pauline Gleimius — Gerry de Koning — Rev. David Leggatt — Tom Eyre — Richard Clough — Dr. Winston Dykeman — Monica McClure — Colleen Richardson — Bob Kettyle — Carol Kettyle — George Kodous — Saad Saad — Adel Ashamalla — Morgan Morgan — Shaddy Hanna — Rev. Emery Cawsey — Joseph N. Gray — Myung Soo Son — Michael Degazio — Nam Sun Choi — Doreen Dath — Robb MacHattie — Doug Austin — George Myers — Robin Davidson — Bill Kunkel — Mary Beth McLean — Lynda Smith — Wayne Smith — Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson — Linda Myers — Jim Robertson — ChangYong Park — Bruce Hunter — Rev. Dr. Wayne Hancock — Robert (Bob) Martin — Rev. Paul Robinson — John Fair — Martha Fair — Rev. Harvey Osborne — Dr. Gavin Richardson — Elaine Richardson — Philip Kim — Derrek Konrad — Olivia McMillan — Ellen Konrad — Bruce Metzger — Rev. Henry Huberts — Jean Clelland — Rev. Paula Hamilton — Rev. Dr. Tom Hamilton — Kristen Higgs — Larry McPhee — Lois McPhee — Sangheon (Eugene) Woo — Sangsoon Lee — Yealin Woo — Soohwan Woo — Moonjung Choi — Young Eun You — Joseph Choi — Jonathan Choi — Marion Burn — Myeongjin Nam — Kyoungsung Lee — Hyeryoung Choi — Dukki Kim — Hyanglan Lee — Atef Bakhiet — Marcelle Bakhiet — James Watson — Lynda Watson — Rev. Glen Sampson — Robert Telfer — Joan Stevenson — Rosemary Sanderson — Evelyn McCarthy — Joan Burdock — Dan Shute — Joan Kennedy — Norma Emmons — Janet Lee — Elaine Taylor — Rev. Carol Hamilton — Mark Carter — Brian Hession — Susan Hession — Larry Price — Bruce Boyes — Marianne Collin — Pauline McConaghy — Patricia Earl — Brian Earl — James Douglas — Saemeyna Oh — Alta MacFie — James MacFie — Hyangjin Lee — Rev. Edward Charlton — Rev. Dr. Don Faris — Neil Cameron — Colin Leonard — Jim Paterson — Daniel Lobb — Susanna Hamilton — Michaela Vandyke — Joanne Ferrier — Myrna Talbot — Elizabeth Matthias — Bobby Ogdon — Margit Meszaros — John Head — Ross McClelland — George E. Anderson — Marlene Larabie — Robert F. Richardson — Shelagh Stevens — Jan Kuehn — Reiner Kuehn — Tressa Oliver — Moheb Nasr — David Oliver — Allan Gunnesslal — Sharon Dowdall — Samy Said — Marie Gemmill — Walter Gemmill — Ken Fournier — Melissa Valliquette — Irene Nesbitt — Renee Guirguis — Guirguis Guirguis — John Sinton — Yohana Kimoun Ntienjem — Emad Ibrahim — Gamal Hanna — Sarah Choi — Donna Thomas