2016 General Assembly Decisions

The 2016 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada met at York University, Toronto, from June 3-6. Commissioners reviewed more than 400 pages of reports and considered all kinds of recommendations. In case you don’t feel like wading through the reports to find all those recommendations, we’ve compiled them here as adopted by the church’s highest court.

Not all of the committees made recommendations; you can find all the reports, including those without recommendations, over here.

 

Committee to Advise with the Moderator

Recommendation No. 1
That the appreciation of the Assembly be extended to the Rev. Karen R. Horst for her enthusiasm, compassion for others, passion for justice and her creative leadership as Moderator of the 141st General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 2
That the gratitude of the Assembly be expressed to the congregation of St. Andrew’s, Orillia for their ongoing prayers and encouragement for the Rev. Karen R. Horst, as well as appreciation to the Rev. Dr. James Sitler for his worship and pastoral leadership during her moderatorial term.

Recommendation No. 3
That the thanks of the Assembly be extended to the congregations, individuals, presbyteries, organizations, and international and ecumenical partners who warmly welcomed and graciously offered hospitality to the Rev. Karen R. Horst.

Assembly Council

Recommendation No. 1
That the above minute of appreciation for Mr. Stephen Roche be adopted.

Recommendation No. 2
That Mr. Oliver Ng, CMA, CPA, be appointed as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, effective July 31, 2016.

Recommendation No. 3
That Book of Forms Appendix G as presented above be approved.
[This is a section of the Book of Forms dealing with archives and resource management.]

Recommendation No. 4
That the financial statements for The Presbyterian Church in Canada at December 31, 2015 be received for information.

Recommendation No. 5
That the financial statements for The Presbyterian Church in Canada Pension Fund at December 31, 2015 be received for information.

Recommendation No. 6
That the terms of reference for the Ewart Endowment for Theological Education be revised by removing the following term:
4. 10 percent of the annual interest on the Endowment shall be capitalized and the balance be available for disbursement.

Recommendation No. 7
That the 2017 Budget be approved.

Recommendation No. 8
That the 2018 to 2020 forecast be received for information.

Recommendation No. 9
That the Strategic Plan be approved for guiding the work of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Recommendation No. 10
That the Assembly Council monitor/oversee the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

Recommendation No. 11
That in their reports to General Assembly, all standing committees, college boards and agencies state how their work is implementing the Strategic Plan.

Recommendation No. 12
That presbyteries and congregations be encouraged to implement the Strategic Plan within their locales providing feedback as needed, and be prepared to share their experiences with the Assembly Council in three years.

Recommendation No. 13
That the above revised terms of reference for the Assembly Council be approved.

Recommendation No. 14
That the new membership composition of Assembly Council be phased in starting in 2017 in a manner that allows current members to complete their terms.

Recommendation No. 15
That Book of Forms Appendix A–29 re guarantee of stipend terms be amended to read: “and agree to adjust the stipend and allowances annually in view of any changes in the cost of living and the needs of our minister”.

Recommendation No. 16
That the above be the response to Overture No. 3, 2015 re budgeting for General Assembly costs.

Recommendation No. 17
That permission be granted to report to the 2017 General Assembly on Overture Nos. 13, 22 and 36, 2015 [re establishing a native ministries endowment fund].

Recommendation No. 18
That the General Assembly normally be held within the geographical region of Hamilton, the Greater Toronto Area and Waterloo.

Recommendation No. 19 (Defeated)
That the requirement for the General Assembly to meet in the east/west every five years be discontinued.

Recommendation No. 20
That the above be the answer to Overture No. 17, 2015 re holding General Assembly in a central location.

Recommendation No. 21
That the above be the response to Overture No. 1, 2016 re revising appointment protocols for associate secretaries.

Recommendation No. 22
That the above be the response to Overture No. 2, 2016 re timeline for human sexuality overtures.

Recommendation No. 23
That the above be the response to Overture No. 8, 2016 re standing committees secretaries.

Recommendation No 24 (Amended)
That the adjustment of the current formula of allocating capital from dissolved congregations to the Pension Fund be as follows effective September 30, 2016 (in order to allow congregations currently in the process of dissolving to have their mission plan approved by presbytery) until $2 million, in total, is allocated to the Pension Fund, at which time the amounts to be allocated revert to the original formula (70% Presbytery; 30% new church capital):
1. 50% of all proceeds go to Pension Plan Solvency, up to a maximum of $2 million,
2. All remaining proceeds be returned to the Presbytery for mission work in their midst and beyond.”

The Assembly agreed that the date in Recommendation No. 24 refers to the date of a presbytery’s decision to dissolve a congregation.

Additional Motion
That the Assembly Council reconsider the practice of having every agency and committee and college of The Presbyterian Church in Canada report to every General Assembly, and that it rather consider having these bodies report on a rotational basis every two years or three years.

Committee on Bills and Overtures

Recommendation No. 1
That the prayer of Overture No. 10, 2016 re declaring overtures re same-sex marriage out of order be not granted.

Recommendation No. 2
That Overture No. 11, 2016 re develop a Reformed confessional hermeneutic be referred to the Committee on Church Doctrine.

Recommendation No. 3
That Overture No. 12, 2016 re policy for a congregation wishing to leave the denomination be answered by the General Assembly’s decision on the Clerks of Assembly Recommendation No. 2, 2016.

Recommendation No. 4
That Overture No. 13, 2016 re request more time for human sexuality discussion be referred to the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries).

Recommendation No. 5 (Amended)
That Overture No. 14, 2016 re Indigenous spirituality and defer Native Ministries Endowment Fund not be received.

Recommendation No. 6
That Overture No. 15, 2016 re extending time for human sexuality responses be referred to the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries).

Recommendation No. 7
That Overture No. 16, 2016 re policy for a congregation wishing to leave the denomination be answered by the General Assembly’s decision on the Clerks of Assembly Recommendation No. 2, 2016.

Recommendation No. 8
That Overture No. 17, 2016 re develop a bereavement leave policy be referred to the Life and Mission Agency (Ministry and Church Vocations).

Recommendation No. 9
That Overture No. 18, 2016 re research reasons for declining membership be referred to the Life and Mission Agency (Canadian Ministries) in consultation with the Assembly Council.

Recommendation No. 10
That Overture No. 19, 2016 re congregational vote re sexual orientation and process for leaving the denomination be referred to the Clerks of Assembly.

Recommendation No. 11
That Overture No. 20, 2016 re congregational vote re sexual orientation and process for leaving the denomination be referred to the Clerks of Assembly.

Recommendation No. 12
That Overture No. 21, 2016 re ministry and eldership of and performing marriage of those in same gender relationships be referred to the Committee on Church Doctrine and the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries).

Recommendation No. 13 (Amended)
That Overture No. 22, 2016 re preparing a statement on Indigenous Spirituality not be received.

Committee on Church Doctrine

Recommendation No. 1
That the document “Presbyterian Polity: Its Distinctives and Directions for the 21st Century” be commended to the courts and, in particular, to the clerks of those courts for study and response to the Committee on Church Doctrine through the Assembly Office by August 31, 2017.

Recommendation No. 2
That The Presbyterian Church in Canada seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in light of the Reign of God, in a response to the overtures named above and, in particular, the prayer of Overture No. 16, 2015 re encouraging dialogue on marriage and sexuality.

Recommendation No. 3 (Amended)
That all courts of the church be required to deal with all people with tender pastoral care.

Recommendation No. 4
That the Committee on Church Doctrine in consultation with the Life and Mission Agency continue to reflect on the nature of Christian marriage in relation to LGBTQ and intersex people and report back to the 2017 General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 5
That the Life and Mission Agency in consultation with the Committee on Church Doctrine continue to reflect theologically on the spiritual needs of transgender and intersex people, and report back to the 2017 General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 6 (Amended)
That the General Assembly receive the above report as an interim response to the prayers of Overture Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 35, 2015; and grant permission to report on the response to these overtures to the 2017 General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 7
That the document “Understanding and Interpreting the Bible” be commended to congregations, presbyteries and other groups in The Presbyterian Church in Canada for their use.

Recommendation No. 8
That sessions, presbyteries and other interested groups using the document “Understanding and Interpreting the Bible” report comments to the Committee on Church Doctrine through the Assembly Office by January 31, 2017, and that the results of these comments be reported to a future General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 9
That the matters and concerns raised in Memorial No. 1, 2015 [re process re changes to church’s teaching on human sexuality] be answered in terms of the above report.

Additional Motion
That the Life and Mission Agency, in consultation with the Committee on Church Doctrine, include in their study and examination of Overtures Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and 35, 2015, a consideration of Romans 14:1–13 as permission to recommend a dual or two-prong approach, in interest of avoiding rupture of the denomination, as an option to these overtures.

Clerks of Assembly

Recommendation No. 1
That the General Assembly express its profound thankfulness to the Rev. Dr. Tony Plomp for 29 years of extraordinary commitment to the office of Clerk of the General Assembly and to the courts of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Recommendation No. 2
That the above be the response to Overture No. 37, 2015 and Overture Nos. 4, 5 and 7, 2016 re request for process for a congregation leaving the denomination.

Recommendation No. 3
That the above definition of the scope and purpose of a Declaratory Act be the response to Memorial No. 1, 2015.

Recommendation No. 4
That Overture No. 3, 2016, re Barrier Act and an individual’s dissent be answered by the above response.

Recommendation No. 5
That the following Declaratory Act regarding the eligibility of ministers of member churches of The World Communion of Reformed Churches to preside at the Lord’s Table be added to Book of Forms section 198.1.
Ordained ministers of churches that are members of the World Communion of Reformed Churches are permitted to preside at the Lord’s Table at the discretion of the moderator or interim moderator of the relevant session.

Recommendation No. 6
That Book of Forms section 12.1 be deleted.

Recommendation No. 7
That the following revision of Book of Forms sections 65–80.2, regarding overtures and petitions, be approved and remitted to presbyteries under the Barrier Act.

Recommendation No. 8
That Book of Forms section 80.2 become the new section 300 as follows:
300. The Clerks of Assembly and other agencies, committees and task forces of the Assembly are instructed to ensure that all study papers, referrals and questionnaires addressed to presbyteries and/or sessions are in the hands of the respective clerks three full months in advance of the deadline for response back to the agency, committee or task force of General Assembly. (see Appendix A–6)

Recommendation No. 9
That Book of Forms section 312 be amended to read as follows:
312. The Clerks of Assembly shall be responsible for producing the minutes of the General Assembly and making them available to the church.

Additional Motion
That the Clerks of Assembly assign time allotments to presenters of reports and inform the committee conveners of their allotment, commencing at the 2017 Assembly.

Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee

Recommendation No. 1
That the prayer of the Commissioner’s Overture [re public prayer] be answered by the above response.

Committee on History

Recommendation No. 1
That the congregations be encouraged to celebrate Heritage Sunday on February 19, 2017, or on another Sunday, as a means of celebrating the unique faith journey and heritage we enjoy as Presbyterians.

Recommendation No. 2
That the Assembly recognize the 2016 winners of the history prizes:
Academic: Still Voices – Still Heard launched a biographical history on October 31, 2015, commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Presbyterian College, Montreal,
Memoir: Sunsets and Gentle Breezes is a memoir of life as I found it by Margaret Jean Taylor.
Congregational: Congregational History for Haney Church, Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

Recommendation No. 3
That the General Assembly and the courts of the church actively promote the “Solus Christus” event to take place in Winnipeg, Manitoba on October 29, 2016, and encourage their members to either attend this event or to join via internet.

Recommendation No. 4
That the General Assembly and the courts of the church promote the “Soli Deo Gloria” event in celebration of the 500th Anniversary year of the Reformation to take place at Knox College in Toronto on Saturday, October 28, 2017, and encourage their members to attend.

Recommendation No. 5 (Amended)
That the congregations within The Presbyterian Church in Canada be encouraged to contribute to the National Presbyterian Museum and that Presbyteries be encouraged to assess their congregations $50 to this end.

Recommendation No. 6
That with thanks to God and in celebration of the clergy and church workers who have retired in 2015, the 2016 General Assembly, on behalf of our entire denomination, includes a moment of recognition for these faithful representatives of Jesus Christ and diligent servants of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

International Affairs Committee

Recommendation No. 1
That the Moderator write to the Rev. Byungho Kim, the General Secretary of the Korean Christian Church in Japan expressing the church’s concern at the increasing xenophobia, hate speech and harassment directed at minorities in Japan and expressing our support to KCCJ’s efforts to combat xenophobia and hate speech.

Recommendation No. 2
That the Moderator write to the Prime Minister of Japan and the Japanese Ambassador to Canada expressing the church’s concern at the increasing xenophobia, hate speech and harassment directed at minorities in Japan, and requesting the Government of Japan to reconsider its opposition to legislation that would criminalize both hate speech and hate crimes.

Recommendation No. 3
That the Moderator write to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs expressing the church’s concern at the increasing xenophobia, hate speech and harassment directed at minorities in Japan and expressing the church’s hope that the Government of Canada will address these matters with Japanese officials.

Recommendation No. 4
That the Moderator write to the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic expressing the church’s concern about the treatment and the deportation of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, and request the Government of the Dominican Republic discontinue revoking citizenship as a result of the 2013 decision of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal which stripped Juliana Deguis Pierre of her citizenship.

Recommendation No. 5
That the Moderator write to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs expressing the church’s concern about the treatment and deportation of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic and particularly those impacted by the 2013 decision of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal which stripped Juliana Deguis Pierre of her citizenship, and request that Canadian government officials raise these concerns with Dominican Republic government officials.

Recommendation No. 6
That the Moderator write to Bishop Rev. Sandor Zan Fabian of the Reformed Church of sub-Carpathian Ukraine and the Bishop István Szabó of the Reformed Church in Hungary expressing the church’s concern at the ongoing discrimination against the Roma and encouraging the Reformed Church of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine and the Reformed Church in Hungary in their mission and ministry with the Roma.

Recommendation No. 7
That the Moderator write to the Maya-Mam Association of Research and Development and the Fraternidad of Maya Presbyterials to inquire if the Government of Guatemala’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has resulted in improvements in the lives of Indigenous people and greater respect for their human rights.

Recommendation No. 8
That the Moderator write to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs urging that Canada encourage the Government of Guatemala to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Recommendation No. 9
The Moderator write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs encouraging the Government of Canada, to continue calling for an end to violence against LGBT people and for the respect of human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in relevant international fora.

Recommendation No. 10
That the Moderator write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs requesting information on how the Government of Canada will ensure that military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia will not be used against civilians engaged in peaceful protest activities in Saudi Arabia or in other countries.

Recommendation No. 11
That the Moderator write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs requesting that the most recent report on human rights in Saudi Arabia be made available to the public.

Recommendation No. 12
That the Moderator write to the Minister of International Development asking what the Government of Canada’s plans are to increase ODA [Overseas Development Assistance] in the next three years.

Recommendation No. 13
That the Moderator write to the Minister of International Development encouraging the Government of Canada to ensure that Canada’s ODA policies are consistent with the values and goals of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].

Recommendation No. 14
That congregations be encouraged to review the Sustainable Development Goals (2015–2030) as a means of evaluating the conduct of Canadian development priorities.

Recommendation No. 15
That the Moderator write to AMMID [the Asociación Maya-Mam de Investigación y Desarrollo], PWS&D’s [Presbyterian World Service & Development’s] partner, asking 1) for its reflections on the impact the Marlin mine has had on communities in which AMMID has programs; and 2) whether AMMID has ongoing concerns regarding the mine after it is closed.

Life and Mission Agency

Program Support and Administration

Recommendation No. 1
That permission be granted to report to the 2017 General Assembly on Overture Nos. 13, 22 and 36, 2015 re Establishing a Native Ministries Endowment Fund.

Recommendation No. 2
That the General Assembly acknowledge with sincere thanks and appreciation the 31 years of service to The Presbyterian Church in Canada of Herbert Gale and that the minute of appreciation for the Reverend Dr. Herbert Gale be adopted.

International Ministries

Recommendation No. 3
That sincere thanks and appreciation for Mr. Brian Johnston’s many years of overseas service be acknowledged and that the above minute of appreciation be adopted.

Recommendation No. 4
That sincere thanks and appreciation for Ms. Denise van Wissen’s many years of overseas service be acknowledged and that the above minute of appreciation be adopted.

Justice Ministries

Recommendation No. 5
That congregations and presbyteries be encouraged to study the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Recommendation No. 6
That sessions and presbyteries consider ways to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in their communities.

Recommendation No. 7
That congregations be encouraged to acknowledge the traditional territory on which the congregation meets to worship by posting this information in bulletins, by a sign in the church or a combination of both.

Recommendation No. 8
That congregations be encouraged to acknowledge the traditional territory on which the congregation meets to worship on Aboriginal Day Sunday.

Recommendation No. 9
That sessions, presbyteries and all church groups be encouraged to acknowledge the traditional territory on which they are gathering at each meeting.

Recommendation No. 10
That permission be granted to the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) to present a response to the above Overture Nos. 4, 5, 14, 15, 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 32, 33, 35, 2015 to the 2017 General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 11
That permission be granted to the Life and Mission Agency (Justice Ministries) in consultation with the Assembly Council to present a response to Overture No. 9, 2016 to the 2017 General Assembly.

Ministry and Church Vocations

Recommendation No. 12
That permission be granted to the Life and Mission Agency (Ministry and Church Vocations) to report on Overture No. 6, 2016 [re revising the sexual abuse and sexual harassment policy when a complainant is a minister in a congregation] to the next General Assembly.

Recommendation No. 13
That the prayer of Overture No. 25, 2015 [re revising and reforming the diaconate] not be granted.

Presbyterian World Service & Development

Recommendation No. 14
That individuals, congregations and presbyteries be commended for their involvement in refugee sponsorship and for their support for refugees who remain overseas and who require humanitarian assistance.

Recommendation No. 15
That individuals, congregations and presbyteries be commended for their prayers, generosity of spirit and resources to support the life-saving work of PWS&D in emergency assistance, in particular for the generous responses to the Nepal earthquake relief and to the Syria crisis, and life-transforming work in development programs responding to communities suffering from hunger, disease, disaster, conflict and injustice around the world.

Recommendation No. 16
That individuals, congregations and presbyteries take note that PWS&D continues to be a separate fund of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. As such all are encouraged to meet their Presbyterians Sharing allocation and to consider making separate contributions in support of the development, relief and refugee work of the church.

Stewardship and Planned Giving

Recommendation No. 17
That sincere appreciation be expressed to the individuals and congregations who faithfully supported Presbyterians Sharing in 2015.

Recommendation No. 18
That all congregations develop an intentional plan to work towards meeting and exceeding the 10% Presbyterians Sharing Allocation in 2016.

Recommendation No. 19
That the terms of reference for the Stewardship and Planned Giving Department be approved.

Additional Motion
That the Moderator of the General Assembly write a letter to the federal government of Canada to urge them to work diligently for the release of the Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim.

Additional Motion
That the Moderator write to the Government of Canada commending it for its response to refugees worldwide, including Syrian refugees through humanitarian support to refugees overseas and through resettlement in Canada. And furthermore, urging the government to continue its response to the global refugee crisis through resettlement that will include government-assisted refugees in line with the government’s international obligations and privately-sponsored and blended visa office-referred refugees in line with the desire of Canadians to welcome the stranger.

Committee to Nominate Standing Committees

Recommendation No. 1(A)
That the name of the Rev. Karla Wubbenhorst replace the name of the Rev. Maureen Walter on the Committee on Church Doctrine.

Recommendation No. 1(B)
That the above be the members of the Standing Committee (as amended) of the General Assembly.

Recommendation 2
That thanks be expressed to those members of a standing committee whose service concludes with this General Assembly.

Pension and Benefits Board

Recommendation No. 1
That the action of the Pension and Benefits Board in the administration of pension benefits be sustained.

Recommendation No. 2
That the prayer of Overture No. 27, 2015 re Health and Dental Plan membership options be answered in terms of this response.

Recommendation No. 3
That the above sections of the Constitution of the Pension Plan of The Presbyterian Church in Canada be revised and amended.

Presbyterian Record Inc.

Recommendation No. 1
That the officers and committees of The Presbyterian Church in Canada be urged to assist Presbyterian Record Inc. to obtain a minimum of $50,000 funding from available funds controlled or held in trust by The Presbyterian Church in Canada, in the hope this would be matched by donors.

Recommendation No. 2
That the ministry of the Presbyterian Record be commended to the courts of the church with the request that those courts discuss the financial situation of the Record and seek ways to assist the Record financially in the coming year

Reports of the Colleges

Presbyterian College, Montreal

Recommendation No. 1
That the General Assembly concur with the actions of the Board of The Presbyterian College, Montreal, in agreeing to the new Memorandum of Understanding between The Montreal School of Theology and McGill University.

Knox College, Toronto

Recommendation No. 1
That the above minute of appreciation for the Rev. Dr. Pamela McCarroll be adopted.

Remits

Recommendation No. 1
That Remit A, 2015 re the rewording of Book of Forms section 32 be approved and become the law of the church and that the Book of Forms be amended accordingly.

Recommendation No. 2
That Remit B, 2015 re the rewording of Book of Forms section 259.2 be approved and become the law of the church and that the Book of Forms be amended accordingly.

Courtesies and Loyal Addresses

Additional Motion
That this Assembly offer a prayer for God’s support and strength to the Moderator and to our committees as they seek to maintain harmony and unity in our Presbyterian community, during their terms of office.

Not included on this list are the recommendations from the Committee on Education and Reception, since their many recommendations are related to individual candidates for ministry. If you’d like to check out those recommendations, you can find them in the report of Ministry and Church Vocations (part of the Life and Mission Agency). We also haven’t included some standard housekeeping items, like the recommendations from the Committee on Business.

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About Connie Wardle

Connie Wardle is the Presbyterian Record's senior writer and online editor.