The Barrier Act (June 2017) - note: there is no "from the pastor" during the summer months
Barriers can be seen to be both good and bad. A parent puts an infant in a car seat, which acts as a barrier to
movement, and serves to protect the child in the case of a sudden stop. The infant may wish to "escape" the
barrier, and does not understand its value. Later in life, as a mature adult who has perhaps lived through
some sudden stops with the protection of the barrier, the same person may come to realize and appreciate
the value of the barrier.
In the presbyterian church, part of the structure of our government includes the Barrier Act. The Barrier Act
serves to prevent sudden shifts in teaching (doctrine) or practice (government) that may seem like a good
idea to some people, but which have not had careful review in the light of Godís word, and the measured
consideration of all the elders of the churches.
The Barrier Act states: "No prepared law or rule relative to matters of doctrine, discipline, government, or
worship, shall become a permanent enactment until the same has been submitted to presbyteries for
consideration... If a majority of the presbyteries of the church express their approval, the Assembly may
pass such proposed law or rule into a standing law of the church. If a majority of the presbyteries express
disapproval, the Assembly shall reject such proposed law or rule..." (Book of Forms, 293.1; 293.3)
Recently, there have been initiatives and efforts on the part of some individuals and groups within the
structures of The Presbyterian Church in Canada to change the definition and practice of marriage, to bring
our Christian confession and practice into conformity with that in our contemporary civil society. Our
confessional standards state:
"Marriage is to be between one man and one woman." (Westminster Confession of Faith, 24.1)
"Christian marriage is a union in Christ whereby a man and a woman become one in the sight of God."
(Living Faith, 8.2)
Any attempt to change the teaching or practice of the church with respect to marriage evidently involves a
change to the doctrine, discipline, and worship, and could not be lawfully or properly effected by any one
General Assembly without first being submitted to all the presbyteries for consideration, and could only be
enacted if a majority of the presbyteries were to express approval, and then only if a subsequent General
Assembly determined such a change were to be advisable. Inasmuch as the members of the General
Assembly are commissioned to "consult, vote, and determine in all matters... to the glory of God, and the
good of his church, according to the word of God, the Confession of Faith, and agreeable to the
constitution of this church..." (Book of Forms, 279), it appears that the boundary for or barrier to change is
appropriately set very high, to protect against anything which would harm the church or dishonour God.
Our confessional standards have been formulated over many centuries and are designed and intended to
state faithfully and accurately what the Bible teaches. The Presbyterian Church in Canada traces its lineage
through the churches of the Reformation back to the ecumenical creeds and confessions of the ancient
church, to the early church fathers and the apostles of the first century and to Jesus -- the "LOGOS", "the
Word made flesh".
Even before the earthly life of Jesus, the prophets of God in ancient Israel were inspired by the Holy
Spirit to reveal the will and law of God. The book of Proverbs includes many wise words, given by Godís
Spirit. Much of the "wisdom of Solomon" was given to King Solomon who asked for wisdom, rather than
riches or long life. One of the proverbs instructs us: "Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by
your forefathers." (Proverbs 22:28, NIV)
Boundary markers established by those who have sought to live faithfully in the light of Godís word are
to be respected, and should only be moved if found to be at variance with an older boundary marker,
clearly visible and established in Godís word.
We are reminded in the New Testament that: "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans
14:23, NIV). Godís Spirit also teaches us that: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word of
God." (Romans 10:17, NKJV). The content of what we believe and practice is revealed and taught by God
in His word, and is not simply "made up" by human beings on our own initiative.Whatever the culture or
society around us teaches or does is to be reviewed in the light of what God teaches in Scripture and in
Jesus -- who is the living Word.
As the Church wrestles with understanding Godís word and will for us today, let us pray that what God
teaches us in the Scriptures will be received and honoured, and cherished and embraced, that ancient
boundary stones faithfully and rightly set up will remain in place, and that the wisdom and provisions of
the Barrier Act will be respected.
Your pastor, sharing in the governance and oversight of the church, for Jesusí sake,