Study material from the 143rd General Assembly

    To all members of session, Parkwood Church, Ottawa

    The 143rd General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (2017) has sent down to all sessions several significant papers for study.

    Some of these papers focus on human sexuality. As you know, in 1994 the General Assembly adopted a report prepared by the Committee on Church Doctrine which affirmed the historic, confessional position of the church which is that marriage is designed by God to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman, and concluded that homosexual practice is not an option for Christians seeking to honour God. That remains the confessional position of the church.

    In recent years, particularly in 2014, there were some requests to the General Assembly to change the churchís teaching and practice, and affirm same-sex marriage and permit those in such relationships to serve as ministers and elders in the church. There were also several requests to re-affirm the churchís historic and current position as stated in the 1994 report.

    In 2017, the Committee on Church Doctrine presented to the General Assembly two substantial study papers. The first is entitled, "The historic argument concerning human sexuality" and is designed to be a fresh statement of the current teaching of the church, rooted in a clear exposition of the teaching of the Bible. The second is entitled, "What the Bible teaches on covenanted monogamous same sex relationships" and attempts to offer a very different interpretation.

    The General Assembly has sent these two papers to the lower courts and congregations of the church with a request for replies by January 31, 2018. In addition, the Committee on Church Doctrine offered the General Assembly a short paper entitled, "Where from here?" which presents three options for future action. The Assembly has also sent this paper to sessions and presbyteries for response by the same date.

    In the spring of 2017, a group of ministers and elders known as PSALT (Presbyterians Standing for Apostolic Love and Truth) and eager to uphold the current confessional position of the church organized a conference at which (among other topics) a paper by Gene Haas, a professor at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, presented a paper on Biblical interpretation. In my opinion, this paper is helpful in reviewing certain basic principles of sound Biblical interpretation which may help us to weigh the arguments presented by the Committee on Church Doctrine in the two study papers.

    Appended therefore are four documents:

    1. Principles of Reformed Hermeneutics, the paper on Biblical interpretation by G. Haas (7 pages)

    Two study papers from the 143rd General Assembly:

      2. The historic argument concerning human sexuality (25 pages)
      3. What the Bible teaches on covenanted monogamous same sex relationships (32 pages)

    4. Where from here?, which is the short paper on future options under consideration by The Presbyterian Church in Canada (4 pages)

    I would suggest that each elder read these papers, in the order listed. It is intended that we will have a discussion of these matters at a future meeting of the session. There is more material, but this is a starting point.

    In Christís service,
    J. T. Hurd, Minister.
    September 13, 2017.

    The papers

        paper 1: (recommended reading) Principals of Reformed Hermeneutics

        papers 2 - 4 (from the Church Doctrine Committee):
      • The Historic Argument Concerning Human Sexuality
      • What the Bible teaches on Covenanted Monogamous Same-sex Relationships
      • Where from Here?

        paper 5: A biblical reflection presented in the LMA report concerning the responses to the various overtures on Human Sexuality

    A sixth paper related to sexuality, from L.M.A. - Justice Ministries, was presented at General Assembly, which congregations, ministers, chaplains, elders and youth leaders were encouraged to study - there is no requirement to report back to any committee.

        paper 7: The Church and People who are Transgender or Intersex

    GA2017 Summary... An excellent summary of the 143rd General Assembly can also be found on the website of the Renewal Fellowship Within the Presbyterian Church in Canada.. It was written by Rev. Andy Cornell, the new director of the Renewal Fellowship. You can learn more about Andy here.


(picture @ top: photo taken during the 143rd General Assembly, June 2017)




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