The Minister and Session
As we have reported to the congregation previously, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada made some big decisions in its meeting this past summer. In particular, it formally declared something that has been true about the Presbyterian Church in Canada for a long time: that we don’t all agree on the definition of marriage and that we don’t all see the role of LGBTQ persons in the church in the same way. The church declared that all Presbyterians have freedom of belief and conscience and are able to marry people and to elect their leaders accordingly. This has come at the end of a very long process of study and reflection on the scriptures and on our faith. The discussion is also still not over on the national level as we continue to work out how we can maintain our Christian unity despite some significant differences in belief.
And so, over the last few months, the Session of St. Andrew’s Hespeler has been discussing how we ought to make use of this freedom that the General Assembly has given to us. The Session feels that it is very important at this time to affirm that there is a place at St Andrew’s Hespeler for everybody. That includes every kind of family including singles, married with or without children, single parent families and divorced. That includes people who are straight but also those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual and asexual. In addition, all genders and gender identities are welcome to fully participate.
In addition, we want to affirm that we welcome not only all people who have a firm faith, but also all those who doubt. We welcome those who struggle with addictions or bad habits, those who’ve got it all together and those who feel like they’re coming apart.
Now, on one level, we believe that all such people have always been welcome in our church. But we also confess that we have not always been successful making all such people feel welcome. We are glad to take this opportunity to be much more explicit about our welcome and also to think about the implications of that welcome.
We also confess that all of us continue to struggle to be all that God is calling us to be and we pray that, with God’s help and the support of our siblings in Christ, we may rise to the challenge of living up to God’s calling upon us all.
The Session is very concerned about the state of marriage in our society. We feel there are too many domestic relationships that are marred by disrespect, abuse and violence. We want to reaffirm our commitment to support and bless marriages that are based on mutual respect, love and support. We will joyfully celebrate any such marriages between two persons under God and according to the laws of the Province of Ontario.
We want to affirm at this time what has always been true, that it is up to the whole congregation to choose those who will lead it. That includes ministers, elders and all other leaders. We will maintain our commitment to open and democratic processes for the choosing of leaders. We will also not exclude anyone from such positions merely on the basis of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Conscience and Freedom of Belief
The session wants to state this as an expression of everyone’s freedom of conscience and belief. We do recognize that not everyone in the church will see these matters in the same way. We do not want to exclude anybody because they see these matters differently. The bottom line is we want to declare that there is a place for everyone no matter who they are. We are all just trying to do our best to take the Bible, apply it to our lives and live in Christ as we share His love with the world around us.