Response to the Study, Body, Mind and Soul, from St. Andrew’s Hespeler Presbyterian Church (Presbytery of Waterloo-Wellington
After leading a Study of "Body, Mind and Soul" within my congregation, I asked the participants what sort of feedback they wanted to give to the Justice and Church Doctrine Committees They asked me to send a summary of our discussions and observations into those committees. I have done that. Since we did not hold an additional meeting to share the report together, I just want to post it here so that the members of the group can read it.
A group of members of St. Andrew’s Hespeler Presbyterian Church met together in five sessions from January 13th to February 3rd to discuss the study produced by the Justice and Church Doctrines committees. The committee has authorized me to summarize our reflections and thoughts and send them back to the committees to include in their deliberations.
The first thing that I would note is that our discussions were very interesting and engaging. The discussions were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
We did not agree about what course the church ought to take in regards to the place of LGBT people among us. There were people who strongly felt that we should not change our present positions in any significant way. There were people who strongly felt that it was time to make a change. Those positions did not change in the course of our discussions; that was not what this process was about as we understood it. Nevertheless I think most of us would say that we’ve learned things through the process and came to appreciate a great deal more about the positions that people take and what they are based on.
We want to let the committee’s know that we will be praying for them as they attend to prepare reports for the coming General Assembly and continue to guide the church in other ways. We recognize that they have a very difficult task in front of them.
As we can hardly say that we agree on what the best course of action might be, it is hard for us to give the committees any concrete advice or direction, but we would say the following:
- We hope that the church can find a way to continue moving forward together despite the diversity of opinion on this and some other issues. There is a richness in such diversity and we would hate to lose that.
- We would encourage the committees to take their time and do the best job that they can in this process. We recognize that there is a sense of urgency for many people to settle this one way or the other and get on with things, but we, in our little group anyways, felt okay for now living in a dialog.
- Despite having some strong disagreements on what course the church ought to take, here are a few things that we, perhaps surprisingly, found ourselves agreeing on:
o The present positions of the Presbyterian Church in Canada are not necessarily coherent. The various decisions that the church has made don’t necessarily follow a consistent logic. This is certainly not very helpful.
o We agree that none of us has any desire to simply conform to what society and culture around us believe. We all agree that the church needs to take important stands and not simply fall into line with what the culture is saying. The fact that we all agree about this, however, certainly doesn’t mean that we agree about what the place of LGBT people should be in the church.
o We agree that leaders in the church should be excellent examples morally and ethically. For some that is the main reason why they would exclude practicing LGBT people from such positions. Others don’t have a problem with that. It is a little bit difficult for some of us to understand the positions that the others take on this one.
o We all agree that sexual morality is very important and that the church has very important things to say to society on the subject.
o We all agree that we would like to channel of the energy of the church and helping people to develop and maintain mutually helpful and nourishing relationships that are marked by respect.