Category Archives: Current Events

Why not, Canada? Learning how to create Disciple-Making Movements

Carol and Murray Moerman

By Murray Moerman

My colleague Trevor Larsen (not his real name) has seen thousands of people come to Christ in a movement doubling every 18 months for the last 10 years – in a cultural environment more resistant to the gospel than post-Christian Canada. The principles are simple and applicable anywhere.

I first heard of Trevor as part of my work with the Global Church Planting Network, and I’m thrilled that he is coming to speak and train at Missions Fest Vancouver this month (and at two local churches in the following days, as you can see below).

We Canadian Christians can learn a lot from people like Trevor. Don’t we often feel the cultural gap between the church and those they seek to reach in the name of Christ? Many Christians sense themselves to be at the margins of society.

At the same time we often hear stories from Africa and Asia reporting effective disciple-making on a comparatively large scale.

Why not in Canada?

A variety of Canadian groups are asking this question also and experimenting with various responses. Here are some examples, many from here in British Columbia, that we should all know about.
Continue reading Why not, Canada? Learning how to create Disciple-Making Movements

Reconciliation resources

Our Jan/Feb 2018 issue includes major articles on reconciliation by Cheryl Bear, Mark Buchanan and Wendy Peterson. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it (www.FaithToday.ca/Subscriptions)

Are you looking for ways to work towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians? Here’s the start of a Faith Today list of resources, compiled in conjunction with our special package of reconciliation articles in our Jan/Feb 2018 issue. Not all are Christian in orientation, but all are certainly thought-provoking. To suggest additional resources or corrections for this list, email us at editor@faithtoday.ca.

150 Acts of Reconciliation, a list of suggestions for everyday reconciliation put together by two University of Alberta researchers

Anglican Journal Archives include many tagged “residential schools” as well as a section of webpages called “Residential Schools Histories”

Canada’s Residential Schools uses Google Earth Voyager and materials from Canadian Geographic to explain why the schools were built, what attending was like for Indigenous children, the aftereffects and how residential school survivors are working to move forward

Church Responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, a Faith Today blog post from 2016.

Circles for Reconciliation, led by Raymond Currie of Winnipeg, offers a good list of practical resources

CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre, a collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University, has published excellent curriculum materials on Indigenous-Settler Relations

Indigenous Reconciliation Group, led by Rose LeMay of Ottawa, offers a good list of practical resources

Reconciliation Canada has produced a variety of resources including a 2017 survey report on The Canadian Reconciliation Landscape and a series of Community Action Tool-kits

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada links to nine major Educational Resources and 11 on Reconciliation, including many church apologies

 

Taking time for the cheeseball

Yesterday I whipped up a cheeseball — for when else do you have a cheeseball but at Christmas? — and we invited our neighbours and a few friends over for an impromptu gathering. We sang Christmas carols, quite badly for the most part, as it turned out, but that just added to the fun (we hope).

The thing is, it is so easy at Christmas to do all the things you feel you have to do, and not very much of the things you actually want to do. A lot of us, and I think particularly the mothers and wives among us, can become almost obsessed with creating a magical Christmas for everyone else, and we end up exhausted and disappointed at our own inability to achieve this.

Relax and breathe this Christmas.

It’s so silly when you think of it. His burden is light, remember? And it has nothing to do with the crazy way we often celebrate His birth.

Our family is always tweaking our Christmas, trying to fit in special family times amidst the busy schedule of a clergy household this time of year. Most people I speak to try to slow things down and simplify them almost every Christmas. Here are a few tiny steps we have taken  (and we’re not experts at this, that is for sure):

  1. Simplify gift-giving. We save up all year in a special account named “gifts” and out of that we purchase fewer but better gifts for our three almost adult children. There were years I would really fret over the gifts for other people, trying to make them perfect. I’ve discovered people don’t actually care that much. It’s all okay.
  2. We practice hospitality. Or we try to. This is not always out of an altruistic sense, but because we like to have fun with our friends, and singing together and eating cheese is part of that. You have to make those things happen.
  3. We volunteer at a Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day. This has been the single most important act that has transformed our Christmas celebrations. For us it has not been about the “feel good” of serving others, it’s been about being with others. There’s been something very healing about being with other Christ-followers on Christmas Day. Then we go home and have special and fun family time.

Here at Faith Today, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas. We hope you can slow down. We hope you can take time to read something beautiful. We wish for you moments of quiet and moments of community.

(And we would be remiss if we did not remind you of our two-for-one gift subscription deal that means you don’t have to go to the mall again, and someone on your list will receive Canada’s Christian magazine all year long).

Advent is a robust and demanding spiritual season

By Steve Bell

He came with love to Bethlehem; He comes with grace into our souls; He will come with justice at the end of the world. —Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalene

Advent simply means to come, (Latin: advenire, from ad-‘to’ venire-‘come’) and it is the forty-day liturgical season Christians have traditionally set aside to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, experienced as a season of attentive waiting. Of course, as with all waiting comes the inevitable agony of anticipation; so much so, that we are inclined to want to do something to make the waiting itself bearable and meaningful.

In this regard, Advent is an active season of mindful preparation as well.

Singer Songwriter Steve Bell helps us consider the spiritual rigour of Advent.

When a young couple discovers they are expecting a child, it is not enough for them to simply wait out the nine months and hope for the best. There will be necessary preparation. Perhaps they will clear out a spare room to create a nursery. Tough decisions will be made about what stays and what has to go. They will collect and purchase appropriate furnishings. They will seek advice. They will endlessly brood over a name; about the kind of birth-experience they hope for; about the joy, fears, and future of this new reality. And the preparation will not be meaningless because it’s about getting ready to fully receive the gift of the child who is coming.

So when we consider the Christian season of Advent, what is the content of our waiting? How are we to prepare? What makes this time more than just a season to endure before the fun starts? How do we ready our lives to receive the gift of Christ fully, and do so with meaning—with the deepest joy and reverential awe that we suspect ought to accompany such an astonishing event?
Continue reading Advent is a robust and demanding spiritual season

Today at the Supreme Court of Canada

There is a “Caution! Risk of falling ice and snow” sign outside the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, even though we’re not quite there yet in terms of pending danger. Any snow that has fallen hasn’t stayed for long, and there are no sharp icicles ready to fall from the roof of this beautiful, impressive building in the Nation’s capital, yet.

Today, at the Supreme Court of Canada. TWU appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada in its religious freedom case.

But, on the other side of those heavy wooden doors the media stand and wait and overflow observers sit on folding chairs outside of a packed court room and in side rooms. Head pieces are handed out by court staff for translation and to better hear the proceedings projected over the large screen TVs set up for this purpose. Trinity Western students cheerily handed out hot chocolate this morning to attendees, in a show of youth and good will.

It is inside that main, packed courtroom where the real action is happening today and tomorrow. These are Trinity Western University (TWU) days at the Supreme Court, where the Christian university is appealing the legal challenges that have been put in its way to opening a law school.

At the heart of this case is the place of religion in public life in Canada. Can regulatory bodies refuse to accredit or recognize Christian or other religious institutions that meet all other required standards? Is it discrimination for TWU to require students — who could attend any number of other law schools of their choice — to sign a community covenant that restricts their personal behaviour?

An overflow crowd watches the proceedings at the Supreme Court of Canada today. Canadians are watching and care deeply about the outcome of this case.

Much is at stake: The accreditation and recognition of religious institutions in Canada; the freedom of religious institutions (churches, schools, camps, missions, etc.) to maintain their religious character and purposes; the future of professional training programs run by Christian institutions.

First up today was Trinity Western and the various law societies. Next up are the interveners who care about the outcome of the case, including the EFC. If you are praying, please continue to do so.

Faith Today has covered the TWU case extensively in the past (e.g., Jul/Aug 2016) and there is lots of information on the EFC website

A prayer for South Sudan. A prayer for all of us.

By Dorothy de Vuyst

As my flight began its decent into Juba, South Sudan, and I once again saw the vast, dry, desolate land below me, my heart ached.  “God, help this land,” I prayed.  “Intervene in a way only You can. Bring peace and healing to this country that so needs You.”

I was travelling to South Sudan to visit a couple of humanitarian aid programs Samaritan’s Purse was implementing in the country.  This was not my first trip to what still remains the world’s newest country, which only a year and half into its independence from Sudan, erupted into a bloody, tribal conflict in December 2013.

South Sudanese women who are refugees in Uganda sort out their food allotment. You can read a story about the remarkable, difficult work happening in Uganda in the Sep/Oct Faith Today.

Now, four years later, the country which at one time had so much hope, was on the brink of imploding.  Four million South Sudanese people are displaced, with over two million of those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, most of those in Uganda.  Millions more lack sufficient food with the recent harvest doing little to ease the hunger so many faced.  Tropical disease and cholera outbreaks continue to claim lives.

As disturbing as those statistics are, perhaps the most heartbreaking are the stories of violence.  Women and young girls raped and beaten.  Young children forced to carry weapons and kill.  Villages pillaged and burnt because they belong to a different tribe.  Infants being drowned as their mothers hold them under water for fear of being seen by the enemy seeking to kill them.  Such anguish, injustice, and brokenness that at times is so overwhelming.

Earlier in the year I had visited the refugee settlements in Uganda, a country that had opened their doors to over a million South Sudanese refugees.  As I sat with women who shared their stories of trauma and loss, I desperately wanted justice and even revenge. I thought of the political leaders in South Sudan whose self-serving agendas have made life so difficult and painful for so many people. The hatred and anger of militant groups that rape and pillage innocent women and turn children into killers.

But as I reflected further I realized that being close to suffering and death and injustice doesn’t just reveal the brokenness of others, it also exposes my own brokenness.  My own need for mercy because of choices I have made, the people I have hurt.

This is the world that Jesus came into.  This is the world for which Jesus had so much compassion.  This is the brokenness that broke the heart of God. And not only the brokenness I see in countries like South Sudan and Uganda. Jesus has compassion on my brokenness as well. And knowing that in turn allows me to extend grace and compassion.

So I continue to pray.  I pray for a stop to the conflict.  I pray for courage and resiliency for those suffering.  I pray for tenacity in the midst of this fragile and complicated country.

But most of all I pray for God’s healing touch in the hearts and minds of this beautiful nation; that they will experience His mercy and forgiveness.  Because only when that happens will this country begin to see genuine and lasting change.

Dorothy de Vuyst is the Regional Director, Africa, for Samaritan’s Purse Canada. The Sep/Oct Faith Today has a story about this refugee crisis. 

The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

by Sheila Wray-Gregoire

Yesterday I was Skyping with Ashley Easter, who is doing great work helping survivors of abuse within the church, and promoting healing. And we were talking about how being married to someone with a porn addiction can give a wife PTSD, and can be abusive, in and of itself, especially if he’s dehumanizing her and asking her to act out things that he sees. He’s not treating her like a person; he’s treating her like an object. That’s what abuse does, too. They have that in common. They say: You are a body to use.

So I’d just like to write today about some of the thoughts that have been running through my head about the recently deceased Hugh Hefner’s influence on our society.

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is an author and speaker. In this blog she considers the awful legacy left by Hugh Hefner, and the impact of pornography use.

When I was about 8, my best friend Christine showed me a stack of Playboys in her shed that her dad had stashed there. I’m thankful that we didn’t look too hard at them, but I know she and her older brother looked at them a bunch.
Continue reading The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

Alex Newman, the writer of the Sep/Oct Faith Today’s story on helping children after a divorce, takes us behind the scenes of her own story and her research.

by Alex Newman

I’m an eternal optimist. After the initial alarm over the bad stats on kids of divorce, I decided to look at the percentage of kids who did well. What happened to make them thrive and overcome the odds? It’s something I’ve discussed with my friend Esme Fuller Thompson, a social work professor whose research is precisely in this area. Although I’d done a ton of reading already, she was especially helpful in directing me to studies I would never have come across, like the Israeli one that shows when a mom and the paternal grandparents stay close, the kids do better.

Read “Stability is the Key” in the latest Faith Today.

It’s all that research that is so challenging in writing a story like this, because it becomes almost impossible to condense it all into one article. I did my best but I’m afraid it only scratched the surface. Below all those studies are real people and real people can react in different ways and require different handling. So while there are some fundamental and foundational guidelines for helping your kids, there’s a lot of latitude depending on the child, the parents, the siblings, and so on.
Continue reading Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

That beautiful debate

It is a beautiful thing to have a debate about God and faith, right in the heart of the University of Toronto campus. That’s what happened just this past Friday night.

The topic of the debate was “Is God a figment of our imagination?” and the guests were Dr. Alister McGrath (the renowned Christian and prolific author) and Dr. Michael Shermer (the renowned atheist/skeptic and very popular author).

Dr. Alister McGrath and Dr. Michael Shermer at the “Is God a figment of our imagination?” debate, moderated by Faith Today’s Karen Stiller.

Faith Today was one of the sponsors of the debate, and I was the moderator, although I preferred the word “host,” and made sure I used it in the introduction. Words matter, after all. So, when I use the word “beautiful,”  here, I don’t mean what was actually said, but the fact that it was said at all. The dialogue was at times challenging, sometimes funny, at other moments frustrating. The guests were sometimes locked into each other’s points, sharing their insights, a smooth back and forth contrasting of ideas as befits two authors of their stature. At other moments, they talked past each other, which happens.

If you came into the debate a Christian, or even just a theist, I’d guess you left the same. If you entered Convocation Hall or tuned into the livestream as an atheist, you likely still think that way. Such is the nature of debates.

So, how was it beautiful?

In church yesterday, in that sacred space, with crying babies and communion, preaching and prayers, faith is nourished and nourishing. That matters. But in the debate arena, faith is stretched and challenged and survives. Yes, faith is strong enough to be debated. It is intellectual and rigorous. It is not a crutch. It has legs. And our atheist friends want to talk. They have good questions. There are good answers. They make good points and we should be bold enough to youtube and livestream how we respond to them for all the world to hear.

I like that Faith Today is a sponsor of the Religion and Society Series. I applaud Wycliffe College, the evangelical Anglican seminary on campus who started the whole thing and does the majority of the heavy lifting. I feel a solidarity with the other sponsors of the event, both Christian and non-Christian. These are people who aren’t afraid to talk, with no guarantee how it will all turn out. I really like that.

This is what Wycliffe says about the series: “The Religion and Society Series seeks to generate critical conversations on matters of faith, society and public interest. The purpose of the series is to play a catalytic role in helping shape discourse around topics that deeply matter to individuals and society.”

And that kind of talking really is beautiful.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. You can watch Religion and Society Series events online

It’s worth all the dirty laundry

Seven or so loads later, and the stinky, dusty dirty clothing and sleeping bags from a summer at camp have been laundered and folded. I was going to add “and put away” but a glance at my son’s bedroom floor tells me that is not the case, and maybe never will be.

All three of our kids (21, 18 and 17) spent the majority of their summer at a Christian camp, the same one they attended as campers during most of their childhood. This year they were all working there in various capacities: as an assistant camp director, as a section head, and as a chalet leader that included working with special needs or “inclusion campers.”

When our kids  were campers themselves, camp was a highlight of their year. It was fun. It built their faith and it resulted in great, strong, year-round friendships with other Christian youth.

We are grateful that we listened to the advice of a Christian leader years ago who told us to send our kids to camp even if we couldn’t afford it. That’s right. We went into debt to do it every single year. I’m not saying that’s what everyone should do, of course. But for us it was “good debt.” In fact, it was great debt. We knew it was an investment into our kid’s lives, and it has produced more valuable treasure than any other investment we have made, of that I am certain.

I can see the treasures in them now as they are stretched as leaders, while still receiving a level of spiritual support and challenge that I don’t think they would receive elsewhere. At camp, they have been loved and learned to love. They have been led and learned to lead.
Continue reading It’s worth all the dirty laundry