Category Archives: Current Events

Faith Today is going to Uganda

This week, one of Faith Today‘s senior editors, Karen Stiller, is flying to Uganda to visit refugee camps that are welcoming the seemingly never-ending flow of ordinary women, men and children fleeing the seemingly never-ending conflict in South Sudan.

“This is one of my favourite shots from the South Sudan trip five years ago,” says Stiller. “It reminds me that kids are kids no matter what, and joy happens, even when your life has been turned inside out.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an EFC affiliate, is there in the camp providing clean water, health care, improved sanitation and other programs, including a trauma healing program for the people who have lived through more than we can imagine.

It was roughly five years ago that we visited camps in South Sudan for the story “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country.” That situation was bad enough; internally displaced South Sudanese making their way to, and their homes in, the rough, temporary camps within their own country.  Back then, the world was still optimistic about South Sudan’s opportunity to build something new. But the conflict in recent months has just grown worse, and so has the possibility of a severe famine. Families are fleeing and they often end up in northern Uganda– a country that borders their young, struggling nation and receives the largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the world.

The team travelling to Uganda, which includes two or three other journalists, will visit two refugee settlements, as well as maternal/newborn health projects and a rehabilitation program that helps women and their children out of a life of prostitution.

“Today I’m packing my small bag for a week of what is usually pretty rough travel, but an incredible privilege to travel to spots like these and try to understand what people who are just like you and me are going through,” says Stiller. “When I visited South Sudan in 2012, I was also struck by the presence of Canadian workers in the camps and the incredible work they were doing. I’ll look for more of those stories as well, even as we focus on the most important story: the lives of the South Sudanese and how they are struggling to survive and flourish under such unimaginable pressure.”

We hope that Karen will be able to post blogs or photos from the field, but we know internet capability is not predictable in these circumstances. Watch for updates!

Faith Today is happy to be recognized as an excellent source of Christian journalism in Canada. By subscribing to Faith Today, you help keep journalism like ours healthy and ready to tell important stories like the ones you will read in recent months about the people being helped and the work being done in one of the world’s most troubled areas by a Canadian Christian organization. We tell the stories other people don’t tell, and ask the questions other people aren’t asking. Join us

The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

Movie Review by Bruce Soderholm

It was pretty much inevitable that a version of The Shack, the bestselling novel by Canadian-born author William Paul Young, would find its way to the big screen.

Any book boasting worldwide sales numbering close to 20 million has, in the lingo of the publishing and film industry, a huge platform – a large base of people likely to want to see the film. That said, the motivation to bring this project to screen is much less about its money-earning capacity than the passion of its supporters. The fruit of that labour debuts this weekend in theatres across North America.

What follows is a review of the film intended to assess its merits as a film and not, as much as possible, to be an assessment of its theology or its utility as an outreach tool.

Continue reading The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

How a Canadian church can easily stay in the good books of the CRA

Faith Today dove into the question of “what if?” a church loses their charitable status in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine. John Pellowe is chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and is interviewed in that story. We asked him to go even deeper on this subject, and share what churches most commonly do wrong, and how they can get it right.

By John Pellowe

It is always an unfortunate and disruptive event when a charity has its registered status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Fortunately, the situations which result in revocation are virtually always avoidable.

Faith Today asks why churches might lose their charitable status, and what they can do about it in our latest issue.

Some stats

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) statistics show that in any given year about 500 to 700 charities will have their registered status revoked for “failure to file” their T3010. Most commonly, this is caused when charities don’t file, even when reminded by CRA reminders to do so. Less commonly, revocation is due to an incomplete filing that is not fixed as requested by CRA. A much smaller number of revocations, several hundred in number, happen for other reasons, including failing a CRA audit. Preventing these situations requires a bit of diligence on a charity’s leadership’s part, but staying compliant isn’t hard.

#1 prevention tip

To avoid the main revocation issue, boards should set a standard item on the agenda of a board meeting about four months after fiscal year end to approve the T3010 for submission to CRA. Board approval is not required, but this is one way to ensure that the T3010 is not overlooked. If it isn’t ready, there will still be enough time to complete and submit it. It must be in CRA’s hands by six months after the charity’s year end.
Continue reading How a Canadian church can easily stay in the good books of the CRA

Christians and mental health: we should be good at helping others

By Beth Hiemstra

When I had a routine 18-week ultrasound for my second child, I was not prepared to hear that she had a serious genetic anomaly, and that her life expectancy would be short, if she survived birth.  One of the things that sustained me through the grief and stress that followed was the love of God shown through His people.

Ann Voskamp’s interview is in the Jan/Feb Faith Today.

Friends and our church family were there for us. The comfort of knowing that I was not alone and that I was loved, helped me cope during those difficult weeks and months. Some of the hardest times were the “words of comfort” by those who told me this was all for the best or that God told them my child would live.

From what I experienced, I learned how to show love through being present, by receiving love and support from God’s people. When I’m with friends who are experiencing anxiety or depression, I try to remember these lessons. At times, I slip into problem-solving mode, and that’s almost never helpful.

January 25  is Bell Let’s Talk day, a day to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues.
Continue reading Christians and mental health: we should be good at helping others

Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

By Stephen J. Bedard

Tom Harpur was one of the most popular Canadian religion writers over the last half-century. He died recently at the age of 87, after many decades of writing about religion in Canada.

Not many Canadians have had such a major public platform to speak to religious issues: Harpur was the religion editor for the Toronto Star for 12 years, wrote a column on ethics and spirituality for over 30 years, and perhaps had his greatest influence through the 22 books he published.

Tom Harpur was a Canadian Christian author whose views were often controversial with Evangelicals.

In many ways he was a reflection of Canada’s changing religious culture.

Harpur was born in 1929 to an evangelical family. He described his father as a “fundamentalist street preacher.” Harpur’s family of origin instilled an interest in religion, but there was also a reaction to the conservative nature of his family.

Harpur studied at both Oxford University in England and Wycliffe College in Toronto. After graduating he served as an Anglican priest at St. Margaret’s-in-the-Pines, West Hill, Ont. (1957-1964). After concluding his pastoral ministry, he taught New Testament at Wycliffe College in Toronto (1964-1971). Wycliffe is an evangelical seminary within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Continue reading Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student

Ins Choi is a Wycliffe College graduate and the creator behind the hit CBC show Kim’s Convenience.

Ins Choi (IC) is an actor and a playwright, who has been called “Canadian Theatre’s breakout star.” His award-winning play “Kim’s Convenience” has been adapted for television and is a new hit for CBC.

But in the halls of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, Choi is remembered in part for his creative take on reading assignments for his theology classes. Choi graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from  Wycliffe, an evangelical Anglican theological college affiliated with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Wycliffe’s magazine Insight interviewed Choi recently about what a theological education meant to his development as an artist.

Here at the Faith Today blog, we thought it would be fun to reprint the interview with the creative mind behind the television show that many Canadians are loving.

You come from a long line of pastors. Is that where Wycliffe enters the story? Were you going to be a pastor as well?

IC: My father’s older brother was a pastor, his youngest sister, my grandfather, five cousins are pastors. It’s a pretty pastoral family. 

I wrote a play called “Subway stations of the Cross.” In that play, which is really more of a spoken word piece, with song, I talk about what made me, me. And in that story is this back and forth relationship with pastoral ministry –  a call to be a pastor professionally and at the same time my call to be an artist, to be a writer, a performer, an actor. It’s a long story and it’s the content of that show. I struggled with both. After I went to York for acting I went to Wycliffe, I began an MDIV but I transferred out of it and ended up with an MTS. I did this while being a children’s pastor at a church for about five or six years. I was at Wycliffe for about four years, semi-part time as I was trying to juggle an acting schedule and trying to get gigs at the same time.

Did studying theology make you a better artist?

IC: It made me a better writer. That was a discipline I didn’t have, the craft of writing. I was never that academic in high school, but being at Wycliffe I was forced to read a lot, and try to be clearer about what I read, and what my thoughts were about what I read. It was that scholarly activity, which is reading and reflection and trying to be precise with words.
Continue reading Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student

What does it mean to be the Church in exile?

By Rachel Baarda

(Watch for more on this topic in the Jan/Feb Faith Today!)

Less than a week before the U.S. presidential election, the presidents of EFC affiliate institutions met in Mississauga for the annual Presidents Day gathering. One of the speakers was Dr. Lee Beach, author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom (Intervarsity Press, 2015). He asked, “As believers, how do we maintain our cultural identity in exile?” In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, this topic seems more timely than ever.untitled

Beach said that today, Canadian Christians live in a place where our story is no longer known. More surprisingly, we’re losing sight of our identity as confessing Christians. A friend of Beach’s young son saw a nativity scene, and he asked what it was. Beach contrasted this with his own childhood biblical knowledge: even before becoming a Christian, he knew some Bible stories, such as Jonah and the whale.

With so few Canadians knowing the Christian story, we are starting to lose sense of who we are. Beach drew on the example of the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. They, too, faced challenges preserving their identities in exile:

  • The Babylonians were celebrating Marduk’s victory over Yahweh. The Israelites had to decide whether they believed that Yahweh would actually be with them.
  • The Israelites had to rediscover their identity in the midst of exile.
  • They had to rediscover a community distinctively opposed to the ways of the other nation.

Beach pointed out that in an era when faith is increasingly privatized, it’s harder to be encouraged in our faith. Christian faith is seen as antagonistic to our culture, so we have to find pathways through the marginalization of our own beliefs.
Continue reading What does it mean to be the Church in exile?

Reginald Bibby on Canada’s Catholics: The World is Coming To Canada

By Reginald W. Bibby

Charting religious trends in Canada over the past 50 years has been a fascinating experience. Like the announcer who is calling the game from the booth, I have watched a wide range of church leaders down on the field bask in the heady numerical glory days of the late 1960s, only to become less buoyant as the numbers started dropping in the 70s.

From the 1980s onward, it became clear that the Christian church was starting to lose badly. By the end of the century, Mainline Protestants had conceded defeat, while evangelical leaders were determined to at least have prevailing churches, score a few runs and keep things at least somewhat respectable. But the game was clearly out of reach.

Sociologist Reginald W. Bibby shares latest religious statistics in most recent book.
Sociologist Reginald W. Bibby shares latest religious statistics in most recent book.

Looking back, all of us were pretty myopic. We thought that as Canada went, so went religion in Canada. So it was that we took our religious trends lead from what was happening in the Mainline Protestant domain – the United, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches. To the extent that evangelical groups were showing occasional signs of life, those of us in the booth saw such singles and walks as anomalies in need of explanations. Putting things in perspective, we looked to the secularization tide that allegedly had swept Europe, and conceded that our time had come.
Continue reading Reginald Bibby on Canada’s Catholics: The World is Coming To Canada

The pitfalls of endorsing candidates for public office: In light of the U.S. Presidential race, a Canadian Christian leader reflects

“The Church is better able to fulfil its prophetic role at arm’s length.” In light of the U.S. Presidential race, EFC President Bruce Clemenger reflects on the difference between calling for justice and remaining non-partisan.

The debate over whether evangelical leaders should endorse Donald Trump became more intense with the release of a 2005 video containing comments by the U.S. presidential nominee about making sexual advances toward married women and kissing and groping women without consent.

EFC President Bruce Clemenger: "Perhaps in part it is also a Canadian thing – politicians don’t wear their religion on their sleeve, and churches should not wear their partisan preferences on theirs."
EFC President Bruce Clemenger: “Perhaps in part it is also a Canadian thing – politicians don’t wear their religion on their sleeve, and churches should not wear their partisan preferences on theirs.”

This revelation led one prominent evangelical ethicist, Wayne Grudem, to change his mind about endorsing Trump, and Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch wrote a strong editorial denouncing Trump and challenging those Evangelicals who support his candidacy. Others, such as Jerry Falwell Jr. have maintained their support. Media outlets are pursuing others who had publicly supported Trump to see whether the events of the last few weeks have changed their minds.

Would such a situation ever happen in Canada? It is unlikely.
Continue reading The pitfalls of endorsing candidates for public office: In light of the U.S. Presidential race, a Canadian Christian leader reflects

Your online guide to Church Responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report

Where can you find, all in one place, the major responses from Christian organizations to the December 2015 final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history of residential schools for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples?

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Here’s an attempt at collecting such a list.  For readers interested in digging deeper or organizing a study group, two especially good resources to start with are the Mennonite resource Wrongs to Rights (free samples online) and the spring 2016 issue of the Baptist periodical Mosaic (view complete issue free online).

You’ll notice many church responses refer to Action 48. The TRC final report included a list of 94 calls to action, and number 48 specifically calls “faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.” Continue reading Your online guide to Church Responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report