Category Archives: Current Events

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

Faith Today writer shares what it’s like to have a sister in the Olympics

By Julie Fitz-Gerald

For three days straight, my computer was my lifeline to one of the most important events my family has experienced. A lifetime of dedication, faith, perseverance and training led my sister, Jessica Phoenix, to the Rio Olympics – her second Olympic Games and another roller coaster of emotion for our family cheering from home.

Julie Fitz-Gerald shares what it was like to cheer on her Olympian sister.
Julie Fitz-Gerald shares what it was like to cheer on her Olympian sister.

Jessie has competed in the equestrian sport of eventing since she was 11 years old. It’s the triathlon of equestrian sport, where horse and rider contest dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping over three days. On cross-country day the element of danger runs high as horse and rider gallop across acres of fields jumping solid obstacles that make my blood run cold – think five-foot ditches, formidable banks and large drops into water. Crossing the finish line is a feat in itself, with a third of the contingent usually falling off or retiring on course. As her sister,  the number one thing on my mind is Jessie’s safety.
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What we might not know about the Amazon

By Kevin McKay

The Amazon basin, also known as the Green Window, is the hidden home to thousands of indigenous tribes and communities.  The people there live in what could be deemed primitive conditions and extreme levels of poverty, often struggling for survival.

pi-canada-marcio-garcia-interacts-with-local-villagerThe Green Window has also become home to riverside communities of Portuguese-speaking peoples living in similar conditions to the hidden indigenous tribes. Though they share the same obstacles to development, these Brazilian communities are often marginalized and have become vulnerable because they are not recognized and protected by the government.

Indigenous tribes do not self identify as Brazilians. They are usually hostile to outsiders and have their own unique culture and way of life. In recent years they have faced great risk from exposure to the darker elements of modern society. Drugs, alcohol and various other vices have reached these communities. The Brazilian government has wisely recognized the need to protect their culture and has developed certain rights and protections allowing local tribes a slightly better opportunity to avoid exploitation.
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