Category Archives: Current Events

Six things I wish I had learned in medical school

By Laura Lewis, MD

I wish I had learned…

That science can only describe the magnificence of life, not explain it. Despite learning about oocytes, spermatozoa, cell division and embryology, I failed to appreciate the complex blueprint of life, established in the early moments of conception.

During the course of her work as a frontline medical doctor, she saw the need for education, support and practical options for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. In May of 2016, Dr. Lewis accepted the position of executive director of CAPSS.

That in the name of “choice” many women have no choice regarding their unplanned pregnancy.
I never appreciated that the scared, young woman sitting across from me in my doctor’s office also carried the fear and pressure of many others whose lives would be impacted by her decision. This fear is often laden with pressure, subtle and overt.

That many men and women live with great regret about their children lost to abortion.
As I began to work with our local pregnancy care centre, stories of deep and hidden sorrow began to emerge from post-abortive women and men. It made me question whether we have done an adequate job providing real choices. I know the answer without hesitation – we have not. True choice is when accurate information is provided on all options. True choice is made from a place of knowledge and confidence, not fear.

That despite our ability to treat a diseased heart, we have no cure for a broken one. 
We cannot fix a broken heart, but we should do all that we can to try and prevent it. I wish all women, men and families facing an unplanned pregnancy could hear the cries of regret from those who have walked before them. The physical, mental and emotional effects of abortion matter, whether it is 1% or 100% of patients affected.

That a microscope, while magnifying an image, can actually dull our focus.
A chromosome count cannot measure value. Prenatal testing cannot predict love or the impact and purpose of a life.

That when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, we often fail our patients. That is my word for it, failure. Our patients come to us for guidance, education and unbiased help during the chaos of an unplanned pregnancy. Yet, in our society and in medical circles, abortion provision, accessibility and availability are given a greater platform and emphasis than supportive alternatives such as adoption and pregnancy care support.

It is my hope there will be a change, in our society and in the medical profession. It is time for a new response to those facing an unplanned pregnancy, one where we look beyond the scientific process and we enter into a new conversation, one where all life is valued and protected.

Dr. Laura Lewis is a family physician and executive director of CAPSS (Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services). CAPSS is dedicated to establishing, equipping and encouraging local pregnancy care centres across Canada. Read Faith Today‘s recent Question & Answer interview with Dr. Lewis.

If you are faith-based group sponsoring refugees, you are doing them a great service

Privately-sponsored refugees are more likely than government-sponsored refugees to have Canadian friends for the long haul. That was one of the insights presented about immigration and refugees at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” conference, held recently in Ottawa.

If you are part of a faith group sponsoring refugees, this will ring true for you, as private sponsors are normally very involved, at least in the beginning months, of a newcomer’s settlement experience into Canada. Driving someone to the dentist, going grocery shopping with them and helping their kids adjust to a new school are all potential ingredients for a life-long bond. Plus, you care.

“Faith and Settlement Partnership: Setting Immigrants and Canada Up for Success” was the name of one workshop offered at the conference. A panel presented some of the initial findings of a multi-partner research project (of the same name as the workshop) going on now in Canada by the Centre for Community-Based Research.

The research is tackling three main questions:

  • To what extent are faith/settlement partnerships viewed positively?
  • What types of partnerships presently exist and how could they be improved?
  • How can effective partnerships be better facilitated?

Initial results show that faith groups tend to work better with short term focused projects. They are very effective at mobilizing for immediate action. Sometimes faith groups give out inaccurate information to newcomers, and settlement agencies have to clear things up when needed.

The research is showing that there needs to be more collaboration between government and faith groups, in order for faith groups to be more integrated in the world of sponsoring refugees in Canada, and for the sake of the refugee. Trust is key. A recurring theme to the research into partnerships between faith based groups and settlement agencies was the need to be friends, and nurture that relationship. And collaboration is key to responding to service gaps. Faith based services and organizations should be part of the settlement supports offered newcomers, suggest the research. Faith helps people overcome challenges and find meaning in difficulties. Faith is significant for the integration of newcomers, so clergy and faith based groups can and should be part of the settlement process. Settlement brings a lot of stressors, faith can be used to mitigate many of them.

The researchers feel there is energy and excitement around the prospect of a closer partnership. And incase you wondered, Mississauga, Ont.,  is the third most attractive city (after Montreal and Toronto) for recent immigrants born in Syria.

And, not surprisingly, less bureaucratic red tape would help everyone.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Read about the experience of some churches settling refugees in Canada for the first time. Subscribe today

Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Last week the March for Life wound its way through downtown Ottawa. Thousands of people filled the streets carrying pro-life signs and banners. As I thought about the issue of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on the two situations involving abortions I have been closely involved with in my life.

One was a friend years and years ago, when we were barely out of our teens, the other was more recently with another young woman. In both situations, but particularly the most recent one now that I’ve had children of my own and know more about the issue, I worked hard to try to present alternatives to abortion. Ultimately, I failed. I arranged a meeting between the young woman and a crisis pregnancy centre worker in my living room. I met with her myself whenever she’d let me, trying to listen and to gently persuade her to walk the path of courage and sacrifice and yes, what seemed to her to be the more difficult path, — and not have the abortion.

In the end, though, she did.
Continue reading Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

I knew that I knew her from somewhere. The woman at the end of my row in a workshop at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” in Ottawa was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

I caught a glimpse at her name tag and did a quick google. I discovered we shared one Facebook friend, and that was an old elementary school friend of mine, who was later my university roommate.

I realized with a jolt of surprise that this woman was the mother of my old friend. It had been at least 28 years since I had seen her, and now here we were at a conference dedicated to thinking about the role of religion in our country.

After I introduced myself, we exclaimed and embraced, and I thought how interesting it was to be at a faith-based-and-centered conference with my friend’s mother, who I had always known as the “Mormon Mother.” They were the family who didn’t drink tea and were very mysterious and somewhat exotic, with a host of other rules and practices that back then I did not understand, or even try to, quite honestly.  Back then,  I just knew that my friend came from a very religious family, and that we were different. I never, ever would have thought I would someday find myself at the same conference with her family.

But all of the faiths present at this conference, and there are several, share concerns about the topics being addressed at the conference, which include religious freedom, solidarity in diversity, reconciliation, and immigration and refugees. We are here together.
Continue reading Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

“Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

By Taylor Hyatt

For many frustrated pro-life advocates, 2017 got off to a great start. The movement received some unexpected attention when the network of Women’s Marches took the world by storm.

Thousands will gather on Parliament Hill on May 11. Taylor Hyatt will be one of them.

In particular, the Washington protest ignited a fierce debate after its organizers denied the pro-life group New Wave Feminists an official sponsorship role. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the American March for Life a few days later. Friends were asking me what I thought of it all…and forgetting that the only March about which I can say anything of substance is held in Ottawa!
Continue reading “Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

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