Category Archives: Editors Extra

Confessions of a tech addict

by Karen Stiller

Before I had my own iPhone, I judged harshly those pathetic, addicted people who always had their phones on, and on them. Always scrolling, fingers dashing from one app to another, sometimes barely looking up.

Check out our article on digital addiction and ancient disciplines in the current issue of Faith Today.

Then, of course, I quickly became one of them. My phone is almost always on and almost always on me. Our landline is a thing of the past, so, I can convince myself my phone in my pocket or my palm is necessary. How else would my kids find me on those rare instances when they still need me? More truthfully, how would I find them? What if something happens to my parents? How else will I know that my sister has made even more beet jelly, if not from Facebook? How on earth would I wake up in the morning if not for my phone alarm?

The reasons go on and on, but the truth is, I’m likely addicted to the pings and the alerts, the likes and the tags, all the amusements and the distractions. A lot of us are. And it takes a toll.

“We are not meant to live global lives,” says Rick Hiemstra. He’s director of research and media relations for the EFC, Faith Today‘s publisher, and he is one of the reasons we have such a challenging article in the Nov/Dec Faith Today, “Modern Devices and Ancient Disciplines.”

Like a lot of us, Rick is concerned about the impact of our devices on our souls and our lives and our time and our relationships. He sends us editors articles every now and then, and reads books on this topic. He suggested we do this article and we are glad we did.

Rick is also researching youth and their place in the Church, and he keeps bumping up against the digital world, and how deeply entrenched in it our youth are, and how this impacts them. By global lives, he means, of course, a life lived on the world’s stage for all to see, photographing and projecting all our edited moves for other people to like, or devastatingly, to not like, or maybe even worse, to ignore. And to be so connected to so many people that years ago we would have said farewell to and maybe run into them at some awkward high school reunion years later! Now we get to see and compare and feel better or worse on a daily basis if we want.

It’s a new world we are in, and the ancient spiritual disciplines might help us find ourselves again.

So, give this article a read, and then use that phone of yours to let us know what you think. Then set it down for a while and maybe go for a walk? That’s what I’m going to try to do.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Have you not started your Christmas shopping either? Check out this subscription deal/gift idea.

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

Why giving Faith Today for Christmas is such a great idea

by Karen Stiller

Last night I ordered a very unusual and cute thing online for my sister for Christmas. I can’t say any more, Miriam might read this. But it did remind me how convenient it can be to shop online, and how fun it is to give meaningful, unique gifts to show our love.

You can do that with Faith Today this year with our two-for-one subscription deal. Here’s why giving a subscription to Faith Today to two people on your gift list (or one to yourself and one to a friend for a total of $29.99), is such a great idea.

We like that you read it. We love when you subscribe to it. www.faithtoday.ca
  • Faith Today fills a unique place in the world of Canadian journalism so that is increasingly rare and important. We cover stories other people don’t. We ask questions other people won’t.
  • Your friend will have an ongoing source of challenging essays on the spiritual life, news about issues of interest to Canadian Christians, interviews with Canadian leaders and change-makers and inspiring ideas for their own lives and the shared life of their congregation.
  • Your friend will be able to read things like reviews of the latest Canadian Christian literature and see the beautiful art created by faith-based artists in our popular Canadian Creatives department.
  • The faith of your friend will be encouraged as they read about the vital and creative work being done by congregations of many denominations across Canada. The Church is relevant, and your friend will be reminded how and why, and be encouraged.
  • It’s easy to order and an inexpensive and beautiful gift that builds up the Church and supports excellent Christian journalism in Canada.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the articles and topics your friend (and you!) will be able to read in the new year:

Thoughtful and practical essays on reconciliation to help us move further along on this journey. How small churches in Canada can increase their impact and value the unique contribution they are able to make in their communities. Why you never retire from your calling. Why and how we switch from one Christian tradition to another so easily.

Join the Faith Today family today, in one easy step, and share the blessing of Canada’s Christian magazine with people you care about.

 

Read it. Enjoy it. And subscribe to it too!

The Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today is finding its way to you, if you subscribe. And hopefully you do! This issue includes an interview with Christian broadcaster and Crossroads CEO Lorna Dueck who tackles that very issue head on – Why should we bother to subscribe or donate to the production of Christian TV, magazines or books? Especially when so much is available for free online.

We like that you read it. We love when you subscribe to it. www.faithtoday.ca

Lorna was quick with a thoughtful answer. “Just like we’ve built leadership for our churches, we need to build up leadership for media. You have scores of young people going off to study journalism. We need places for them to serve. Faithful Christians subsidize Christian media in Canada.”

No one would ever argue, “We don’t need to worry about building up future Christian leaders. We can just recruit anyone with any kind of secular education, and they can learn on the job.” We all know the years of learning, mentoring and spiritual formation that go into developing future pastors and urban missionaries. We all sacrifice to ensure our seminaries and other ministry training programs continue. We love it when a young adult comes to minister in our community, and we invest in them as best we can.

We know our future leaders need godly communities where they can practise, develop their skills and learn to integrate their faith and work. Let’s not overlook the truth that Christian media ministries are also those kinds of places.

It’s never been simply about paying for what we consume. It’s about supporting institutions – or in fact teams of Christian communicators– that help sustain our shared Christian values into the future and help connect the Canadian Church.

Supporting Christian TV, magazines, authors and other creative producers ensures we have healthy material to feed our souls, rather than assuming we’ll always be able to find something worthwhile in whatever the mainstream media happens to produce based on whatever values are commercially profitable at the moment.

Christian journalism from our own country is especially valuable. We tell stories others don’t. We ask questions others won’t.

As you enjoy the next issue of Faith Today magazine and celebrate Advent and Christmas, and look ahead to the new year, we ask for your prayers and other support for our work on your behalf. As we remember to care for our pastors, let’s also care for our local Christian journalists, editors, broadcasters and artists as well. After all, we’re all on the same team, serving the same Lord, seeking to advance His Kingdom. May it come soon.

It’s “us too” for Christian women, even in the Church

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I went to the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing.

There, we met another Canadian writer, an older Christian man whom I had met before. I introduced him to my friend and told him some of her impressive writing credentials. I should note, my friend is also a very attractive woman. Our fellow writer clearly noticed that too. Instead of asking about her many professional accomplishments I had just listed off,  he puzzled out loud about what TV star she looked like, even inviting other men sitting nearby to join in the guessing.

Ridiculous. Was this sexual harassment? Probably not. But it was demeaning and stupid.

I know women — friends of mine who live and move and have their being in church world — who  who have had their behinds touched by Bishops, had faith leaders kiss them on the mouth uninvited, been told how beautiful they were in a weird way by their brothers in the faith, and had their personal space invaded by hugging that felt inappropriate and was uninvited.

I just took a stroll through the EFC Ottawa office to conduct an informal survey about the “me too” phenomenon. You won’t be surprised to hear my small sampling resulted in a 100% yes.

In our next issue of Faith Today, we have a very interesting story that looks at the safety of young women on Christian campuses. I will give you a sneak peek and assure you that studies show those Christian spaces are generally safer and have less incidence of sexual assault.

That’s as it should be.

It would be profoundly disturbing to think that a strong Christian faith and organizational culture does not make any kind of difference when it comes to sexual assault and unwanted attention paid to either gender. But it would be naive to think it always guarantees a harassment-free zone.

The experiences of countless Christian women I know, and the stories that come pouring out when the door to conversation is opened on this topic, provide a sobering testimony to the presence of this kind of sexual sin/bad behaviour in the Church.

Of all people, we can do better.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today

 

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

Is God a Figment of our Imagination? The debate is coming…

So far, it is Alister McGrath: 2, Michael Shermer: 1. That’s not actually a score, it’s my book tally as I prepare to moderate a September 15th “Is God a Figment of our Imagination?”debate at the University of Toronto.

In the last month, I’ve read McGrath’s Inventing the Universe and The Passionate Intellect, and I  finished The Believing Brain by Shermer. Now I’m reading Shermer’s The Moral Arc. And it’s a very big book.

Join us in person if you are in Toronto, or live stream anywhere around the world.

What have I learned so far? That my book tally will be the only real score kept surrounding this event. Both of these authors and thinkers are leaders in their field. And they are both very respectful of those with whom they disagree. I think this will be less of a debate and more of a deep dialogue.

As I picture Convocation Hall filling up on that night, and groups around the world live-streaming the evening and then launching into discussions, I think that everyone – whether Christian, a person of another faith, or a person with no faith at all – will be challenged. I know we will all learn something new and have to rethink something old. I have already just through my reading.

It is such a privilege we have in our society to disagree openly, to debate loudly, to interact and exchange ideas with those with whom we share the most important and fundamental beliefs about ourselves and the universe, and with those with whom we do not. So, come to this event if you live in the area. Or live-stream it with a rowdy group of friends. Engage in this conversation.
Continue reading Is God a Figment of our Imagination? The debate is coming…

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

What we read this summer

Usually summer reading lists appear at the start of the season, but this year we asked EFC staff (The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the publisher of Faith Today), what they have already read this summer. So far. In no particular order, here is what we’ve been reading these past six weeks or so.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, Jeff Chu
Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught About Men and Women in the Church, Alice Mathews
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series, Michael Scott
(re)union: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints and Sinners,  Bruxy Cavey
Jesus and Nonviolence: a Third Way,  Walter Wink
A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve,  by Mother Teresa, editor Brian Kolodiejchuck
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
The Narnia Chronicles, by C.S. Lewis
Jubilee, by Margaret Walker
My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,  by Ari Shavit
Love Giving Well: the Pilgrimage of Philanthropy, by Mark Petersen
Planted, by Leah Kostomo
The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
War, by Sebastian Junger
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett

And of course, we are all reading Faith Today. If you  haven’t subscribed yet, do it today so you won’t miss a single story. Do you know about our risk-free trial subscription offer?

 

The passing of a great one: Haddon Robinson influenced many Canadian preachers

Years ago, I sat in a small room at the old campus of Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto and interviewed Haddon Robinson, who died last week. The scholar most recently from Gordon Conwell Seminary, known far and wide as one of the greatest living preachers, was in Toronto to speak at Tyndale’s President’s Dinner. I had already met Haddon because my husband was enrolled in a DMin program, with  Haddon as his supervisor. The one moment I remember clearly from the interview was Haddon growling, in his distinctive New York accent, that when he reads theology that is dense and incomprehensible, he just wants to “throw it against the wall.” That’s because he was a master of communication, and that’s what he expected from his students.

Like many, many Canadian preachers and church leaders over the years, Brent made a yearly trek to Boston to study under one of the greats. I would hazard to guess that this unassuming American preacher from a hardscrabble childhood influenced more Canadian preachers over the years than one could easily count. The Canadians in the program tended to drift toward each other, and that was no different in my husband’s group. Toronto church planter and writer Darryl Dash became a friend. I asked him, on behalf of the Canadian preachers who studied under Haddon, to share some thoughts.

Here’s Darryl:

I first met Haddon when I was assigned the task of driving him back to the airport in Toronto. His full name: Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, renowned professor of preaching, named one of “The 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World” by Baylor University.
Continue reading The passing of a great one: Haddon Robinson influenced many Canadian preachers