Thinking Out Loud

March 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I think we’ll start with a shout out to all the people who gave up social networking and blogs for lent. In which case, why are you reading this?

  • We kick off with a few quotations from an interview U2′s Bono did with a Johannesburg radio station last month, along with a link to an audio file of the entire program.
  • The Rob Bell release date for Love Wins has been moved up by two weeks to March 15th, less than a week away!  Mars Hill Bible Church in Granville, Michigan has made no official comment, but on Sunday, parishioners were told that church staff are supportive and excited about the book’s release.
  • However, Jon Rising suggests that there’s a whole other controversial book releasing at HarperOne — the same day — and traces links to advance reviews of Miroslav Volf’s simply titled Allah: A Christian Response.   The publisher blurb helps define the book’s hot spots.
  • A young Christian woman tells her Christian father that she is gay. We’ve all heard stories like this, but what does that actually look like?  How does that play out exactly? John Shore takes what is, to many of us a very abstract concept, and spells out what that really looks like in many families in his fictional Smith Family Chronicles; episode one and episode two already complete with more to follow.
  • A couple of strong stories at Christian Week (three actually, and we’ll give each one its own bullet!). First a piece on how urban poverty is not a downtown thing anymore but is hitting the suburbs featuring the director of the Yonge Street Mission.  (In fact, urban downtown areas are reconsolidating into a very upscale vibe.)
  • Next, a piece about the relationship between the church and political debates sparked by Billy Graham’s statement that he regrets the times he waded in on political issues.
  • Last in our CW hat trick — and I don’t expect my U.S. readers to get the full impact of this, but here this is huge — Crossroads, Canada’s largest Christian television ministry gave InterVarsity Christian Fellowship five of its Circle Square Ranch summer camps.  No strings attached.  An outright gift from one ministry to another.  They become part of the ministry of IVCF as of the first of April.
  • I find it interesting that many of today’s younger preachers are the subject of condemnation by older ones because the younger ones don’t do expository (verse by verse) preaching.  But Andy Stanley really rose to the occasion in this series on Acts titled Big Church.
  • Okay, it’s not that Facebook is solely responsible for one in five divorces as originally reported in 2009; but it is definitely accelerating the process.
  • Spent about 40 minutes on Sunday night enjoying a mini-concert by an artist who is quite established here in Canada who needs to be shared with the rest of the world.  Check out Greg Sczebel’s website.
  • Got baggage?  Know someone who’s got baggage?  Check out this short video at GodTube.  Also at GodTube here’s a music clip from Christy Nockels from the new album Passion: Waiting Here For You.
  • Looking for some good news online?  Here’s a site with a difference: My Miracle invites readers to post stories of God’s intervention in their lives.  Maybe your story.
  • Got a question for The Pope?  He hits the Italian TV airwaves on Good Friday for a little bit of Q & A in a pre-recorded program.
  • Several months ago, this blog ran a piece on modesty for girls.  Now here’s a modesty test for your preteen or early teen daughter from Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl website.
  • If you’re reading this Wednesday morning or afternoon you can still catch our contest from Monday to win a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
  • Here’s another one from Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like featuring all your favorite types of church songleaders.
  • And speaking of same; here’s CT’s list of the Top 27 All Time Favorite… Hymns?  That’s right, all scientifically calculated using books which contain them that nobody actually uses anymore.  This could be the very last such list.  (Click the image to see the chart clearer as a .pdf)
  • Our cartoon this week recognizes that today is the first day of Lent, which every good Evangelical knows is the _____  ____s before ________.  (Betcha we caught a few off-guard.) Bad Sheep is the product of Jay Cookingham who blogs at Soulfari, You can also click the image below to check out Lambo and Chop’s merchandise.

December 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

It’s a busy week for most so I’ll keep the list short(er) this week…

  • Yes, I do list the links in order of importance, so for this week, it’s got to be a Christianity Today story in celebration of 50 years of Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
  • “Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?”   That question, included in the online, advance-publication announcement for Rob Bell’s forthcoming Love Wins, may explain why the title is with HarperOne, and not with Zondervan.
  • The Amish are causing problems for building contractors in Philadelphia where they are underbidding local companies on jobs, and then leaving town without spending any money.
  • Lots of time to answer our poll question from yesterday — Should audiences still be expected to stand for the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus?
  • A look at Brad Lomenick’s “Young Influencers List” for December led to the discovery that he’s been doing this list for a few years now, with some names you might recognize.
  • If you own a business in Dallas, Texas, you’d better not be substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” or First Baptist Church will put you on their “Naughty or Nice” list.
  • It’s minus 12 degrees Celsius, or 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Fairbanks, Alaska.  What better time for an outdoor baptism service.
  • Because of remarks made by Canadian Pastor Charles McVety, the National Post reports that Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found to be in violation of Canada’s strict “anti-hate” Canadian Broadcast Standards.
  • Cedric Miller, a New Jersey pastor “believes the forbidden fruit had a QWERTY keyboard and came with status updates.”  He’s ordered his church leaders to either quit Facebook or resign.
  • Canadian readers:  Don’t forget you have less than two weeks to help us fill our Salvation Army iKettle.  No matter where you live, donations stay with the S.A. Family Services branch closest to you.
  • Joel Spencer doesn’t blog frequently, but if you like your bloggers with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, you might enjoy his catalog of Jesus action figures for 2010.
  • Bonus link:  In the days before Weird Al, there was Ray Stevens (Guitarzan, The Streak, Bridget the Midget, etc.) filling the novelty music category.  He’s back with a commentary on U.S. immigration policy.
  • Today’s cartoon is a 2009 entry at ShoeBoxBlog, while today’s picture is none other than Shane Claiborne at the White House which appeared — National Enquirer style — at the blog OutOfUr.  BTW, you need to drop by your bookstore to actually see, touch and feel what Shane is doing with his new book, Common Prayer.

October 22, 2010

Evangelicals and Crucifixes — A Rebroadcast (!) of 10.24.09

One of the better posts from one year ago…

When I was in the sixth grade, my friend Jimmy Moss and his family moved to Morristown, New Jersey, where he later decided that his life calling was to enter the priesthood.

I have never seen Jimmy since. I doubt very much he goes by ‘Jimmy’ now. “Father Jimmy?” Okay, it’s possible.

crucifixJimmy’s family were Catholic. I know that because we had several discussions about it. Not so much Jimmy and I. Mostly my parents and I. It was considered necessary that I know a little about this particular take on Christianity should it ever come up.

Later on, I decided to check it out firsthand. Much later on. I think I was in my mid-twenties when I first attended a mass. I was working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Toronto at the time, and there was another girl in the office who also had never been to a mass, and so we both agreed that on the next weekend we would attend a mass.

I remember several things about that mass. It was the middle of summer and the sermon was short. If there was one at all. If there was, I can tell you the announcements took up more time. It seemed like we were in and out of there in about twenty minutes. In truth, it couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five.

I didn’t know where to turn in the missal to follow the order of service. Someone nearby spotted my confusion and informed me we were in “the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time,” or something like that. But they were flipping back and forth between different sections of the missal, which didn’t help.

I also remember the guy standing at the back reading a copy of the tabloid Sunday paper. I don’t think he ever looked up from the sports pages. I was later informed that “being there” was paramount. It was important to attend apparently, even if your heart wasn’t in it. Just show up.

Which would explain the guy who was wet. The way I figured it, he must have lived directly across the road from the church. He had jumped out of his backyard pool, donned the minimal amount of clothing, and joined the newspaper reader at the back of the sanctuary. He was the one dripping water droplets on the floor. Really.

I didn’t go forward to “receive the host,” i.e. take communion. But I tried my best to sing the two hymns. And I knew the words to repeat the “Our Father.” And my reflexes were quick enough not to launch into, “For Thine is the kingdom…”

Most evangelicals have never been to a mass. Nearly twenty-five years later, I would attend again. Once every quarter century. I guess that makes me a nominal Catholic.

…Anyway, I was often invited into Jimmy’s home. I remember several things about it all these years later. The first was that if I stayed for supper, Jimmy and his two brothers had to wash their hands before and after meals. That was new to me, then, but it’s a practice I’ve adopted recently since discovering the world of sauces and salad dressings. A good meal is one where I leave with sticky fingers that require a rinse.

crucifix2The second was the presence of crucifixes. I think they were spread throughout the house; but the memory may be of general religious icons; there may have only been the one at the front door.

This was a Catholic home. That was communicated to every guest, every salesman, every one of the kid’s friends. I couldn’t avert my eyes. Jesus was there on the cross, and he didn’t look happy.

We didn’t have a crucifix in our home. Crosses in my evangelical world were distinctly sans corpus, a phrase I just made up mixing French and Latin. As kids in Sunday School we were told that Catholics have crucifixes and Protestants don’t. I wonder sometimes if it would have been good if we had one.

One Christmas, the Gregg Gift Company brought out some kind of ornament for the front hall that says, “This Home Believes.” I don’t think one’s expression of belief should be reduced to a sign, or that a sign should be expected to carry the burden of verbal witness, but I often wonder if we should have something at our front door that alerts guests, salesmen and friends that “This is a Christian home;” preferably something that contains in its iconography the unmistakable message of the core of Christianity.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a crucifix.

# # #

And while we’re reblogging things from a year ago, here’s the ending to another Catholic-related post containing an analogy I’ve used several times about the migration that often occurs between Canadian Roman Catholics and Canadian Anglicans

###

Ottawa Gatineau

…For my Canadian readers, here is an analogy I’ve always found helpful. The conversion of an Anglican to, for example, Pentecostalism, might be compared to someone living in Ottawa who decides to move to Windsor. It’s all the same province, they keep their driver’s license and their health cards, but it’s a major move — around 800 km — and a complete change of both climate and culture.

The conversion of an Anglican to Catholicism could be compared to the that same person in Ottawa deciding to move to Gatineau. The moving van might only have a ten-minute drive across the river, but it’s a new province, requiring a new driver’s license and even a new way of looking at common law. Compared to moving to Windsor, it’s a cakewalk, but at a deeper level it is a much more radical change of address. Which one is the bigger move?

# # #

COMMENTS: If you see your ministry as flitting from blog to blog leaving remarks which attack or tear down another denomination — i.e. anti-Catholic rhetoric — please note those comments will not be posted here.

October 12, 2010

Police Acting as Agents of the State

To Canadians, especially those in the country’s most populous province, Ontario, the name Michael Coren is well respected.   The conservative radio talk show host also hosts a weekday television program, writes a weekly column for The Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, and is the author of several books, including a biography of C. S. Lewis.

His most recent column, published on Saturday (9/10) re-posted below, is one of many that may be found in his page at The Toronto Sun.   (The nearly 200 comments to date on this one indicate the size of his national following.)


In Ottawa [last] week, police arrested five university students for displaying a pro-life exhibition.

They were peaceful and merely expressing an opinion and showing the realities of abortion.

In Toronto at the same time, the trial began of a man arrested and charged by police for defending his store against a career criminal with a mass of convictions. The drug-dealing crook was offered a reduced sentence if he would help their case against the model citizen of a store-owner.

The inescapable conclusion is while the police in this country are supposed to be guardians of the people, they are increasingly becoming agents of the state.

That they are political, or at least obey political masters, is surely now beyond dispute. Notice how they repeatedly refused to arrest or charge violent native protesters in Caledonia, Ont., even after there was filmed evidence of some of the demonstrators attacking people and destroying property.

Such refusal to apply the law when sensitive or controversial politics is involved is now common in Canada.

Less violent but similarly illegal is the phenomenon of men taking their clothes off and strolling around downtown Toronto during the Gay Pride Parade, sometimes simulating sex acts or participating in the real thing. Those who complain have been ignored, or even threatened with arrest themselves.

What happened at Carleton University with a group of young people with a social conscience, however, is extraordinary. They were hurting, and have hurt nobody. They were not demanding special privileges or grants. They were not insulting people, not even raising their voices. What they were displaying was a visual argument that the slaughter of the unborn is akin to genocide.

If you don’t agree with them, do what social conservatives have been told to do for decades every time they complain about pornography on TV or obscene behavior. Turn away. Don’t look. Ignore it.

Odd how when more conservative individuals are offended, they’re called prudes and told to grow up or ignore what they see, yet when allegedly liberal types are upset, the result is often police intervention and hours spent in a cell.

In Colorado, at the moment, a picture of Jesus Christ taking part in an obscene sex act is on show at a gallery that receives public funding. The museum, the artist and the funding have all been defended by some of the same people who have called for the arrest of activists from the American branch of the movement that participated in the pro-life display in Ottawa.

Last weekend in Toronto, a city-wide art show, backed by hundreds of thousands of tax dollars featured, among other things, two women posing naked for more than 24 hours. Parents with children were not warned before they entered the room and some complained. They were told not to have “such closed minds.”

Actually, their minds were not closed, but their hearts were open. There is a major difference between having an open mind and an empty one, and there is something repugnant about hypocrisy, particularly when it is backed by police muscle and a legal system that prefers political fashion to the absolutes of the law.

September 20, 2010

In Canada, The Mission Field Starts at Home

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 pm

I’m kinda off schedule today and this post, and possibly tomorrow’s, are a little late appearing.

Part of this is due to a two hour conversation I had last night with the man who hired me for the only local church position I have ever held.  (All my other jobs have been with parachurch organizations, or related to Christian publishing.)  It was the first time in about two years we’ve talked; probably the longest stretch we’ve had without contact.

I have more take-aways from that call — my former boss is very knowledgeable on church-related things — than I list here, but one thing that struck me is how fragile the local church is in Canada.    A consequence of this is that because things are so tenuous here, there are very great disparities between regions, even within the same province.  And the French-language church in Quebec is a story unto itself with many different dynamics.

I’ve long known about the Canadian “Bible Belt” in Western Canada, and a mini-version of it in Western Ontario; but I didn’t know the degree of contrast between, for example, Windsor, Ontario and Oshawa, Ontario.

I didn’t realize the degree to which the church is in decline in parts of Canada while seemingly growing in other parts.  He told me a story of a church plant which mailed out 80,000 advertising pieces and failed to attract one single person to the launch service.

All this comes just days after Outreach Magazine released another one of its lists of the Top 100 Churches in the United States.   Why don’t we have a list like that here?

My former boss suggested that among people who study the church, there is really no interest because, as one U.S. scholar put it, “The church is non-existent in Canada.”    When I asked the editor of a Canadian Christian periodical about the possibility of doing a top Church list here — even a top ten list — he e-mailed back saying, essentially, “What’s the point?”

I wrote him back saying,

As I looked at the U.S. data, I realized how little I know about Canada. I’m aware of two or three mega churches here in Ontario; I know the Alliance has some large churches in Alberta; I think there’s something Hillsong-related in Winnipeg and perhaps a large Pentecostal church or two in Vancouver; but I’m realizing how totally ignorant I am about my own country.

I thought perhaps knowing who the top ten are — at least — might be interesting. I can’t begin to guess who they are; let alone name the church, city and pastor. I’ll bet most Canadians know more about NorthPoint and Willow Creek and Lifechurch than they do about… whoever they are up here.

I’d just like to counterbalance the U.S. data I’m bombarded with.

But then I get a call reminding me of the other side of the story, that there are far too many small, hurting, struggling, hanging-by-a-thread churches in Canada; and with them a lot of frustrated, discouraged, burned-out, ready-to-give-up pastors.  The rate of attrition is high and climbing.

While sending out missionaries to third world countries is important, I think Canadian Christians need to be aware of the needs here at home.   It’s so easy to get swept up in U.S. Evangelical culture and just assume that we’re an extension of that.

We’re only, at best, very distantly related.

This link to a story on the new Top 100 list points out that there are actually more “gigachurches” (i.e. over 10,000 in attendance) in the U.S. than the survey reports, because some churches don’t want to be part of the annual study.    One explanation:  “Some churches don’t want to negatively affect other churches.”

For statistical information on Canadian churches, consider checking out the Churchmap Canada pages at Outreach Canada.

June 23, 2010

Wednesday Link Link

Got a blog post that deserves more attention?   Use the contact page to submit the item you want the world to read.   We promise you at least three or four extra readers!!!

  • Blogger Dennis Muse notes the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Youth With a Mission, aka YWAM.  (Canada’s Brian Stiller once called YWAM, “The Evangelical Community’s best kept secret.”)
  • Cornerstone Television’s home page notes the loss of Ron Hembree.   Although I can’t get their signal, I paid tribute to their quality programming in this blog in March of 2008.
  • USAToday Religion notes the number of pastors in bi-vocational ministry adding fresh meaning to the phrase, “Keep your day job.”
  • A Christian bookstore in Helsinki holds an event where you can trade porn for Bibles.  (And the concept isn’t copyrighted!  You can do this, too.)
  • Justin Taylor gives me a chance to be introduced to the music of Trip Lee; I can enjoy hip-hop more when I can read the lyrics such as on Justin’s blog post and audio of this song, “The Invasion (Hero)“.
  • Jason Boyett reposts a proposal that the thing that’s really missing from your local Christian bookstore is Christian cosmetics.
  • The family that owns the chain of Hobby Lobby stores, according to the New York Times, wants to build a major Bible museum possibly in Dallas.
  • Encouraging Youth Dept.:  The blogger otherwise known as No Bull Noble, offers three apologetics videos on YouTube.
  • Tim Challies runs some analysis on the four available answer options to, “Why Does The Universe Look So Old?”
  • Part two of Matthew Warner’s “10 Types of Blog Comments” is about how to respond.  So once again, here’s part one, and here’s part two.  Which type of blog reader are you?
  • A 5-page CT special report looks at mission in light of technology, with an interview with Al Erisman.
  • Bonus link to Ethix: Business|Technology|Ethics – the online magazine (now in its 70th issue) which Erisman co-founded and edits.
  • New Blog of the Week:  As you know I admire transparency, and here is a blog proudly authored by someone dealing with clinical depression.  Check out ThePrayGround.
  • You’ll have to bookmark this one and return on Friday (25th) but this week’s Drew Marshall Show (19th) was quite a mix with folksinger Dan Hill, Fred Phelps estranged son Nate Phelps (discussed on this blog here and mentioned here) and Hoops for Hope’s teenage founder Austin Gutwein (discussed at my industry blog a few weeks ago.)  So once again you want this link starting mid-day Friday.  (Some people in other parts of the world get up at something like 3 AM Sunday to catch the live stream of the show at 1 PM EST Saturday in North America.)
  • How does a person convicted on child pornography charges, and not permitted to be anywhere there are children, exercise their right to go to church?  Apparently with some help from an unlikely source: the state’s Civil Liberties Union.
  • Macleans Magazine (Canada’s equivalent to Newsweek or Time) interviews Dr. Leonard Sax on the “empty world of teenage girls.”
  • Our cartoonist this week is fellow-Alltop-member Mark Anderson at andertoons.com.  He does a number of family-oriented items; here’s one that hopefully doesn’t take you too long…
  • Okay, Mark’s too good for just a single panel.   Here’s another one I really liked:

June 11, 2010

Canada’s Largest City Shutting Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:57 am

I don’t stray from my blog focus often — this may even be a first — but some of you know I live about an hour outside Toronto and you’ve heard reports about the coming G8 and G20 conference of world leaders, and I thought I’d give you an impression of how things look a little closer to the action.    (There will also be a regular blog post later today.)

Toronto is preparing to become a city under siege.   More than a billion dollars is being spent on placing the city in lockdown when the leaders of the twenty largest industrialized countries arrive here at the end of June.   But that doesn’t tell the story of at least another billion being lost by businesses located inside the security perimeter.

A lot of money to spend on what is, at best, a giant photo-op.

Furthermore, the delegations from the various countries won’t get to see Toronto as they’ve seen it in travel brochures or even on Google-images.   What they will see is kilometres (or miles) of concrete barriers and wire fences.   Not to mention sidewalks devoid of actual human beings.   Perhaps the visitors will assume the people have all gone underground as though some giant air raid warning is in progress.

What was Canada thinking?

The original plan was to hold the G20 where the G8 is happening the day before, in Huntsville, Ontario, a quiet scenic town in the heart of what we call “cottage country.”  (U.S. readers, think “cabin country.”)   Instead it’s being held in what is:

  • Canada’s largest city
  • Canada’s commercial center
  • Canada’s sports/entertainment center

An entire Major League Baseball series has been rescheduled as away games instead of home games.    All manner of businesses and tourist attractions are being shut down, some of which are shuttering as early as June 18th.   Security passes are needed to enter the “red zone,” and as the day approaches we’re told everything from

  • cell phone calls will be jammed,
  • overhead air traffic will be restricted,

to

  • you will not be able to fly a kite.

Despite this, they still aren’t sure who it was who recently purchased a massive quantity of fertilizer; enough to make an explosive comparative to what happened at the Morrow Building in Oklahoma City.    They just know there was some falsification of identification.    Ooops!

But organizers of the event say the Canadian government’s security efforts are “over the top.”    The spending on this could really cripple the image of the federal Conservative party and Prime Minister in the days to come.

I’ll update this again in another week.   In the meanwhile, if you’re searching online and you want the local perspective, try The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The National Post or The Toronto Sun.   (That’s right, while other cities’ newspapers are now mothballed, Toronto still supports four of them.)

I’d write more, but I need to go fly my kite while it’s still legal.

May 28, 2010

Why Am I Still Here?

Though I had already been notified, a thought occured to me while I was reading yesterday about the death of Rhonda Glenn, who had worked in broadcasting previously as Rhonda London.

Rhonda enjoyed a successful broadcasting career in Ontario, Canada when she decided to join CTS, a family-friendly Christian television station affiliated with Crossroads, the organization that produces Canada’s daily Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street. She was given her own afternoon talk show, but later decided to leave broadcasting altogether to persue a career in law.   She would have been called to the bar in just a few weeks.

She had married an Anglican minister and they had a son.   The next chapter of life was just beginning when she was diagnosed with brain cancer which ended her life just weeks after diagnosis.   Pray for her son and husband and family.

But I had this thought later on, that probably many of you have in times like this, “Why her and not me?”   Or, “Why am I still here?”

I think much of this has to do with the phrase often used in situations like this, “God took her.”   Years ago, my wife attended the funeral of a young girl who died several days after a brain seizure.    There was a poem read or sung that said something to the effect that ‘God must have needed another angel in heaven.’   It was perhaps comforting imagery, but not entirely sound theology.

I think the “Why am I still here?” question is directly related to the way in which we use words.

I took a course in university on the Philosophy of Language.   It was a seminar format, what I would call a 7-11 course (a minimum of seven people sitting around a table, eleven people if everyone showed up.)  The professor sat almost at a corner of the table and I sat in the corner at the opposite end.   There was something comfortable about that environment, and when people thought I was taking copious notes, I was actually writing songs.   But I enjoyed the readings, interjected ideas into the discussion, and somehow ended up with a B+.

Anyway, the point of the course was that our ideas and concepts are shaped by the way our given languages identify or reference those ideas and concepts.    So when we use a phrase like “God took her,” we’re loading the phrase with kinds of assumptions about the nature of God and His involvement in our day-to-day affairs.

Furthermore, since it often seems like some of the best and brightest die, as we might say, before their time, it then leaves us wondering why God would choose to take them.   This was the question someone asked me just hours after we heard the news of Keith Green‘s death:  Why him and not one of the lesser Christian musicians?   That question contains the twist of implying that somewhere that day a Christian singer or songwriter was destined to die, and it was just a coin toss as to which one.    (Fortunately, because people say things in moments like this that we shouldn’t judge, we have the liberty of excusing questions like this which are not more thoroughly considered.)

I don’t know what Rhonda might have accomplished in her family, church-life or new carreer.   My guess is: probably a lot.  I just know that I am still here, and while I think my life pales in comparison to all that she did accomplish, it’s up to me to try to make the most of the day for God’s glory.

You’re reading this, so you have been given another day, too; what are you going to do with it?

May 20, 2010

EFC Claims Victory in Christian Horizons Case

I recognize that today’s post won’t be as significant to my largely U.S. readership, but it has major repercussions here in Canada, so I hope you’ll permit me this domestic story.    For context, the EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is our version of the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) which sometimes also fulfills the role taken on in the U.S. by the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) lobbying in Canada’s capital on behalf of Christian ideals.

Over two years ago on this blog, I reported on a complaint filed by Connie Heintz, a former employee of Christian Horizons, a Christian organization which operates group homes for developmentally challenged adults.   The big picture issue was the requirement by CH that employees live up to a lifestyle clause with certain moral or behavioral guidelines.   The complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), a group with a reputation for never losing; so this was a David vs. Goliath type of battle.

But it was also a battle with large scale implications for Christian (and by extension various other religious groups’) organizations of all stripes, not to mention churches.   The OHRT argued that on the basis of the variety of people being served and on the basis of the government funding received by Christian Horizons. (Read the editorial that is part of the above link, which comprises the second two-thirds of the blog post.)

Wednesday, we received this announcement in an e-mail from EFC, which you can also read online:

OTTAWA – In December 2009, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) appeared before the Superior Court of Ontario, Divisional Court, in the landmark religious freedom case, Heintz v. Christian Horizons. The court, which heard an appeal of the decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), released its decision late Friday afternoon.

Christian Horizons, a faith-based ministry, employs over 2,500 people to provide housing, care and support to over 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals, and has done so for more than 40 years. This Christian ministry, which requires its employees to sign a Statement of Faith and a Lifestyle and Morality Policy, was the subject of a human rights complaint when a staff member resigned after she felt she could no longer live according to the commitment she made when she signed the policy.

In the decision being appealed, the OHRT had ruled that Christian Horizon’s efforts were not the ministry of a religious community but rather social work and that it, as well as other faith-based bodies serving public needs on a non-discriminatory basis, could no longer require that employees share their religious beliefs and resulting service commitment. The Divisional Court ruled differently and reversed much of the OHRT’s decision.

“This is significant victory for faith-based charities across Canada. While they must clarify certain governing documents and review certain employment policies, they may largely continue to require employee compliance with both statements of faith and lifestyle and morality policies,” said Don Hutchinson, the EFC’s Vice-President and General Legal Counsel.

“We’re relieved to see the court found that the exemption provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code which permits certain charities, including religious charities, to selectively hire employees who share the same beliefs makes no private/public distinction. This means that Christian charities may continue to serve non co-religionists in society all while maintaining their internal religious ethos and integrity,” continued Hutchinson. “I’m relieved that the court recognized that the exemption exists to guarantee the right to free association in this way. This was of serious concern as the OHRT had found otherwise.”

“Of course, we are also disappointed that the Court found it reasonable for the OHRT to have concluded that Christian Horizons did not meet an objective test for a bona fide occupational requirement for Ms. Heintz’s job, but the Court was instructive as to how that situation may be corrected.”

“What does this mean for Christian charities across Canada? Well, it means that it’s time again for them to clarify their statements of faith, lifestyle policies and job descriptions for all employees in order to clearly demonstrate how compliance with both statement of faith and codes of conduct are necessary for and related to job duties.”

This case is huge here, and while Christian Horizons didn’t have the resources to fight this on their own, there was simply too much at stake here for Canadian Christian charities, hence the involvement of EFC.

UPDATE:  Here’s a different perspective on the recent decision from an editorial in Canada’s national newspaper, The National Post.

ALSO: “…But the gay rights group EGALE, which was an intervenor in the court case, also said this week’s ruling was a victory. Lawyer Cynthia Petersen said the ruling would make it hard for religious charities to prove that a person’s sexual orientation or beliefs would get in the way of their duties.”  That quotation is from an article in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

FURTHER UPDATE (5.21.10) Here’s a summary of the decision posted on a blog operated by CFPL, the Centre for Faith and Public Life, a division of EFC.

May 16, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two of my favorite pastors together in the same service!

Bruxy Cavey

Today we drove to Oakville, Ontario where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House — Canada’s largest and fastest growing church movement –  welcomed Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.    It was the sixth and final week of a series on the New Testament message of pacifism.

Early in the message Boyd stated — and Bruxy, not knowing this, repeated it to me in a conversation between services — that of all that megachurches in North America, he only knows of two that are taking the time to highlight what The Meeting House and Woodland Hills see as a prominent them in scripture.

What neither said, but what is implicit in the comment, is that most North American churches subscribe to what is generally called “Just War” theory; or perhaps “Just War” theology.

Bruxy devoted week five to considering the objections people have to this, those “But What About…?” questions that led him to call the message “But What About? Sunday.”   He often records an appendix to the sermons called “The Drive Home” and in this instance the supplement was actually longer than the sermon itself.    You can find the series online by going to The Meeting House and clicking on “Teaching” and then clicking on the series “Inglorious Pastors.”  (Yeah, they really called it that.)   You’ll see the “Drive Home” messages available there as well for listening live or downloading.

Greg Boyd

Boyd was in excellent form, and didn’t seem to miss a beat — or lack any energy — moving from the platform to handling individual questions  between the three services.   The audio portion of this morning’s teaching is also already uploaded, and a quick scan of the nearly two decades of sermons archived at the Woodland Hills site may help you find messages where he’s covered this back at home.

I got to shake Boyd’s hand tell him I was one of his “podrishioners,” his term for people who are part of the church’s vast podcast family.   Then I added — since Bruxy was standing nearby — that I was also one of Bruxy’s “podrishioners” as well.

I wish both of them well in proclaiming this aspect of Jesus’ teachings that is relatively absent from our churches; it’s gotta feel like swimming upstream sometimes.

…For my local readers, after leaving TMH, we drove across almost the entire stretch of Dundas Street, cutting through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Toronto, considered one of the world’s most diverse cities.   We ended up at Gerrard and Coxwell in an area specializing in Indian and Pakistani food, making somewhat random choices from a menu we didn’t fully comprehend and enjoying it all not knowing exactly what it all was.

Starting on Friday (5/21) you can catch a one-hour radio interview with Boyd and Cavey broadcast on Saturday (5/15)  on the Drew Marshall Show.

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