Don’t let it get you down

I’ve had more than a month to process this year’s General Assembly (GA). While each annual gathering of commissioners representing every presbytery from coast to coast to coast is unique in that never do we get exactly the same people each time, it’s still a fairly accurate cross-section of our denomination. I think of it as a vast potluck, where we are guaranteed of a variety of cheesy soufflés, a crock pot of meat balls, a few leafy salads, something sweet and sour and a surprise or two. In human terms, we run the gamut, from liberal to conservative, traditional to contemporary, casual to formal.

I love the moments at GA when we can genuinely bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit, enjoy the wonder of cultural and behavioural diversity, hear new voices, make new acquaintances and put faces to recognizable names. I look forward to seeing who will be at GA in the same way that I would eagerly open the morning newspaper to see what journalistic delights were produced the previous day.

And yet, those moments of joy were scarce during GA 2018.

Not that we didn’t try to see the roses among the weeds. A small group of us began each morning in Spirit-fueled prayer, gathered in a residence meeting room. It would last an hour. That was our foundation for each day as we prayed earnestly for the Holy Spirit to surround the assembly hall with protection from the enemy, a spiritual battle in which we pray for the spiritual armour described in Ephesians 6, while mindful that “we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” (Ephesians 6:12 GNT). “God’s will be done at GA,” we prayed early and often.

In the assembly hall, we heard words uttered by those who must have held a wildly different theological view. The particular issue being discussed was just a symptom of a deeper malaise. It was the attachment to human causes and the consequential detachment from holiness that opened my eyes.

More than once I asked myself, “Why don’t these people get it?” Can’t they see that they are marching to a cause of social justice at the expense of the Kingdom? Can’t they see that the sacrificial Lamb of Christ is nowhere to be found in their thinking? Don’t they recognize the lack of fruit? Why are they so blind?

All it takes is one encounter – whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or in a discussion group – with someone of a liberal theological view to realize that they’re thinking the same things about us and asking the same questions. Those who have abandoned the traditional beliefs of reformed theology feel they are as right as those of us who identify as apostolic, orthodox, evangelical and theologically conservative. It is a divide which is unbridgeable.

Now into all this goes a committee of former moderators to study the deep division over the appropriate and godly response to those who are same-sex attracted. Lord, be with them.

For months in advance of GA, Renewal Fellowship and our prayer partners at Dunamis and PSALT prayed for protection from those dark forces described in Ephesians and many other places in Scripture. Some at General Assembly didn’t get it and thought we were waging a war using our own devices. What don’t they understand about the difference between spiritual and physical? Why don’t these people get it?

Despite the potluck of diversity that I usually find so tasty and enlivening at large gatherings, I felt profoundly sad. I remain sad because I know that nothing that I can say or do will cause eyes to be opened. I’m sad because the enemy has occupied strongholds in our church.

I know that my sadness is, in a way, sinful. It’s a sign of my lack of faith. After all, getting down about what the enemy has done and is doing is only to be drawn into the same miasma, a quicksand of despair. “Don’t let the you-know-whats get you down,” I was told by a wise man some years ago. And he wasn’t even a believer.

Let us choose wisely from the potluck and accept that the diversity of choice is a condition of humankind. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4 NKJV). For the promise of the Kingdom awaits. And until that day, we rest on the Lord, we seek His face, we submit our lives to Him, reverently and with complete and enduring trust.

And until the day that the special committee of past moderators submits its report, we pray. We are called to pray regularly, daily, without ceasing, that God’s will be done, and that this unique gathering of leaders will have the wherewithal and boldness to humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from any self-seeking ways so that we, as a denomination, may be forgiven and our land be healed.

Shelter and Strength – Pray for General Assembly

Aboard the Queen Of Cowichan – As I approach the bow on the outside deck, I am struck by a gale-force wind. I brace myself against the wall and reach out for the railing.

The furious wind seemed to come out of nowhere, but that’s life on the open water of the Strait of Georgia.

I am enroute from West Vancouver to Nanaimo, midway through my first road trip as Executive Director. I am being graciously hosted and greeted by many believers. It’s an opportunity to bring the Renewal message of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to three congregations, several General Assembly commissioners and whoever else the Holy Spirit places in my path.

When you’re on a watercraft of any kind, you are at the mercy of God’s natural forces. We’ve all been faced with the kind of wind that bowls you over. Had I not crouched low and held on to the rail, I would have been flattened. I held on to my glasses. Any hat would have been lost at sea.

I didn’t remain long at the bow, but I wanted to remain outside as it was a sunny day. I circled the upper deck, looking for refuge. After a few minutes I found it – a bench at the open end of a shelter, which enabled me to bask in the sun while feeling very little wind. It was a remarkable contrast to the brutal breeze just a few metres away.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, the psalmist writes.

After sunning for as long as I could, I went back inside. How many able-bodied people didn’t even bother to venture outside, sitting instead in comfy chairs and at sturdy tables. Some didn’t even leave their vehicles. Sad.

The experience recalled a conversation I’d had the previous day. I left my zone of comfort and met with someone whose theology was markedly different. Yes, he was a follower of Christ and we probably had 90 per cent of our faith in common. Funny how that 10 per cent can drive wedges between us. Yet the meeting was informative and thought-provoking. I left inspired and richer.

My West Coast trip was nine days, with a different roof over my head each night. I had significant conversations with 36 people and brief meetings with probably a dozen more, plus the lively folks at a Victoria B&B. Most of them were strangers at first; they are now acquaintances or even friends.

This is all foreshadowing of General Assembly, June 3-7, where 229 commissioners will be sitting around tables, listening, thinking, voting, and praying. Many will be out of their comfort zones: politics will rear its head, in natural opposition to spiritual forces. Motions from the floor, amendments upon amendments, tabling and rulings from the Moderator with the inevitable challenges. You can run below deck and hide, or you can find shelter.

We need to pray for General Assembly. Pray that God’s holy and perfect will is done. Not our will, not our selfish desires. Pray that Moderator-Designate Daniel Cho will be submitted enough to the Holy Spirit that he will preside and rule in a godly manner.

Pray for godly recommendations to be approved. Pray for ungodly recommendations to fail.

The Book of Reports is available online. I haven’t read the entire thing as yet, but there is some good stuff in the report of the majority on the Committee on Church Doctrine, which is recommending that we maintain our current definition of marriage. Good news indeed.

Pray that we emerge from General Assembly a step closer to a church that reflects the Body of Christ. Pray that we will be able to withstand the winds of change which threaten to bowl us over. Pray that we will remain attached to our firm foundation.

2018 Conference – Thriving in Babylon

More than 100 Presbyterians and friends from coast to coast filled a sanctuary at Vaughan Community Church, Thornhill, Ontario, on April 20-21 for Thriving in Babylon, two days of encouragement and challenge for the Christ-centred, Bible-believing church.


PowerPoint slides of the presentations, several accompanied by audio recordings to be listened to in conjunction with the slides, may be found within the text below.

When the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they found themselves spiritually and morally challenged in a land in rebellion against God and His truth. Similarly, Christians in this uncertain period of a post-truth Canada feel increasingly isolated from culture and their community. Hence the name of the event: Thriving in Babylon. The purpose was to explore the opportunities evangelical Canadian Christians have in our present-day context and how we can thrive within it.

This spring conference took place on Friday and Saturday, April 20-21, 2018, at Vaughan Community Church, Thornhill, Ontario. It was held in co-operation with The Renewal Fellowship Within The Presbyterian Church in Canada. It was a celebration of the evangelical church in Canada, with speakers, discussion, sharing, and fellowship. This event was open to people from all churches and denominations.

Conference Speakers

The theme on Friday, April 20, was Christian Living in a Secular World

  • Bruce Clemenger – President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada – Freedom and Faith in Canada – the challenges of freedom of religion in the Canadian context and the benefits of networking as evangelicals. PowerPoint slides
  • Rev. Dr. Warwick Cooper – Peoples’s Church – Evangelicals and the LGBTQ Relationship – insights into the improving relationships between evangelicals and the LGBTQ community. PowerPoint slidesResource List
  • Lee Beach, McMaster Divinity College professor and author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom, set the scene, directing us toward hope.
  • Gary Stagg, Open Doors Canada executive director, spoke about what we can learn about the experience of Christian oppression in other parts of the world. PowerPoint slides with presentation notes
  • Carmen Laberge, radio host, author, and president of the Presbyterian Laymen (PCUSA) spoke on how we can bring God back into the conversation within the mainline church.
  • Dr. William Webb – Christian professor and author of Christian Ethics and Canada Today – insight into the ethical challenges facing Christians in Canada today. PowerPoint slides
  • Rev. Wes Chang – Chair, Toronto Chinese Evangelical Ministerial Fellowship – The Experience of New Canadians in Babylon – the largest segment of growth in the Canadian Church in a secular Canada. PowerPoint slides

The theme on Saturday, April 21, was Good News for These Times. The audio recordings are best listened to with headphones or good speakers.

Renewal Fellowship: One Pastor’s Story

I’m not going to lie, but awhile ago I was struggling whether I need to keep my membership in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. It has been heart-aching to hear and see what’s been happening in my denomination for the last few years over the topic of sexuality. Also, thinking about my future possible ministry, which may take a very different look than all the traditional models the PCC is familiar with, I wasn’t sure if the PCC would provide me the freedom and blessing to the ministry and things I may like to do. I thought it may be easier if I look elsewhere or do something as nondenominational. Yes, I did look into other denominations and see what options they can offer to me and there were some who actively pursued me.

Then, there was a prayer, as usual. My wife and I really wanted to discern this one evening. We prayed, asking God what I should do. Then, the next morning, as usual, to do my QT (or daily devotion), I sat down with my coffee and opened up my Bible. I was reading through 1 Corinthians at the time and that morning’s reading happen to be Chapter 7 verses 17 through 24. One key verse was “In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God” (verse 24).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidence. I only believe in God’s timing. One of my favorite stories is Esther, and in chapter 6, the king, because he couldn’t sleep, ordered to bring the book of records to be read to him. The reading happened to be on how Mordecai happened to save the king’s life from assassination attempt. Now, do you think it was simply a coincidence? I mean, this was so timely because Haman was plotting to destroy Mordecai and the Jews and Esther and Mordecai and the Jews were fasting and praying for God’s intervention. The Bible does not explicitly spells out for us, but anyone can see there is God’s hand behind this.

Now, furthermore, I began to become connected to the group called “Renewal Fellowship within the Presbyterian Church in Canada,” (renewal-fellowship.ca) which I wasn’t aware of until its Executive Director, Rev. Andrew Cornell, contacted me and eventually invited me to consider joining its board. That morning, when I read 1 Corinthians 7, I saw the hand of God behind it, and I decided to be obedient to Him.

So, I’m happy to announce to everyone who prays for me and my family that I have joined the board of Renewal Fellowship. I had a little knowledge about this group even after I joined the board. But, soon I learned a great deal about it through reading its history document and attending the conference Renewal Fellowship offered on April 20-21, “Thriving in Babylon” in Toronto. This was such an excellent conference, featuring many of great speakers. I learned so much of my own denomination’s history and potential in future.

I’m not going to describe who Renewal Fellowship is to you. I want you to find yourself at its website (renewal-fellowship.ca), because honestly I’m still learning as well and I’m afraid I may misrepresent them. But, I want to share my another QT reading. Two days ago, on the day it was schedule to have RF board conference call meeting, my QT reading happens to be now on Isaiah 52:1-12. I felt this is so compelling to me as it provided me the hope and vision for my contribution to the RF and ultimately the PCC and the world.

Isaiah 52 starts with “Awake, awake,” a call to wake the sleeping city of Zion. Then it calls for holiness and piety from Jerusalem. Furthermore, you can see God is asking “captive daughter Zion” to shake herself from the dust, rise up and loose the bonds from her neck, claiming God’s salvation and blessing (vs. 2). I would like to see the day when my denomination shakes herself from the dust, rise up and claim God’s salvation and blessing… or can I (or we) start doing it right now? Right now, because verse 6 talks about how the prophet needs to foretell this, so that when it actually happens in future people will know that it is God who has done this. I love verse 9. God calls “ruins of Jerusalem” to break forth together into singing because “the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem” (look at the verbs’ tenses!) The city is in ruin and yet God says God has already comforted and redeemed the city! Can I (or we) be a watchman or “the feet of the messenger” who go over the mountains, who can see what others can’t see yet, and say to the discouraged, defeated and lost “Your God reigns!” (vs. 7).

Not only I find these verses prophetic for my involvement in the RF ministry, I also find these verses speaking strongly about my future here in London. I mentioned in my last blog that I would begin a weekly prayer meeting sometime in June. Here’s my vision for the prayer meeting. This prayer meeting is where we “break forth together into singing” in midst of ruins of London (spiritually, socially, mentally or physically or whatever) “for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed [London].” O yes, I dare to claim this, not only my city, but for my country and the world. Look at verse 12, “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” I can just picture God’s people, chin up and full of confidence. There is no shame or embarrassment about their faith, belief and hope. When that day comes, they will know there is God as our “rear guard” working in secret according to his perfect timing.

Please pray for us for the following:
1. Grace and I will be filled with God’s power and wisdom during our time in a conference called “Amazing Grace” in Vancouver.
2. Travel mercy in our trips to Vancouver and to South Korea.
3. I can’t share everything yet, but God has revealed something to me and I’m being obedient to him by going to Jesus Abbey in South Korea. Pray that God will make things clear to me what this visit may have for my future.
4. We may begin planning for a weekly prayer meeting in June.

In Christ,
John Park

Note: Rev. John Park lives in London, Ontario. In late 2017, he left Oakridge Presbyterian Church, where he was associate minister. He is being called to form a new ministry in the east side of the city.

Renewal News Spring 2018

In This Issue:

Renewal News Spring 2018

Showing Them Christ

By Rev. Andy Cornell

Did you see the screaming headline? “Major Canadian Church Abandons the Gospel to appease LGBTQ lobby.” And with it, a photo of people marching in the Toronto Pride Parade holding signs saying “Presbyterian pride God’s love includes everyone.” What followed was a holy tirade of condemnation of a once-biblical denomination which has, apparently, fully accepted same-sex marriage.

Yes, they’re talking about the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC).

No, you didn’t miss anything.

The object of the unfortunate rant in LifeSite News (the online news by Campaign Life Coalition) was the February letter from General Assembly moderator Peter Bush seeking repentance for our sins of homophobia and hypocrisy against individuals and communities who identify as same-sex attracted and transgendered. It was written at the direction of 2017 General Assembly to fulfill a promise made by the church in 1994 to publicly admit the church’s admonition of hate on the one hand while turning a blind eye to the unChristlike way many in our fold have treated the LGB communities over the years. They have been ignored, cast out, ridiculed, marginalized, bullied, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually harmed. We have condemned the sin without listening to their struggles and pain. The result is a legacy of hurt, violence, and mental and physical illness. This is not what Christ called us to do. Moderator Peter Bush wrote a thoughtful, loving, and pastoral letter that was long overdue.

But nowhere does the moderator’s letter affirm the LGB lifestyle. Nowhere did it declare that the PCC has changed its official, traditional stance on marriage – because we haven’t. And nowhere did it signal that any such change is coming.

The opinion writer gave in to the temptation to read what she wanted to read and believe what she wanted to believe. Never mind the facts getting in the way of a good story; she took a Christlike, pastoral gesture and turned it into something manifestly ugly.

Among her comments: “Compromising Christian beliefs and the core tenets of the Bible in order to appease LGBTQ leadership, will do nothing but undermine the authority of the church and the Word.” What? Basic research would have revealed that nothing of the sort happened. In fact, it’s the opposite.

If we are to call LGB people to a lifestyle of biblical purity, then the least we can do – the very least – is to acknowledge their natural desires, accept them as a burden and tell them that we do not condemn them. We need to love them more.

And how about this comment: “There is not a single reference in the letter to the many passages in the Bible that forbid homosexuality.” Well, that wasn’t the purpose.

Some in the PCC have criticized the moderator for not stating clearly in the letter that – notwithstanding our repentance – our traditional definition of marriage has not changed. That’s unfair. The whole purpose of a pastoral letter is to be generous in love, accepting one’s human condition without judgment. It’s always the first step in evangelical witness: getting to know the person, listening to their stories, making a connection. Not judging.

Finally, this: “The letter itself reads like an extreme act of verbal self-flagellation and deprecation.” Wow. If only she knew.

Rev. Christine O’Reilly, the moderator’s chaplain, says this: “Peter remains solidly orthodox theologically; his love for the Lord, for Scripture and for the church is deep, strong, and true.”

The irony of LifeSite is that, in general, it follows a conservative, evangelical biblical orthodoxy. Just like Renewal. But it’s the tactics that differ. I don’t see much love in this misinformed, poorly researched, unprofessional rant.

One positive thing: the headline calling us a “major Canadian church”. So encouraging that we are still seen as a player!

Those who read Peter’s letter in context found gracious words: “We will reach out, rejoice together in fellowship, and seek holiness as we worship, pray, sing, eat, and listen together for God’s Word speaking to the whole church.” Holiness, which I understand to be biblical purity, is far removed from the lifestyles chosen by those who choose to act on same-sex attraction. If only the critics saw that – and not what they wanted to see.

As we continue to pray for General Assembly 2018 to do the right thing and re-affirm the godly definition of marriage, may we go forth with this letter of repentance and proclaim our love for those who are same-sex attracted. And rather than condemn, let us simply show them Christ and point the way in love.

The moderator’s letter can be read here.

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For more information on any events contact the Renewal Fellowship Office:

The Renewal Fellowship Board

  • Mr. Don Bartlett, Scarborough, Ontario (2019)
  • Ms. Karin Cowan, Parry Sound, Ontario, Treasurer (2019*)
  • Rev. Stan Cox, Paris, Ontario (2019)
  • Mr. Don MacMillan, Gloucester, Ontario (2019)
  • Rev. John Park, London, Ontario (2019)
  • Rev. Timothy Ferrier, Chesley, Ontario (2020)
  • Mr. Bill Harrison, Stoney Creek, Ontario (2020)
  • Rev. Ian Shaw, Simcoe, Ontario, Chair (2020)
  • Rev. Nan St. Louis, Durham, Ontario (2020*)
  • Rev. Pye Chew, Mississauga, Ontario, Secretary (2021)
  • Ms. Diane Eaton, Paisley, Ontario (2021)
  • Rev. Germaine Lovelace, Kenora, Ontario (2021*)
  • Mr. Leslie Ruo, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (2021*)
    * – second three-year term

Renewal News Editor

Prayer Calendar Editor

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Renewal Day Theme Addresses

Rev. George AndersonOur 2018 Renewal Day and Annual General Meeting was held on Saturday, March 3, 2018, at Cornerstone Community Church, Kleinburg, Ontario. It was a departure from our usual renewal day, in which the emphasis was on several speakers. This year, we presented one gifted speaker, Rev. George Anderson, while dedicating a generous amount of time for discussion of Renewal Fellowship business. George had a two-part presentation:

1. Prayer Saturation and the Fullness of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-21)



2. Spirit-Directed Priestly Prayer (Ezekiel 47:1-12)