Letter to our Supporters

September 2017

Dear Renewal Friend,

Thank you! Your support – both prayerful and financial – is vital to the Renewal Fellowship and is deeply appreciated.

Allow me to turn back the clock 35 years. It was the middle of the week. The sanctuary was full. (Imagine that!) Some had driven over two hours to attend. Others had used public transportation. The place was Willowdale Presbyterian Church. Fitting the importance of the occasion, the meeting began with worship. The theological perspective of most of those present could be described as “conservative” or “evangelical”. They held the perception that some official parts of our denomination were not only drifting from their historic and biblical roots, but were also becoming more hostile to those who embraced those perspectives. In stereotypical Presbyterian fashion, a committee was struck to form The Renewal Fellowship Within The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Since then, the passion for a vibrant and faithful denomination evident in the gathering at Willowdale in 1982 has been the hallmark of the Fellowship’s focus and ministry. Over the years, this passion has been expressed in a variety of ways. One consistent aspect of the Fellowship’s ministry has been the leadership of an Executive Director. They have blessed our denomination and our Fellowship by their gifts.

We are excited that God has provided Rev. Andy Cornell as new Executive Director. We believe that in Andy, God has provided someone who can help continue the work of renewal within The Presbyterian Church in Canada, helping God’s faithful people bring His truth and grace into fuller expression within our society. On the evening of Thursday, November 2, you are invited to join us, or to extend greetings, to celebrate our 35th Anniversary and install Andy in his new position, with dinner and installation service at Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph, Ontario. The cost is $20 and the deadline for registration is October 22. Contact: email the Fellowship at <renewalfellowshippcc@gmail.com> or call 416-233-6581.

As a supporter, we ask you not only to continue your prayerful and financial contributions to this ministry, but to consider an increase in your giving. Although we are still solvent, current donations do not meet current expenses. Please encourage others to become supporters. We value your prayers for insight and courage as we seek to fulfill our mission to be a positive influence in our church.

Enthusiastically,

Rev. Nan St. Louis, Chairperson

Letter to our Elders

September 2017

Fellow PCC Elders:

Greetings in the name of our Lord! I hope and pray that you and your congregation(s) are entering a busy new season after a restful summer.

Autumn 2017 is going to be busy. As you are aware, General Assembly is asking its courts and colleges to study eight significant documents and to report back by the end of January. Four documents alone are focused on sexuality. This is a lot of work! Even multi-staffed congregations with gifted lay leaders will find it a challenge to get through.

We at Renewal Fellowship are confident that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it can be done. The purpose of this letter is let you know that we are praying for every session, congregation, presbytery, synod, and college. Specifically, we are praying:

  1. for the Holy Spirit to enable church leaders, members and adherents to find time to read each paper and meet to discuss them;
  2. for the church to see this not as a burden but as an opportunity to bring every believer closer to the Lord; and,
  3. for those holding contrasting opinions to be able to discuss these issues with mutual respect.

We are here for you. As Executive Director, I am available to provide words of encouragement to any congregation or group in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. If you are not a member or supporter of the Renewal Fellowship, click on the “About” menu item above.

May the peace of Christ and the power of his Spirit be with you!

Rev. Andy Cornell

Executive Director
<renewalfellowshippcc@gmail.com>
416-233-6581

Meet The Executive Director

Rev. Andy Cornell
Rev. Andy Cornell

When you trust in God, life will be a journey. I learned that truth early in my adult years, relying on his Holy Spirit to open doors and provide wisdom and direction.

Life has taken many twists and turns in my 54 years. Now I enter a new door: The Renewal Fellowship within The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

I am honoured and humbled to be called as your executive director.

My birthplace was London, England. I came to Canada as an infant and grew up in the other London, where I attended Western University (history) and Fanshawe College (broadcast journalism) and where I had my first full-time employment, as a reporter at CJBK/BX93 Radio. From there, I felt the call to print journalism and my first taste of small-town life in Tillsonburg, Port Hope and Simcoe. I settled in Chatham to be with my bride, Pam, and where we raised our two sons, now aged 20 and 22 and attending post-secondary education. In 2008, I began part-time seminary studies at Knox College. In August 2011, I resigned as assistant managing editor of The Chatham Daily News to finish my studies and begin work as student pastor at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in nearby Dresden, which called me as minister of word and sacrament in late 2012. I was ordained in early 2013 and have remained at St. Andrew's, growing and learning along with my congregation.

Starting July 1, my time will be split 60/40 between my congregation and Renewal Fellowship. I am grateful that my session, congregation and presbytery have agreed to my amended call.

A cynical person might ask why I left one dying industry to join another. (God does have a sense of humour). However, neither journalism nor the church is dying. There will always be a demand for news and we will always need journalism to keep watch on the abuses of power. And there will always be a great, gaping need for a connection to our triune God and people willing to cut through the lies the enemy has planted. Christ is our only hope.

It's amazing how God prepares us for the next step in our journeys. As I told the Renewal search committee, my 24 years in broadcast and print news helped me understand the need to cut through the rhetoric and be clear in our communication. Supervising and managing news employees – a notoriously rebellious, creative cast of characters – under deadline pressure helped me understand human nature and learn diplomacy. I expect to put this to good use; while the debate in the PCC has been mostly cordial, there is tension and the real possibility of conflict.

I discovered Renewal Fellowship shortly after my ordination and was amazed that such an organization was not fully supported and embraced by the PCC. I am not a lifelong member of the PCC, having been raised Anglican and attending Baptist and Christian Reformed churches along the way. (In fact, I actually left the church from my late teens until my early 30s, but that's another story.) The more I learned about the PCC's gradual drift away from a solid biblical foundation, the more I was drawn to the company of those of like mind. Renewal's existence made sense. At my first annual general meeting in 2016, I was among kindred souls.

This is a time of great uncertainty in the PCC. We are deeply divided over our theological positions on sexuality and marriage – among other things – and the actions of our congregations and decisions of our General Assembly commissioners over the next few years will set our course. These are not "ordinary times." Renewal Fellowship will have a vital role to play in the coming debate. I pray that we can be a source of encouragement and strength for congregations, elders and ministers – some of whom are feeling increasingly alone in a changing culture. We need to tell them it's OK, you have many friends from coast to coast to coast.

With thanks to our Father God for setting the course, to Christ for our salvation and foundation and to the Holy Spirit as our guide, the words of the Apostle Paul come to mind: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:8 NIV)

So, my new journey begins and my seatbelt is fastened. I look forward to meeting you, working and praying together to advance the Kingdom. To God be the glory!

Rev. Andy Cornell <amcpastor1@gmail.com>
call/text 226-229-1695

Resources for the Human Sexuality Discussions in the Presbyterian Church in Canada

There has been a request for resources that come from an evangelical/conservative point of view. Here are a few that have been forwarded to us by members and board members of the Renewal Fellowship. We welcome your comments and suggestions on these resources and any others you would suggest. Please email Linda Shaw, Board chairperson, at <ianandlindashaw@gmail.com>.

A Letter from the Committee on Church Doctrine: This commentary is in response to the Body, Mind and Soul Study Guide. Responses may be sent directly to the Convener of the Committee on Church Doctrine, The Rev. Ian Shaw, at <rianshaw48@gmail.com>, or forwarded to the Committee through the General Assembly Office.

Speaking Truth in Love: A Forum on Human Sexuality: The Presbytery of Hamilton hosted this day-long forum on Saturday, January 30th, 2016, at Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Ontario. Besides the videos, there are transcripts of presentations by Clyde Ervine, Kevin Livingston, Hugh Donnelly, Wes Denyer, and Karla Wubbenhorst.

Channels Articles: 13 articles on human sexuality have appeared on this site in the past. Read More

Print Resources:

Links following the titles are where e-books or hard copies may be purchased.

What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? – Kevin DeYoung [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality – W.P. Campbell [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

The Uncomfortable Church: Can Gays Be Reconciled to the Body of Christ? – Dr. Lawrence Brice [ Amazon ]

Washed And Waiting: Relections On Christian Faithfulness And Homosexuality – Wesley Hill [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage – Christopher Roberts [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics – Robert Gagnon [ Abingdon Press ] [ Free materials on the author's website ] [ Amazon ]

Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate – Thomas E Schmidt [ Google ] [ Amazon ]

Executive Director’s Comments

Human Sexuality issues are front and centre for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. There will be study and dialogue at every level of the church and eventually decisions made concerning the numerous overtures forwarded to our General Assembly this past June.

There will be votes by commissioners in the coming years together with votes in sessions and presbyteries. The majority will express their will on the church. It is the way we are governed.

If our church's practice is changed so that LGBTQ individuals who are in relationships can be ordained as ministers of word and sacrament and LGBTQ couples can be married in and with the full blessing of our church, there will be some measure of discomfort, dislocation and pain among those who oppose these changes based on their understanding of God's Word and the Gospel.

If our practice remains the same, there will be a similar consequence for those who believe it is time to provide full inclusion for the LGBTQ community.

In the meantime, we are in a time of discernment. There will be study guides provided this fall by the joint efforts of The PCC Justice and Doctrine Committees: work given to them by this past General Assembly. There will be small and large gatherings promoting everything from mutual understanding to promotion of a particular position on this debate. There will be many talking about "what ifs" as they try to picture the significance of things either staying the same or changing radically over the next few years in the life of our denomination.

I need to let you know that there continues to be passionate discussion at every level of the Renewal Fellowship's constituency and leadership. We have also had input, sometimes very passionate input, from some who hold views contrary to the Fellowship's orthodox position.

In this period of time, how do we live out our call to seek God's renewal for us all? I would humbly respond that just like four years ago when I came to this ministry, our call is to serve God and our denomination the best we can.

Official 'Call to Prayer' logo
Official 'Call to Prayer' logo

Our belief that encouraging, organizing, and facilitating prayer is our clearest priority. Please send me an email at <fred@pastorfred.ca> indicating how many "A Call to Prayer" postcards you can use. Our vision is for a movement of prayer to spread throughout all our churches.

We continue to serve as agents of connection. We exist to connect the unconnected. We seek to encourage the discouraged and share resources with those who need help and healing. We also serve to connect like-minded people together. This has been accelerating over the past months as many who hold orthodox views seek to connect and share with others of similar understanding.

We also are pleased to connect those that seek resources on the issues of faith and human sexuality with an orthodox position with some excellent books and videos. We also refer people to the current list of suggested resources on the denomination's website.

As previously reported, we are still in the planning stages of a conference that will give in-depth presentations of the orthodox view. Our original goal was for this to happen in the fall of this year. As we continue to weigh speakers and possible locations, we are aware that spring may be a more realizable time.

We are also cooperating with and encouraging a conference in Ontario in the next six months or so to provide a balanced set of presentations and responses that will help all of us be more informed and conversant in the full width of understandings of these issues present in our church today.

In the meantime, I continue to minister to many of our ministers and am looking forward to more Encouragement Road Trips in the next couple of years. I am already seeing and hearing higher stress levels and more profound isolation as some congregations and presbyteries have experienced heightened conflict. Remember to pray for all our ministers and congregations.

Lastly, there is an elephant in the room. Many of the Renewal Fellowship membership, and I might add many that do not align themselves as Fellowship supporters but do hold orthodox views, have expressed their expectation that we do more to support the status quo and resist the changes sought. When we try and drill down to determine what is expected, it takes many forms. Some say it is not clear where we stand. Some believe we should be louder and tougher. Some believe that these issues should command all our time and resources.

I can't speak for everyone. I can only speak for myself. I hold orthodox biblical views with respect to marriage and the totality of human sexuality. I also confess my own brokenness and the need for healing and forgiveness in my life. Also, I believe there is a greater issue that is at play today with respect to Scripture, doctrine, and culture. But I also believe that the church has at most times failed to practice Christ-like love and understanding to the LGBTQ individuals and communities in our midst and at our doors. I am hoping that this time in the church will result in huge gains in our mutual understanding and love for one another.

Whether you agree with me or not, please remember me in prayer. I seek to serve the God that calls me, the church that adopted me, and the ministers who trust me for community and connection. There is so much at stake. There is so much to do.

Fred Stewart

Barrie Renewal Day Conference, March 7, 2015

Brenda couldn't come, but she said she'd pray for good weather. Her prayers, along with many others, were answered as the snow forecast for March 7th did not appear. A frivolous prayer perhaps, but God answered, and over 100 people converged on Westminster Presbyterian Church, Barrie, Ontario, for the Renewal Fellowship's Renewal Conference and annual general meeting. The theme for the conference was "Family First Renewal". Rev. Dr. Stephen Farris spoke to our hearts with a "God first" message, timely, since in this day, one often hears "the kids come first", an attitude that sometimes leads to many distortions (as a recent Presbyterian Record article that referenced narcissism indicates). Thank you, Dr. Farris! Keeping God first puts everything else on the right track.

Worship was such a blessing with Fred Stewart, host minister Matthew Ruttan, David Moody and his family, and Alex Douglas lending their talents in word and music. Fellowship was enjoyed over lunch and coffee breaks, with friendships renewed and new ones forged (half of all participants were new to Fellowship events!). Matthew, David, and Alex encouraged our hearts with their accounts of the work being done at Westminster and Heritage Green to renew the church, bringing families closer to God. As we came away with much to ponder, the most common refrain heard was "We should have brought more people with us". Our thanks to the Renewal Fellowship Board for providing their organizational gifts to bring it all together.

Part of the day's agenda was the annual meeting, of course, and we welcome new members to the Board: Miss Janie Robertson, Mr. Leslie Ruo, and Rev. Germaine Lovelace. Karin Cowan comes back for a second term. Chairperson Linda Shaw has currently served two terms but is staying on for a one-year extension. We appreciate her willingness to continue. Our treasurer, George Myers, was thanked for his years of faithful service as he retires from that position. Fred Stewart gave his summary of the year's work (included as the first article in this issue of Renewal News). The road trip west that Fred took last May generated a lot of interest in renewal and the Renewal Fellowship while ministering to leaders along the way. He is planning a trip east in May. We are blessed to have Fred serving in this ministry. It has meant a lot of sacrifices on his part and Ruth's, and we are grateful for their faithfulness.

These are days when renewal is on a lot of Presbyterians' minds. Not everyone is aware of the overtures being brought to General Assembly this year but there is a serious need for earnest prayer by God's people. The Board is launching a prayer initiative based on 2 Chronicles 7:14 to encourage: "7:14 FOR THE PCC", to get people to pray daily at 7:14 a.m. and 7:14 p.m., or otherwise, either as individuals, households, or church groups. Join us in praying for The Presbyterian Church in Canada, for wisdom, unity, grace, courage, love, and faithfulness to God's Word and Spirit.

With Fred as Executive Director part-time, the previous year's deficit was reduced. While we have lost some long-time members, we have been encouraged by the addition of some new members and partners. While we have support all across the country, the majority of our support is from Ontario. Total membership has increased to 591.

We do not know what 2015 will bring, but we pray for renewal in churches, families, and individuals. May the name of the Lord be lifted high!

Nan St. Louis, Board Member <nanstlouis1@sympatico.ca>

Renewal Network Conferences

Final Report

In November of 2013, the 14th annual ecumenical (Anglican-Presbyterian-United) Renewal Network Conference was held at Chedoke Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Ontario.

John Bowen
John Bowen

Focusing on the theme of Roots and Wings: Ministry For The 21st Century, author and Director of the Institute of Evangelism at Wycliffe College (Anglican), theme speaker John Bowen was well received by Renewal Network supporters. Once again, the folks at Chedoke were overwhelmingly welcoming and gracious and provided a superb lunch and hospitality that delighted everyone.

Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton ON
Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton ON

We are grateful for the vision of former Renewal Fellowship Executive Director, Calvin Brown, and that in 1999, Calvin sensed the Lord leading him to call together several renewal groups in mainline denominations to form a loose association and consider working together to engage and promote renewal in our respective churches. From November of 2000 to November of 2013, fourteen conferences were held in the Greater Hamilton Area. We praise the Lord for bringing together an amazing variety of themes and speakers over these many years:

Year 2000 – Christ Our Hope, with Dale Lang and Gary Walsh.
Year 2001 – Christ Our Light, with Michael Ward and Patricia Dutcher-Walls.
Year 2002 – Christ Our Life, with Tony Campolo and George Sumner.
Year 2003 – Christ Our Word, with John Vissers.
Year 2004 – Christ Our Prophet, with Michael Coren and Charles Masters.
Year 2005 – Christ Our Healer, with Don Williams.
Year 2006 – Christ The Messiah, with Glen Taylor.
Year 2007 – Christ The King, with Andrew Stirling.
Year 2008 – Christ Our Indwelling Spirit – Intimacy Now, with Malcolm Harding.
Year 2009 – Christ The Truth, with Joe Boot.
Year 2010 – Christ The Way, with Bruxy Cavey.
Year 2011 – Christ Our Renewal, with Chuck Congram.
Year 2012 – Preparing for God's Renewal, with Brian Irwin.
Year 2013 – Roots and Wings: Ministry for the 21st Century, with John Bowen.

Over the years, as technology has developed, our audio recordings of the theme talks have also progressed, from the use of cassette tapes, to CDs, and now the inclusion of streamed audio of John Bowen's talks on the Renewal Fellowship website.

The Renewal Network Conference locations have also developed, from many years in Burlington, mostly at Wellington Square United Church with facilities also for our well-received workshops; to the last few years at Chedoke Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, with more limited facilities that prompted us to engage in "open mic" (microphone) sessions instead of workshops. These sessions offered the opportunity to celebrate signs of God's renewal in our various denominations and congregations, and also time to focus on specific issues that challenge us in our life's journey together.

In late November, at a subsequent regular meeting of the conference planning team, it became apparent that most of the current members of the Renewal Network team are now issue-focused and determined to part ways with the more general renewal focus of the Renewal Network's terms of reference. Coincidently, we Presbyterians at the meeting announced our intention of withdrawing from any future Renewal Network involvement, due to the continuing reduction in the number of conference participants in the past several years and the further reduction in hours available to the Renewal Fellowship by our Executive Director, Fred Stewart.

And so, the splendid experience of working together with other renewal groups has drawn to a close, but we celebrate the amazing contribution of both team members and various church communities over the years in our endeavour to bring together the wider community of those who wish to follow our gracious triune God of love.

Bill Harrison, Registrar/Treasurer

Message from Fred Stewart

Dear Friends,

I am honoured to once again be writing our year-end letter to the members and supporters of The Renewal Fellowship. It has been an eventful 12 months since I last reported to you. Ministry has presented both great adventures and huge challenges.

I have been able to address Presbyteries and also a Synod. I have ministered in 5 provinces and numerous congregations. But most significantly, I have been able to meet and pray with about 100 of our pastors. One of the sweetest moments was meeting with people to pray at the 139th General Assembly in North York. I have been able to witness first-hand congregations that are growing in discipleship and even in size. I am convinced that renewal is evident in many places and in many guises.

As you are aware, challenges are often around our financial reality. We continue to lose longtime supporters and experience the impact of younger supporters focusing on fewer ministries in their giving.

We have responded as a Board by cutting back. In the first half of 2013, I accepted a half-time interim-ministry contract in King City. This has significantly reduced costs while not limiting our ministry too greatly. But the summer brought no relief and in October I began a part-time call in Bolsover and Woodville, Ontario. This arrangement has in it the flexibility I need to travel for The Fellowship in certain parts of the year and to provide almost full-time attention to my congregations in others – especially Advent and Lent. It also provides the freedom for me to preach in other churches approximately 8 Sundays a year.

We now are re-examining all that we do so that with less time we use it wisely for the highest priority work. We are now two months into this new reality and God is showing us encouraging signs that we are on the right track.

In 2014, we are planning a cross-country trip so that we can visit primarily smaller centres from Toronto to Victoria. We are also planning to hold a second annual Intimate Spiritual Community conference/retreat for ministers at Crieff Hills in 2014; and, with your help, and the continuing help of the Canadian Ministries Conference Fund, we are aiming to hold a similar conference both in British Columbia and the Maritimes as an adjunct to the Synod gatherings.

So friends, we need your prayers. We need your interest and support for the events held by us. And, we need people who will partner with us to ensure that this important ministry continues. If you believe that our voice of encouragement and our call to spiritual renewal is vital to our church, please consider a year-end gift to this ministry. If you pray for and hope for emphasis on the authority of scripture and on the centrality of the living Christ in all ministry, then prayerfully consider an ongoing commitment to support us. We need your prayers and financial support more than ever.

May you all have a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Yours in Christ,

Fred Stewart, Executive Director
<fred@pastorfred.ca> (647) 830-3203

You may donate securely online to the Renewal Fellowship using Visa or MasterCard, or send your cheque to the Renewal Fellowship office at 3819 Bloor Street West, Etobicoke ON, M9B 1K7

Renewal Fellowship Board Meeting

It's been a long time since the whole Board of Directors of the Renewal Fellowship was able to gather in person, but here they are together on the shores of Lake Erie. The Board met for October 21-22 at the home of the Chairperson, Linda Shaw, for a time of prayer and discernment. The sleep-over format was especially helpful, even for those who only had a mattress on the floor! God was faithful and everyone left feeling encouraged and hopeful and with specific goals for the next two years in particular. Please pray for the Board and its work. Pray too that God's people will generously support the Renewal Fellowship.

The Renewal Fellowship Board of Directors, pictured on the shore of Lake Erie.  Back row from left to right: Ian McWhinnie, Mississauga ON; Duncan Cameron, Scarborough ON; Linda Shaw, Simcoe ON; Karin Cowan, Parry Sound ON; Fred Stewart, Lagoon City ON; Mark Farrell, Pincourt QC; Doug Johns, Kimberley BC. Front row: Charles Cook, Riverview NB; George Myers, Guelph ON; Bill Harrison (Administrative Assistant), Hamilton ON.
The Renewal Fellowship Board of Directors, pictured on the shore of Lake Erie. Back row from left to right: Ian McWhinnie, Mississauga ON; Duncan Cameron, Scarborough ON; Linda Shaw, Simcoe ON; Karin Cowan, Parry Sound ON; Fred Stewart, Lagoon City ON; Mark Farrell, Pincourt QC; Doug Johns, Kimberley BC. Front row: Charles Cook, Riverview NB; George Myers, Guelph ON; Bill Harrison (Administrative Assistant), Hamilton ON.