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 News Spring 2018

In This Issue:

Renewal News Spring 2018

Contact the Renewal Fellowship

The Renewal Fellowship Office

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


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)

Our Favourite Links

The following links are sites of interest recommended by The Renewal Fellowship, without necessarily advocating all that you may find there. Happy surfing!

The Presbyterian Church in Canada <presbyterian.ca>

General Assembly Moderator’s Prayer Page <presbyterian.ca/gao/moderator/>

PresbyCan Daily Devotional <presbycan.ca>

The Reformed Theology Source <reformedtheology.ca>

Being a Christian and a Presbyterian in Canada Today <www3.telus.net/rdr/update1.html>

Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism <institute.wycliffecollege.ca>

Knox College, Toronto ON <knox.utoronto.ca/>

St. Andrew’s Hall, Vancouver BC <standrews.edu>

Presbyterian College, Montreal QC <presbyteriancollege.ca>

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada <www.evangelicalfellowship.ca>

We Make House Calls

Our executive director, Rev. Andy Cornell, is available to speak to congregations, sessions and any group or court in the PCC.

He will bring a message of hope for all ministers, elders and congregations — of every theological stance — who are feeling increasingly alone in an unbelieving world.

He will bring a message of encouragement for ministers, elders and congregations who are experiencing division over the debate over sexuality and marriage in the PCC.

He will bring a prayerful presence and a listening ear.

He will bring a reminder that the church is a precious body and that our primary purpose is to proclaim to the world that Christ — the son of God — came to reconcile us with the Father. We are to put all selfish, human desires aside and seek God’s precious will for our lives. We are to submit with joy to power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify and empower us to do the work of our triune God.

A Prayerful Presence at General Assemblies

Report From The Floor of GA 2017

Commissioners to 2017 General Assembly chose neither the narrow path nor the wide avenue on the issue of human sexuality, opting instead to take a rocky road.

A decision on whether to allow ministers to immediately bless same-sex marriages and begin the process to redefine marital union was deferred. A strong majority of commissioners, after several hours of debate, voted to put off a vote on recommendations 11-15 of the joint report of the Committee on Church Doctrine (CDC) and the Life and Mission Agency (LMA) until the CDC's "final report on this matter has been received and that the General Assembly, in its wisdom, has made a decision regarding The Presbyterian Church in Canada's doctrine concerning same-sex relationships."

However, the PCC's lower courts, congregations and colleges will be asked to study and report on two weighty theological documents, one advancing the current stance that marriage is between a man and a woman, the other calling for marriage to be defined as two people. Perhaps as a parting blow in response to the deferral, a smaller majority of commissioners added two additional reports for study, both leaning liberal: the LMA report responding to the overtures on human sexuality and a paper entitled "The church and people who are transgendered and intersex."

In addition, the church is being asked to consider the document "Where from here?" – which asks for direction on which course to take on the issue: status quo, wholesale change or allowing individual minsters and congregations to choose on their own. The report also invites other suggestions.

Assembly thus set the course for a twisting and turning journey over the next seven months, sending five documents on the sexuality issue to congregations, colleges and lower courts for study and reporting by the end of January 2018.

The only firm decision was to finally enact a process to repent on past acts of hatred against those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and intersex communities. The initiative will see steps taken to create a space for the LGBTQI people to tell their stories, draft a response and identify "concrete actions" to remedy the situation and report back within three years. It's intended to fulfill a section of the 1994 General Assembly statement of human sexuality which was never acted upon.

A related issue, gracious dismissal, received wide consensus. For the third year in a row, Assembly received several overtures seeking the right of congregations to leave the PCC with their buildings. The requests came from sessions and presbyteries representing both sides of the human sexuality debate. As it was the year before, the official response from the church was lukewarm. However, very early in the assembly, commissioners agreed to strike an immediate committee to form terms of reference for a special initiative to address the issue. Those terms were approved unanimously. Among the issues to consider: the ongoing wounds that resulted from the congregations which left in 1925 to create the United Church of Canada, the regulatory framework that currently prohibits congregations from leaving the denomination with their buildings and the potential harm to the PCC and the wisdom of allowing gracious dismissal to take place prior to a final decision on sexuality.

The debate over human sexuality revealed more than a theological divide in the PCC. Our growing, ethnic-based congregations – Korean especially – emerged as vibrant supporters of the traditional, biblical witness, and yet overlooked by General Assembly office. Last year's document, "Body, mind and soul" was never translated into Korean. Many of those congregations have not bothered with the debate, being more focused on the actual work of the church. On a motion from the floor, assembly agreed to provide translations of the two main documents in the human sexuality debate by the end of August. (This lack of recognition of our ethnic congregations – which are among the healthiest – was ironic given the significant amount of time the PCC has spent on repenting for its part in the Indian residential school era.)

Lost in the haze was another report on an equally weighty issue: physician-assisted suicide. Commissioners received a detailed and moving pastoral report on the issue prepared by a CDC sub-committee. It was also sent down for study, with a reporting deadline of January.

The final tally: congregations are being asked to read and report on six documents by the end of January. That's a lot of reading, study, prayer, discussion and decision.

It could have been worse, in more ways than one. Had commissioners voted in favour of recommendations 14 ("That being in a same sex civil marriage shall not be a reason to bar any person from candidacy or ordination as a minister of Word and Sacraments, elder, or designation of a diaconal minister") and 15 ("Christian marriage is a union in Christ whereby two individuals, regardless of gender, become one in the sight of God") then congregations would have had two other issues to study and report within the same deadline. Judging by the overwhelming majority which voted in favour of deferral, there was no appetite for a life-and-death decision at the 2017 General Assembly.

The lack of a decision was heartbreaking to some in the liberal camp, who were noticeably frustrated. At the same time, some on the traditional side are grieving the death of a once-vibrant, biblical denomination; to them, the end is inevitable. Thus sets the stage for an eventual showdown.

Rev. Andy Cornell <amcpastor1@gmail.com>

Report from the Prayer Room at General Assembly 2017

Renewal Fellowship has hosted, for the past number of years, a Prayer Room during General Assembly. This reflects, since its inception thirty-five years ago, our focus on prayer for our denomination. This focus has crystallized in our "7:14" initiative, praying morning and night, claiming the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

There has been a host of prayers rising to God's throne, culminating, I believe, in this Assembly. It was my privilege to be in the Renewal Fellowship Prayer Room during this Assembly, to uphold in prayer all of the commissioners, staff, committees and our moderator during the proceedings. This year's Prayer Room was located in a residence, which was very handy for anyone between sessions, and also for me. I was joined, of course, by many others off-site and a good number in the Assembly hall as well. There were Presbyterians there representing PSALT (Presbyterians Standing for Apostolic Love and Truth) and Dunamis, and their own congregations. What a blessing!

An added blessing was to join the early morning prayer times with the moderator, along with as many as twenty others, joining in one accord to pray. I was grateful for the text messages from the floor, keeping me up to speed on proceedings, and for those who dropped by to pray.

Certainly, our task is not over. The call to pray goes on! Thanks be to God for faithful men and women who know the power of prayer and who hold up the PCC in their prayers. Pray for Holy Spirit to breathe his Life into our congregations, to empower them to carry out Christ's mission on earth, to make his name known and to bring in his kingdom here, as it is in heaven.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be at Assembly, for the people I met and talked to. Thanks be to God!

Rev. Nan St. Louis, Chairperson, Renewal Fellowship Board <nanstlouis1@sympatico.ca>