Eyes Wide Open

I love following electoral politics: the leadership races, debates, speeches, campaigns, the who’s who, the cabinet and its rising stars, the leaders in waiting, and the has-beens who are hanging on.

I’ve worked for candidates in municipal, provincial, and federal campaigns. I am a member of a national party. In my university days, I was president of the youth wing of my party’s provincial riding association. (It doesn’t matter which one.)

And it carried into my first career calling. My years as a reporter were devoted to municipal government; I was the one-man bureau and it was pretty much all I wrote about.

And now, strangely but not surprisingly, it’s followed me into ministry.

We live in a political age. It’s human nature, and it’s infused our denomination to the extent that every move we make – whether on the floor of General Assembly, in presbytery and its committees, even on sessions – seems calculated.

It’s what happens when the house is divided. And that’s where legislatures, parliaments, and the courts of the church are similar: there are two or more parties or factions competing for control and influence.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada is no different than other denominations, which are fraught with liberal and conservative theologies in conflict. It’s a centuries-old tug of war. I don’t remember when the Presbyterian Church in Canada was predominantly conservative in theology, but it had to be have been at one time for our main subordinate standard, Living Faith, to have a relatively orthodox outlook. Check out Section 3, in which Jesus Christ is proclaimed as “truly God, truly human, Saviour, Lord” and the source of salvation. And of course, Section 8.2.3, the definition of marriage. Given the widespread lack of support for this one section, particularly so at 50 Wynford Drive these days, it’s clear that a new wave of thinking has emerged. It didn’t happen overnight.

And as our Church Doctrine Committee and our Life and Mission Agency and Committee consider the feedback to all those papers dispersed by the 2017 General Assembly, we see divided presbyteries battling over nominees to committees and positions on theological papers. In one Toronto-area court which voted in support of Option “B” (a wholesale change in our marriage standards), we saw the brave witness of presbyters registering their dissent.

So, is all this a good thing? Despite my love and fascination with politics, I’m not so sure. What I do know is that it’s part of human nature. Yes, God wants us to stand for what is right. And He wants godly women and men to bring their faith into our legislative assemblies and not be afraid to declare it. Like those dissenting elders, we must stand and be counted.

As the Church Doctrine Committee and the Life and Mission Agency and Committee pore over stacks of responses and prepare their reports to 2018 General Assembly, we pray for their eyes to be wide open to see the light of Christ. 1 John 1:5-10 tells us that God is light and if we claim to be followers of a triune God, then we will remain in the light, declare our innately sinful nature, seek forgiveness, and declare that we are steeped in sin.

May all of our eyes be opened.

Pray for each member of the Life and Mission Agency Committee (see page 33 of the 2017 Acts and Proceedings for members’ names) and the Church Doctrine Committee (page 31) as they prepare their reports to 2018 General Assembly. Pray for staff at the Life and Mission Agency and the General Assembly offices. Pray for our 2018 commissioners-in-waiting. Pray for God to open our eyes to which of the three candidates for General Assembly moderator would be best to lead us to submit to God’s will.

Just pray.

Pray for our eyes to be wide open to the enduring truth that Christ came to bring life to its fullest and that life is not to be lived in the flesh but in the Spirit, which is as pure as light and white as snow.

Renewal Day and Annual General Meeting

Saturday, March 3, 2018
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Cornerstone Community Church
Kleinburg, Ontario
Sponsored by The Renewal Fellowship
Within the Presbyterian Church in Canada

Theme Speaker
Rev. George Anderson

Rev. George AndersonGeorge’s first career was as a math and science teacher. Later, he served two churches in South Africa as well as working for Scripture Union. He emigrated from South Africa in 1989 with his wife, Audrey, and four daughters to serve at Ile Perrot church, Quebec. Since then he has enjoyed helping three St. Andrew’s congregations (Moncton, Islington, and Huntsville) experience growth and renewal in the grace of Christ’s Word and Spirit. Renewal and evangelism have been at the core of George’s ministries. Since retiring, they settled in Binbrook, Ontario, from where George will be doing some part-time preaching at work at Erskine Church in Hamilton. They enjoy their nine grand-children and visiting family back in Cape Town, South Africa. George served the Renewal Fellowship for 10 years as convenor of the Men’s Network.

Conference Location

Cornerstone Community Church, Kleinburg, Ontario
Cornerstone Community Church,
180 Nashville Rd.,
Kleinburg, Ont.

Conference Agenda

9:30-10:00 – Registration and refreshments
10:00-10:15 – Worship and prayer
10:15-10:40 – Rev. George Anderson: Prayer Saturation and the Fullness of the Spirit, Part I
10:40-11:00 – Small group discussion
11:00-11:15 – Break
11:15-12:15 – Business
12:15-1:00 – Lunch: small groups are encouraged to eat together
1:00-1:15 – Worship and offering
1:15-1:30 – Small group prayer
1:30-2:15 – Any unfinished business. We conclude with an open discussion: members are invited to share what they believe about the role we should play in a fractured denomination.
2:15-2:40 – Rev. George Anderson: Prayer Saturation and the Fullness of the Spirit, Part II
2:40-3:00 – Small group discussion and prayer
3:00-3:15 – Small-group debriefing/sharing, adjournment and prayer

To Register

Registration is $20 if notification is received by Monday, February 12, by mail, e-mail, online, or telephone. After February 12, the cost increases to $25. Registration deadline is February 26. The registration fee includes arrival snacks and lunch. You can register online (below) by MasterCard, Visa, or American Express, or you can mail, e-mail, or phone your name, address, phone, e-mail, and congregation to the Renewal Office by February 12 for the rate savings. Only cash and cheques will be accepted at the conference door. Credit cards are accepted only in advance and online.

Make cheques or money orders payable to The Renewal Fellowship and mail to:

    Conference Registrar – The Renewal Fellowship,
    3819 Bloor Street West,
    Etobicoke, Ontario, M9B 1K7
    Office Telephone: 416-233-6581
    E-mail: <renewalfellowshippcc@gmail.com>

To Register Online
Visit this page to register securely online using


Thriving in Babylon

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 is to explore the opportunities evangelical Canadian Christians have in our present-day context and how we can thrive within it.

This spring conference will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 20-21, 2018, at Vaughan Community Church, Thornhill, Ontario. It is being held in co-operation with Presbyterians Standing for Apostolic Love and Truth (PSALT). It will be a celebration of the evangelical church in Canada, with speakers, discussion, sharing, and fellowship. This event is open to people from all churches and denominations.

Conference Speakers

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

  • Evangelical Fellowship of Canada president Bruce Clemenger will speak on the challenges of freedom of religion in the Canadian context and the benefits of networking as evangelicals.
  • The Peoples’ Church pastor Warwick Cooper will share insights into the improving relationships between evangelicals and the LGBTQ community.
  • McMaster Divinity College professor Lee Beach, author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom, will set the scene, directing us toward hope.
  • Open Doors Canada executive director Gary Stagg will speak about what we can learn about the experience of Christian oppression in other parts of the world.
  • Radio host, author and president of the Presbyterian Laymen (PCUSA) Carmen Laberge will speak on how we can bring God back in the conversation within the mainline church.
  • Christian author and speaker William Webb will share his insight into the ethical challenges facing Christians in Canada today.
  • Toronto Chinese Evangelical Ministerial Fellowship Chair Wes Chang will speak on the experiences of Christian new Canadians – the largest segment of growth in the Canadian Church – in a secular Canada.

The theme on Saturday, April 21, will be Good News for These Times.

  • Author John G. Stackhouse Jr. of Crandall University, is noted for his studies of church and culture and will be speaking on the future of evangelicalism in general. His most-recent book “Why you’re here: ethics for the real world” was released in December.
  • David Haskell of Wilfrid Laurier University, is lead author of the groundbreaking study, Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy, which found conservative theology is a driver for growth, and liberal theology leads to church decline.
  • Peter Bush, moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, will be speaking on the possible future directions of the denomination.

For more detailed information, read the article in Renewal News and download the conference brochure and the conference poster.

Friday: Christian Living in a Secular World
8:00 – Registration
8:00 – Coffee and Connecting (light breakfast provided)
9:00 – Worship and Welcome
9:30 – Rev. Lee Beach
10:30 – Break
11:00 – Carmen Fowler Laberge, via Skype
12:00 – United Church of Canada (Cruxifusion) representative to be confirmed
12:30 – Lunch
1:30 – Dr. Warwick Cooper
2:30 – Dr. Bill Webb
3:00 – Roundtable discussion
3:30 – Break
3:45 – Gary Stagg
4:30 – Rev. Wes Chang
5:30 – Bruce Clemenger
6:30 – Dinner – Korean buffet
7:30 – Praise and prayer – Bethel Chapel
8:00 – Café house for reflection/table groups, music and conversation – call out to all registrants to bring their musical talents

Saturday: Good News for These Times.
8:00 – Registration (Coffee and light breakfast provided)
9:00 – Opening comments and worship: worship: scripture, songs, prayer
9:30 – Prof. David Haskell
10:15 – Q&A with David Haskell
10:45 – Break
11:00 – Small group discussion
11:30 – Rev. Peter Bush
12:00 – Q&A with Peter Bush
12:30 – Lunch
1:40 – Worship and small group prayer time
2:00 – Prof. John Stackhouse
2:45 – Q&A with John Stackhouse
3:15 – Closing charge and benediction

Mark your calendar! Registration is online through Eventbrite, allowing payment online by credit card or by cheque through the mail. For both Friday and Saturday, the regular cost from February 16-March 31 is $135, and the last-minute cost from April 1-16 is $145. Friday only is $85, and Saturday only is $60.

Hotel
A block of rooms has been set aside at Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel and Suites (at Highway 7 and Leslie) for April 19-20 at $119 single or double, price guaranteed until April 3. Call hotel directly at 1-800-668-2121 and quote event name or code TIB419.

The Renewal Fellowship’s annual general meeting will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2018, at Cornerstone Community Church, Kleinburg, Ontario. Details here.

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 Our 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