Thursday, 18 April 2019

New Essays on Knowledge

Senior Member Emeritus Lambert Zuidervaart has published two new essays on a
Reformational approach to knowledge. “Distantial Ways of Knowing: Doug Blomberg’s Proposal
for a Reformational Epistemology” explores the conception of knowledge proposed by Senior
Member and former ICS President Doug Blomberg in his 1978 doctoral dissertation on
reformational philosophy and school curriculum. The second essay, titled “Social Domains of
Knowledge: Technology, Art, and Religion,” discusses the work of ICS Senior Member Emeritus
Hendrik Hart, and it argues that knowledge takes on distinct contours in different social
domains. Both essays appear in the most recent issue of the journal Philosophia Reformata (vol.
84, issue 1).

Monday, 15 April 2019

April Mid-Month News Update

Heather and Doug Blomberg begin a busy month of travel from Australia to the U.S. and Canada on April 24th. Please pray for a safe and enjoyable journey for them both as they first travel to Los Angeles for the pre-thesis oral exam of Junior Member Jon Andreas on the 27th. This is a deeply significant milestone for Jon, so we ask also for prayers of clarity of understanding and articulation on his behalf. Please pray also for the Examination Committee—Doug (Jon’s mentor), Ron Kuipers, Brian Walsh (internal examiners), and Roy Clouser (external examiner)—as they prepare the exam and as they guide Jon through this process.

We also ask for prayer for two other of Doug’s students as they sit their doctoral examinations this month. Jason Mills, a St. Michael’s College PhD candidate, will take the written portion of his exams, and Joonyong Um, an ICS Junior Member, will begin his PhD examination process. Please pray for insight and focus on these students’ behalf as they prepare for and take these exams. Please pray also for Doug and the other examiners in their various preparations to preside over these exams, and that they might have clarity and wisdom in their evaluations of these students when the time comes.

Monday, 8 April 2019

In Memoriam: Chris Gort

By Bob Sweetman

Chris Gort was born in Driebergen in The Netherlands in 1941. He was born into an educator’s family that followed its calling to Jakarta in Indonesia and on to Dokkum in the northeast corner of Friesland in The Netherlands. In 1960 he immigrated to Canada under the sponsorship of a great-uncle in Edmonton. Upon arrival he soon met John Olthuis, scored an invitation to John’s wedding in 1961, where he met John’s sister, Elaine, who would become the love of his life. They married in 1966 while he was studying for his MSc in Engineering which he would receive in 1968. In 1968 he and Elaine would also move to Toronto where Chris took a position with IBM. Adventures in Germany followed and then a return to Toronto in the late 1970s for good. In Toronto, Elaine could develop her own gifts in medical care and Chris left IBM to become a successful project manager overseeing his share, we might say, of the remarkable growth of Toronto throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Chris’ relationship with the Olthuis family ensured a relationship to the Reformational stream within the community of Dutch immigrants in Canada. John Olthuis tells the story of an early meeting involving himself, Chris, and Jim Visser in Edmonton that makes up a crucial episode in the earliest prehistory of the present-day Citizens for Public Justice. With John and Jim Olthuis for brothers-in-law, and Jean Olthuis as sister-in-law, there was no escaping the swelling energy of the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship and its fledgling educational initiatives, above all, the Institute for Christian Studies and, for a number of years, the Curriculum Development Centre. Nor were Chris and Elaine immune to the excitement around the Christian Reformed Church Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto and its Hart House Fellowship which evolved into a worship community calling itself St. Matthew’s-in-the-Basement.

For the Institute for Christian Studies, the story of Chris reached a new level when he agreed to serve on the ICS Board of Trustees in the early 2000s. The beginning of his first term was shrouded by financial crisis that led to a painful lay-off of staff. When in his second term he agreed to serve as Board Chair, ICS found itself facing new challenges that caused Chris to dive into the inner life of the ICS in a big way. In 2008 ICS President John Suk resigned. Chris approached then ICS Academic Dean Bob Sweetman and convinced him to serve as Acting President within a heightened team concept of leadership. Chris himself would chair a Leadership Team made up of himself, Bob Sweetman, and Claire Veenstra (then, Director of Finance and Administration). Together they faced down the ravages of the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and began to seriously try and rethink everything about ICS. Chris took an even greater role when Bob Sweetman stepped down as Dean and Acting President in November 2010 to fight a second round of cancer. Chris became President and served ICS in that role for the next 2½ years. Much good that has slowly come to pass in the intervening years had its beginnings in those 4-plus bracing years.

Chris encouraged academic and administrative staff to come up with good ideas, but emphasized that good ideas were only a very small part of the process by which good new things come to fruition. He also modeled how effective team-building happens. He empowered academics at ICS to develop new programs of study and research. ICS’s Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics is a good case in point. The basic idea was a part of a White Paper on ICS’s future written by Bob Sweetman. The CPRSE was given its name and first concrete form by Lambert Zuidervaart, and then given its present orientation and team-building ethos by Ron Kuipers. All of these initiatives emerged out of an effective communal leadership context. Throughout his presidency Chris encouraged ideas around partnerships, preaching the need over and over again. Again, the several collaborative projects that are currently in development—with The King’s University in Edmonton, with The Teacher’s Academy/Edvance in Ontario, with Knox College in Toronto—can be seen as connected to his warm advocacy of partnering and of an openness to the changes real partnering demands. Above all, Chris’ team-building talents modeled a style of leadership—a mesh of empowerment and responsibility—that has become something of a mantra within the ICS today. Through it all, ICS has found a way to be resilient and focused on present and future service in the face of challenges that could easily have undone it. Chris Gort’s leadership has been a great blessing.

So it was that we at ICS were taken aback when Chris was diagnosed with ALS just short of 2 years ago. We have watched with wonder as he faced his disease with dignity and thoughtfulness, and were saddened by his death on April 2, 2019. We offer this memorial tribute as a token of our gratitude to Chris for his gift of self to ICS, to Elaine for lending us her retired husband when we had such need, and to our God whose loving hand was surely at work in the happy conjunctions that led Chris to ICS and ICS to him. 

Requiescat in pace, Chris.

Monday, 1 April 2019

ICS E-Newsletter: April 2019

Prayer Letter: April 2019

Monday, April 1 - Friday, April 5:

The Finance Committee, along with the Leadership Team, are hard at work on the coming year’s budget. Please pray for them in their deliberations, that they might be granted insight and wisdom from the Holy Spirit as they make stewardship decisions for the 2019-2020 budget year.

CPRSE continues to explore new partnership possibilities with community organizations that share the spirit of inquiry and openness of ICS, by seeking funding opportunities, areas of common interest, and potential collaborative projects. Please pray that CPRSE is able to continue its history of partnerships through fruitful, innovative, and life-giving collaborations in 2019 and beyond.

Monday, April 8 - Friday, April 12:

Thursday, April 11th is the last day of classes for this academic year. This year, ICS is happy to report that we are resuscitating the tradition of holding a spring retreat! Give thanks along with us as we build community, and together reflect on the historic academic year now winding down at ICS. 

Please pray for this important culminating event in the school year as we listen to one another’s experiences and praise God for his sustaining grace throughout this past year.
ICS/CPRSE’s third annual Undergraduate Workshop, “God and Politics: Religion and Public Life in the 21stCentury,” is quickly approaching. Our planning team is busy looking after the final logistical details. Please pray for the workshop’s planning team, and for all those involved in the event, as they prepare to receive undergraduate students from across North America.

Monday, April 15 - Friday, April 19:

Please pray for Ron Kuipers and Pat Webb this week as they travel to Kingston on Wednesday to meet with our supporting community there. Pray for safe travels and engaging interactions in our individual visits along the way and our group event on Wednesday evening.

We give thanks for our Junior Members who are such an important part of our community. We pray for them as they wind up their course papers over the next few weeks and make plans for their summer work and studies in the coming year.

April 21 - Easter Sunday

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid;I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Monday, April 22 - Friday, April 26:

Please pray for Elizabet Aras, Registrar, Gideon Strauss, Academic Dean, and the Academic Council as they focus on finalising the agenda and supporting materials for the upcoming Senate meeting (May 16). Please pray that they will accomplish all that is needed to be done in this busy time.

Please pray this weekend for Ron Kuipers, and Brian Walsh, as they travel to California to give a PhD area exam to an ICS student, currently in prison there. Pray that all will go well logistically on Saturday and that Ron and Brian will have wisdom and discernment as they lead this academic examination. We give thanks for the opportunity to provide this educational experience for this student in difficult circumstances.

In three weeks time, the Senate and Board will meet again in Toronto. We give thanks for their service, and pray for safety as they travel from near and far. We ask God to grace their deliberations with wisdom and vision.

Monday, April 29 - Tuesday, April 30:

On Monday, Bob Sweetman is participating as "Internal-External" Examiner in the formal defence of the University of Toronto's Centre for Medieval Studies candidate Ellen Annika Margareta Ekman. Her Ph.D. thesis titled “Anselm of Laon, the Glossa Ordinaria, and the Tangled Web of Twelfth-Century Psalms-Exegesis” is part of a significant effort of Ellen's director, Alexander Andre, to bring to light the ways in which the Bible became the principal text of formal theological study in the period of history (the twelfth and early thirteenth century) when the educational institution, the university, was born.

Our Annual Convocation is fast approaching and we want to pray that the many preparations for this important event will go well and come together in time. We pray also for the faculty, students, and board members who will be participating in this important ceremony, and for Elizabet Aras, our Registrar, as this is her first time overseeing this event.

On April 28-30, ICS/CPRSE will join a number of academic institutions and community organizations in the “Our Whole Society” conference, an initiative spearheaded by the Canadian Interfaith Conversation. This conference is a space for academics, practitioners, faith leaders, and community members, to discuss the role of faith in public life. Please pray for CPRSE staff, as they take up active roles in this important event.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Prayer Letter: March 2019

Friday, March 1:

We offer prayers of thanks for the recent engagement of ICS PhD student Julia de Boer to Sankalp Lal. The ICS community wishes the couple peace and encouragement as they make plans for their upcoming wedding and much joy as they anticipate their future together.

Monday, March 4 - Friday, March 8:

Please pray today, Monday March 4th, for the Board of Trustees as they meet this evening. We ask for guidance as they discuss the various matters before them, and wisdom in their decision-making. As this is the time of year when they begin to look forward to the next fiscal year and its budget, we ask God to give them clarity and understanding of the operational needs of ICS as it continues to work out its mission.

Please pray this weekend for safe travels for Ron Kuipers and Pat Webb as they drive on Sunday the 10th to enjoy an evening get-together with our friends in Sarnia. We ask God for engaging conversation as we share with them updates on ICS and its work, and as we enjoy food and fellowship together.

The Finance Committee will begin the preparations this month for developing the 2018-19 budget proposal for consideration by the Board at its May meeting. Please pray for each member of the committee, our Director of Finance, Harley Dekker and the rest of the Leadership Team as they plan and forecast for the next year.

Monday, March 11 - Friday, March 15:

We ask for your prayers as our ICS faculty, students, staff, and committees continue conversations about long-term institutional vision and future program planning. This is long, detailed and often invisible work that requires much wisdom and foresight. We are thankful for the care taken already by those involved in having these conversations, and we pray for their continued stamina and spirit in guiding ICS.

Please pray this week for our Perspective production team as once again they work hard to bring completion to this special alumni issue. Pray particularly for Danielle Yett and Hector Acero Ferrer as they give leadership to the process, ensuring that all keeps to the timeline. We ask God to give the authors creative minds as they write and encouragement as they participate in this project together.
Recruitment for our third Undergraduate Workshop, titled “God and Politics: Religion and Public Life in the 21st Century” is underway. Please pray for the workshop’s planning team as they continue to promote the event among prospective participants and supporters.

Monday, March 18 - Friday, March 22:

We ask for prayers for those involved in this semester's Interdisciplinary Seminar: Order, Wonder, Love: Reflections on the (True) Origin and End of Philosophy. This is an integral part of the academic work shared by the ICS community. We are thankful for the opportunity for Senior and Junior Members to work together in considering this topic, and for the blessing of Jim Olthuis' and Henk Hart's eager participation in the course.

Preparations for the meeting of the Senate in early May begin this month. We pray for those diligently at work on the materials necessary for this event, noting especially Registrar Elizabet Aras and Academic Dean Gideon Strauss. We pray also for the Senate itself, as it oversees the academic program of ICS, and for Dr. John Kok in particular as he provides leadership as Senate Chair and Chancellor.

ICS/CPRSE is an active member of the Canadian Interfaith Conversation (CIC), Canada’s premier inter-religious dialogue network. In the context of this partnership, CPRSE has been actively involved in the planning of the 2019 Our Whole Society Conference, bringing together scholars, practitioners, and religious leaders. Please pray for the continued success of this important collaboration.

Monday, March 25 - Friday, March 29:

We ask for your ongoing prayers for the staff of ICS in all that they do to keep the day-to-day life of ICS chugging along. We are thankful for their commitment, their expertise, and their furtherance of ICS's mission.

The last day of classes for the Winter 2018 semester is fast approaching! Please pray for the students as the work hard to complete their assignments and study for their final exams. We want to especially pray for those students who intend to graduate in May, as well as those who are finalizing their theses or preparing for their defense.

We give thanks this week for Senior Member Bob Sweetman who will be inducted into the Jesuit Honour Society--Alpha Sigma Nu--on the 29th of March. This honour is in recognition of his many years of involvement in support of Regis College and its students.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Prayer Letter: February 2019

Friday, February 1:

Please pray today for Bob Sweetman as he gives a paper titled "Languishing in the Wild Spaces of Love: Plato's Alcibiades, Mechthild von Magdeburg and the Spectre of Amatory Risk" for the conference Medieval Women II sponsored by the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies and the University of St. Michael's College.

Monday, February 4 - Friday, February 8:

Please pray this week for our Educational Policy Committee and Academic Council as they meet this month to identify and articulate, with input from a wide range of stakeholders, a clear academic strategy for ICS,

As you know, February is tax receipt month! Please pray particularly for Harley Dekker and Vidya Williams as they lead the process of preparing the receipts for our donors and students. This is quite a time-consuming task and needs to be finished within the next two weeks. We ask for God’s sustaining grace for all involved.

The next module of Continuing Ed/ge, our continuing education program, begins this Thursday, February 7 at 6:45 in the ICS classroom at our new home in Knox College. Pray for Nik Ansell as he teaches this exciting new material.

CPRSE continues to explore new partnership possibilities with community organizations that share the spirit of inquiry and openness of ICS. Please pray that CPRSE is able to continue its history partnership through fruitful, innovative, and life-giving collaborations in 2019.

We are grateful for the success of the first stage of experimentation towards a radically affordable all-online MWS program: 19 students enrolled in our Biblical Foundations and 58 students enrolled in our Organized Religion course for Winter 2019. Please continue to pray for all those involved in the recruitment and admission of our new students.

Monday, February 11 - Friday, February 15:

Please pray this week and next for our Senior Members as they work to finish the grading of their students’ assignments from the Fall 18 courses by February 15. We ask God to bless them in this important work of mentoring and give them the space and energy to finish the task well. Please also pray for the successful recruitment of a large enough second cohort of students in this program to secure the sustainability of the program.

February is the month in which faculty evaluate applications of prospective students and make decisions about who will be accepted to study at ICS. We have received many more applications this year, for which we praise God, and we pray for wisdom for the faculty in their deliberations. Pray too for Elizabet, our Registrar, as she processes the applications and prepares the students’ admission files. This year we already have five MA applicants (three from King's) and two MWS applicants, and are expecting at least one PhD applicant.

Please give thanks for the pioneer cohort of students in ICS's new MA (Phil) in Educational Leadership program. Pray for these students and those who will be teaching the courses that it will be a fruitful and engaging learning experience for all.

Monday, February 18 - Friday, February 22:

Reading Week commences on Monday of this week. This is a welcome opportunity for Junior and Senior Members alike to bury their heads in their books, or digital equivalents, and to concentrate on their current research. May they find joy and creativity in their studies.
ICS/CPRSE is an active member of the Canadian Interfaith Conversation (CIC), Canada’s premier inter-religious dialogue network. In the context of this partnership, CPRSE has been actively involved in the planning of the 2019 Our Whole Society Conference, bringing together scholars, practitioners, and religious leaders. Please pray for the continued success of this important collaboration.

Please pray this week for Gideon Strauss as he prepares for and facilitates an ICS Your Next Five Years vocational discernment weekend retreat at ClearView Christian Reformed Church of Oakville, Ontario.

Monday, February 25 - Thursday, February 28:

Two of our PhD students, Samir Gassanov and Meg Giordano, have had their thesis proposals approved by ICS and VU supervisors alike and will be moving on this month to begin preparing for the Prethesis Exam which they both hope to take in late Spring or early Summer (June-ish). Samir proposes to write a thesis tentatively titled "Doing Justice to Property: What Augustinian Christians Can Learn from Medieval Mendicants and Modern Jurists.” Meg proposes to write a thesis tentatively titled "Crimes Against Personhood: A Thomistic Account of Personal Violence".

Recruitment for our third Undergraduate Workshop, titled “God and Politics: Religion and Public Life in the 21st Century,” is underway. Please pray for the workshop’s planning team as they continue to promote the event among prospective participants and supporters.