Saturday 28 October 2017

King’s and ICS to Begin Affiliation Discussion

For years, there has been talk about affiliating two Canadian institutions in the Reformed tradition: The Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) and The King’s University. King’s and ICS signed a Memorandum of Understanding on September 30 at the Board of Governor’s twice-yearly meeting at King’s.

"It’s been a long process getting to where we’re at, which is the very beginning," said King’s President Dr. Melanie Humphreys. "ICS operates under a Legislative Act in Ontario and we operate under an Act in Alberta, and it’s important that we maintain both of these."

The two institutions have a vision for accomplishing something bigger than either can accomplish on their own – a Canadian Christian university in the Reformed tradition offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The initial scope of discussion includes the development of conjoint degrees, a financial agreement, and a study of governance structures that may need to happen in order to give full effect and meaning to an affiliation. This would also contribute to King’s vision for a centre for Christian thought and action, a goal in the university’s strategic plan, Shared Vision 2020.

Outgoing ICS President Dr. Doug Blomberg initiated conversations some time ago to bring the two institutions together and affirms that he is "deeply grateful for this outcome."

"Our institutions align ideologically quite well, and it’s very exciting to envision what our affiliation could become, including imagining how it might extend our shared mission in Christian higher education" said Dr. Ronald Kuipers, new Provost at ICS.

"We have a lot of questions to answer and work to do in figuring out what will allow us both to benefit and build capacity," said Humphreys. "This is just the beginning of exploring what we can do to advance both our missions programmatically."

In the upcoming year, King’s and ICS will set timelines and processes in motion to be able to realize this vision.

This article is being jointly published in both Connection and Perspective magazines.

Friday 27 October 2017

A Conversation with Kate Hennessy

On November 3rd, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics will host author Kate Hennessy to talk about her work, followed by an interview and an open Question and Answer period from the audience.

Hennessy is the youngest of Dorothy Day’s nine grandchildren, a writer and the author of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty. Her widely acclaimed book is a family memoir, social history and intimate biography of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Day has been called “the most significant, interesting and influential person in the history of American Catholicism” and certainly is a key figure in the recent history of Christian activism.

This is a unique and intimate opportunity to learn more about Hennessy, her grandmother, the Catholic Worker, and to explore some of the connections between academic work and social activism that fuel much of ICS's historic mission.

Monday 16 October 2017

For Such a Time as This! Worship meets justice and the arts in turbulent times

ICS' Centre for Philosophy Religion and Social Ethics is sponsoring this one-day workshop on October 21, 2017 at First Christian Reformed Church in Toronto. The workshop will explore creative ways in which the arts can be integrated into worship settings so that Christians can be inspired by the Gospel's call to pursue justice. The day will include a live performance of the play Just Faith? by students from Toronto District Christian High School!

Sunday 15 October 2017

Prayer Letter: November 2017

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels….”

I recently used the phrase, “God’s grace is perfected in our weakness” and I was asked to explain what this meant. This set my mind a-whirling, as happens in conversations. An exciting state to be in! I was of course echoing our Lord’s promise to Paul that His grace is sufficient, His strength is perfected in our weakness, so much so that we are to glory in our vulnerabilities (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s grace heals us in our infirmities; He is the God of healing that we might be whole, through Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.

When newly-converted, I was reading Scripture avidly and memorising Bible verses from Navigator cards, I found “perfect” a strange term. This was particularly so when I read that Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48) (in the “AV” – Authorised Version, as Anglicans say; I was reading my father’s copy, evidently untouched since his Confirmation memento). I learnt later that the Greek root is telos – the end, goal, completion – in this case, the purpose for which we were created. Humble service of our Creator-Redeemer throughout the length and breadth of creation is why He called us to be, bearers of His image. In Jesus, we see the perfect exemplar of what it means to be wholly human. In serving God wholeheartedly, Jesus humbled himself unto death, even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8-9). Love obliges the sacrifice of self for the sake of others. We too are called to take up the cross, daily!

There is no doubt: ICS has been a relatively small, frequently struggling institution. Yet I recall a statement twenty years ago by one of our graduates, who came to us from overseas: “It is amazing how such a small institution could have the impact it has.” I’ve no doubt he would acknowledge, “This is by God’s grace.” And it is by God’s grace that we have enjoyed our 50th year, our year of Jubilee coming to maturity last month. It will continue to be a time for celebration and thanksgiving, for the Spirit of Jubilee now abides with us daily. Yes, common usage of this word trivialises this promise of God’s blessing, His unbounding provision that saves thus frees us; most especially those who are broken, captive, blind, poor (also in spirit). Theirs is the Kingdom coming. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus proclaims Jubilee, “the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:19; cf., Isaiah 61:2, 42:1). This is the foundation of His vocation, reiterated throughout in the stories He told. His teaching ministry culminates just prior to Gethsemane in “the Parable of the Sheep and Goats”. This title is unfortunate, given the connotations it has garnered. A restricted understanding of justice as retribution overlooks the heart of justice, which is restoration of shalom and liberation from injustice’s effects. Justice and peace embrace in God’s perfected purpose. We know full well this parable teaches that as we serve the widows, aliens, orphans, the destitute, homeless, hungry, thirsty, we serve Jesus. And this is not of us, but of the grace that is with us (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Leading up to Jesus’ call to perfection, He shockingly urges us to love and pray – not only for our neighbours, but for our enemies. There are no exclusions: we are to love God and love others as ourselves. There is to be no “us” and “them”. God’s grace is comprehensive (“common grace”, in our Reformed tradition). In this, we will become whole, in ourselves and together as members one of another. We will fulfil our calling to image our Lord, Who is love. To love our enemies, to forgive those who have wronged us sorely, is deeply humbling. Yet in service of our Lord, we are to humble ourselves.

Humility is central to our calling at ICS to research, teach and engage with the broader community. We pursue knowledge grounded in the fear of the Lord. Scripture is replete with exhortations to know, and this, truly. We are to know in love, for this is wisdom. Our hearts are to be rooted in total dependence on the love of God in Christ, not idolatrous love of what God created, including sparkling ideas that itch the ears. When we exalt anything or anyone as superior to the Name above all names, we go woefully astray.

We have depended on our Lord Jesus Christ these fifty-plus years to lead, and yes, to forgive and heal us in our weakness. He has not disappointed. May God’s grace be perfected in our weakness, and may we give Him the glory. Only then can we be truly servants on the way of truth and life.

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Doug Blomberg

Wednesday, November 1:  Things are ramping up in our preparations for our 50th Anniversary event on Nov 11th. Please pray for Vidya Williams, Pat Webb and Doug Blomberg as they bear the brunt of attending to the myriad details. We ask our Lord to uphold all who will gather that day and those who have particular roles in the Prayer and Thanksgiving Service and giving speeches, providing music, setting up and taking down, and more.

Thursday, November 2:  Tomorrow, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics will host author Kate Hennessy to talk about her work, followed by an interview and an open Question and Answer period from the audience. Pray that this unique and intimate opportunity to learn more about Hennessy, her grandmother, the Catholic Worker, and to explore some of the connections between academic work and social activism that fueled much of ICS's historic mission will be one of thanksgiving and inspiration.

Friday, November 3:  Please pray for Bob Sweetman today and tomorrow as he facilitates the seminar by Gill Goulding CJ, "Configured To Christ: The Dynamic Effect of Mercy on the Mission of the Church." This seminar is at the annual conference in Pittsburgh, PA to discuss the work of this year's Henry Luce III Fellows (a program of the Association for Theological Schools).

Monday, November 6:  Doug Blomberg formally began his sabbatical last week, but it won’t start in earnest until after our 50th Anniversary celebration. He aims to write a book on how different theories of learning, each offering significant insights, are often conflicting because they are reductive. However, these insights may be reconciled within an integral, biblical understanding of humanness – or so he hopes to demonstrate. Please pray for Doug as he continues this research project throughout the coming year (and other projects besides).

Tuesday, November 7:  These first weeks of November bring with them the task of preparing the 2016-17 Annual Report for the AGM on the afternoon of November 11th. As we reflect on this year, we are reminded again of how faithful God has been through our staff, faculty, students and supporters. Please pray this process will go smoothly and will instil in each of us a deepening sense of gratitude for the task our Lord has entrusted to us.

Wednesday, November 8:  We pray for supporters across the continent and elsewhere, giving thanks to God for them. We are thankful for the gatherings a few weeks ago in western Canada, where Doug and Heather Blomberg were able to thank people personally for being with us in ICS, quite a few on the journey for fifty years… and more! We praise our bounteous Lord for the blessings showered upon us, enabling our vision and mission to flourish. His grace is indeed perfected in our weakness.

Thursday, November 9:  The Trustees gather tonight and tomorrow in Toronto, with many able to be present in person (and some joining electronically). Pray for them as they continue to safeguard our vision and chart our course. It is an often onerous task, with many weighty matters to consider, yet they serve with joyfulness and unremitting dedication. We praise God for calling them to serve ICS in this way.

Friday, November 10:  Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, an anniversary we will honour when we open with worship and the traditional two minutes of silence. We treasure the memory of the millions who sacrificed, often unto death, in the Great War and in so many equally wars since and before, for the sake of justice and freedom in Christ. We gather in Oakville to remember those who have served ICS faithfully these past fifty years and more and to look forward to our future in God’s hands.

Monday, November 13:  Pray for ICS, and especially Harley Dekker, as he works towards finalising the annual audit of our financial records for the year ended June 30. We have had many positive financial developments in the past year, and have much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 14:  We praise God for the successful retrieval of our share of the rental income of 229 College from the receiver late last month. This has been a long and difficult process and we thank God for the grace and strength he provided to Harley Dekker and Doug Blomberg as they persevered.

Wednesday, November 15:  Continue to pray for the “in-person” class of our new course World-Viewing: An Introduction to Worldview Studies at ICS. Pray for Dr. Gideon Strauss as he teaches and for the participants that they may enjoy lively and meaningful discussion and interaction as they seek God’s path.

Thursday, November 16:  In two weeks, Doug Blomberg plans to visit a prisoner in the United States, who hopes to work with him on an ICS PhD. At time of writing, they both await approval from the Correctional Services authorities. Please importune our Lord and Saviour for this opportunity to serve someone in such circumstances. We seek to serve him and in doing so, we serve Jesus. May God grace us in our weakness, each and every one.

Friday, November 17:  Continue to pray for further openings for the Wayfinding program, particularly the Vocational Wayfinding course, to be offered as adult discipleship classes in churches and professional development courses in Christian organisations. Interest continues to grow, as we devote time to develop connections and work out the details for each group. Please pray along with us that this opportunity to reach out to the broader Christian community will see fruit in God’s time.

Monday, November 20:  Gideon Strauss asks for prayer on behalf of his colleagues in South Africa that there will be a positive outcome for a grant application to the Nagel Institute for World Christianity. This would support a collaborative project with the Center for Public Justice (Washington DC), the Beyers Naudé Center for Public Theology and the Unit for Research on Theology and Development at the University of Stellenbosch. The focus will be on faith formation and political agency during emerging adulthood in a context of extreme inequality.

Tuesday, November 21:  We give thanks to God for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with The King’s University to begin discussions to affiliate. Pray for the guidance of the Spirit for both institutions as they work together to build a cross-Canada Christian University in the Reformed tradition. We look forward to the creative opportunities awaiting both institutions as faculty, staff and students imagine possibilities arising from an Edmonton and Toronto presence.

Wednesday, November 22:  We ask you to uphold Senior Members in prayer that God grant them grace and energy in their teaching and mentoring ministry. These last weeks of the semester are full of extra responsibilities as papers become due and exams are overseen. We ask for them joy and inspiration as they carry out this important educational mission.

Thursday, November 23:  We give thanks for the generosity and support of our amazing ICS community in the months leading up to our 50th Anniversary Celebrations and ask for your prayers as we prepare for our Advent Appeal.

Friday, November 24:  Please pray for Ron Kuipers today and tomorrow as he participates in a capacity-building event for faith-based campuses and their partners hosted by the Centre for Community-Based Research at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo. At Engaging Communities through Research, Ron participates in a panel discussion on “Reflections on Community-Based Research in Practice: Pitfalls and Successes” and leads a skill-building workshop entitled “Creative Knowledge Mobilization”.

Monday, November 27:  We are very grateful for the support Edgar Hielema and his network at Gardiner Roberts LLP have given as ICS navigated the many changes of the last few years. These include the sale of our 27% share in 229 College, finalising the amounts owing from the receiver, and now helping ICS manage discussions with The King’s University. We could not have done this without their expert assistance and thank our Lord for His provision.

Tuesday, November 28:  Please pray for a successful outcome as our negotiations to lease premises at Knox College continue. More than a physical space and even substantial financial savings are at stake, for we look forward to a communal space of sharing with Knox faculty, staff and students. Let us pray for a smooth move, perhaps as soon as the Christmas break, as relatively brief and busy this will be. It would be less disruptive than during a semester.

Wednesday, November 29:  As we enter the last weeks of the fall semester and winter approaches, we pray for stamina and good health for Junior Members in particular. They will soon be busy writing their papers, during a period in which there will be many Christmastide events likely to challenge their concentration. May they and their families be truly blessed.

Thursday, November 30:  Please pray for Doug and Heather Blomberg as they head on their way to Australia tomorrow to begin this next chapter of their lives. We thank them for their long years of service to ICS and ask God to protect them on their (also long, relatively) journey. May they enjoy God’s grace and strength as they adjust after fifteen years (plus six semesters since 1975) in Canada. May they enjoy with their family not a white but invariably sweltering Christmas in their native land – “a sunburnt country … a wide, brown land.” These last phrases are the words of a poem – by a 19-year-old! – they learnt in primary school. Let it remind you of the wonder and richness of God’s creation. “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.”

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
Dorothea Mackellar, “My Country”, verse 2 (1904)