Tuesday 4 April 2023

Prayer Letter: April 2023

Monday, April 3 - Friday, April 7

April 1 was the application deadline for our MA-EL program and MWS-ART program. Please pray now for the students who applied to these programs as they patiently await word on their admission, and pray too for the admissions committee as they consider the applicants and whether ICS might offer them what they need in an academic home. 

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week in the Western church calendar. This week marks the end of the Lenten season and culminates in joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday on April 9th. Please join us and the Church around the world in prayer during these holy days, that we might learn to seek and share the Lord’s resurrection hope and truth in all we do throughout the rest of the year.

We ask for prayer for our staff as we make the plans for this year’s Convocation on May 26th and other events surrounding Convocation. This year, we will be celebrating a number of Junior Member graduands, as well as the retirement of beloved Senior Member Bob Sweetman. In addition to Bob delivering this year’s Convocation address on the evening of the 26th, we will also be hosting a celebration of Bob’s work and his lasting impact on the ICS community earlier that afternoon. Both Convocation and this afternoon celebration will be open to the public and available to join in person or online, and invitations will follow shortly. So for now, please mark your calendars, keep an eye on your email, and keep all of us at ICS in your prayers as we prepare for all these celebrations.

Monday, April 10 - Friday, April 14:

Monday, April 10th is the application deadline for our opening for a part-time ICS Librarian. Please pray with us that interested applicants may gather all the necessary materials for their applications in time and that a suitable candidate will find their way to us, and also for the hiring committee as they consider the candidates. Please also share the job posting widely in your own circles if you know of anyone who may be interested in the position. 

Please pray this month for the instructors and students in our Spring-Summer 2023 courses as they prepare for their time of study together: Finding Joy in Learning (Edith van der Boom), Lead from Where You Are (Gideon Strauss), The Soul of Soulless Conditions (Dean Dettloff), and State, Society, and Religion in Hegel’s Philosophy (Andrew Tebbutt). Some of these courses start as early as this month and others start in June and July, and are presented through a mix of asynchronous online learning and synchronous online video sessions. There’s still time to apply to each of these courses, so email our Academic Registrar Elizabet Aras if you’d like to learn how to join!

Monday, April 17 - Friday, April 21:

As Wednesday, April 19th is the last day of classes, we ask for your prayers this week for the Senior Members and Junior Members as they finish up their class time and move onto finishing their course assignments. We offer thanks for another academic year successfully completed and for the rich discussions that took place in all our classes this year. We ask for prayers particularly for those Junior Members who wish to convocate in late May that they would have clarity and inspiration for finishing their assignments before the end of this month. We also ask for prayers for our Registrar, Elizabet Aras, as she coordinates the academic administrative details that are necessary at this time of the year.

Please pray for the administrative staff of ICS who are hard at work preparing for a busy schedule of events after the end of this term, including: sending out the next issue of Perspective and the Spring Appeal fundraising mailing, organizing a much-anticipated book launch for Jim Olthuis, a public event with Miroslav Volf, a Senate meeting, a Board meeting, a celebration in honour of Bob Sweetman’s retirement, and Convocation. We are excited to have such a season of celebration ahead of us, Lord willing, and hope that you will be able to join in the celebrations in some form or another!

Senior Member Bob Sweetman will be presenting a paper during the 2023 Kuyper Conference taking place at Redeemer University May 9-11. The conference theme is "Kuyper and Kintsugi: Public Theology for Repair, Reconciliation, and Restoration." Please pray for Bob as he prepares for this presentation over the course of the coming weeks.

Monday, April 24 - Friday, April 28:

ICS Junior Members, Senior Members, and staff will celebrate the end of the academic year with a ‘Spring Connect’ gathering on April 25. We pray for everyone who will attend that this might be an uplifting experience for all, and a joyful way to celebrate the many learnings, efforts, and accomplishments of this past year.

Please pray this week and next that students will find their way to our upcoming MA-EL courses being offered over the spring and summer. In particular, keep in prayer the following courses that will begin on April 27: Lead From Where You Are and Finding Joy in Learning. Please also pray for Gideon Strauss and Edith van der Boom as they prepare for their sessions, and for inspiration and creativity in their leadership of the classes.

The Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics continues to be closely involved as an institutional partner in the planning of the Canadian Interfaith Conversation’s Our Whole Society Conference taking place May 7-9th in Waterloo, ON on the topic of “Finding Common Ground in a Time of Polarization.” There is still time to register to attend in person or online if you wish. Please pray for the planning committee as the event draws near, and for all those in attendance that they might have productive conversations around this challenging topic. 

Whither Freedom?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

—Luke 4:18-19

The word “freedom” gets bandied about a lot these days. Whether used as an adjective to describe the convoys of those who would protest public health mandates, or as a name for the shedding of external constraints claimed by liberalism’s autonomous individual, we seldom pause to ask ourselves what freedom might be for.

Certainly, freedom normally includes freedom from something, especially something oppressive. I am reminded of the wonderful lines from The Waterboys song, “Fisherman’s Blues”:

I wish I was a fisherman
tumblin’ on the seas
far away from dry land
and it’s bitter memories.
Castin’ out my sweet line
with abandonment and love.
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
save the starry sky above.

These beautiful, evocative lines are then followed by the hopeful words:

And I know I will be loosened
from the bonds that hold me fast
and the chains all around me
will fall away at last.

In Luke 4, we hear Jesus proclaim something similar—release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed. Yet the very word “release” also hints that, not only are the oppressed freed from something, they are also freed unto something. Jesus’s proclamation of freedom also announces good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and the commencement of the year of the Lord’s favour!

Jesus invokes these opening lines of Isaiah 61 immediately after his time of trial in the wilderness, where he resisted the devil’s temptation to save himself and establish his authority by grasping for dominating power. After he rolls up the scroll at the synagogue that day, he informs those in attendance: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21). Jesus opens the path of liberation and reveals that it does not lie in the direction most of us think it does. Is this not a wonderful mystery, and a ground for resilient hope?

This Eastertide, when our hearts and minds turn in a special way toward our Messiah’s liberating act of suffering love, we do well to consider what this redemptive act liberates us unto. How will we live into the year of the Lord’s favour? How might we participate in the joyful work of securing abundant life for everyone?

Some words of a prayer named after Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was himself murdered 43 years ago for speaking truth to oppressive power in El Salvador, encourage our desire and guide our efforts to live into the freedom that our Messiah’s redeeming act opens to us:

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and to do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

I like to think of ICS’s educational mission in just this way. God has blessed our community with a delimited but important task, and God enables us to do it well. What a blessing it is to engage in an educational ministry that shapes hearts and minds to be prophet’s of our Maker and Redeemer’s liberating future!

Friends, thank you for supporting our efforts to help people realize and seize their God-given freedom to live into the abundant life Jesus Messiah makes available to us. Know that your prayers and gifts enable an educational mission that seeks to liberate people unto the rich redemptive possibilities of God’s Kingdom a-coming!


Ronald A. Kuipers

In Memoriam: Dr. Frederik Jan Reinders

by Ronald A. Kuipers (ICS President)

Fred Reinders (1930-2023), innovative engineer and creative entrepreneur, lived a remarkable life. With wisdom and faith, he carried that spirit of innovation and creativity beyond the business world into a life of philanthropic service to many charitable causes. He had a special passion for the reformational vision of integrally Christian education, and through both his financial gifts and wise leadership he played a pivotal role in the development of ICS as a unique graduate school that incarnates this educational vision in a world longing for our Maker and Redeemer’s shalom.

Fred served on the ICS Board of Trustees from 1986-93, all of them as Board Chair. He was the first businessperson to occupy that role, following a series of pastors and academicians. Fred’s business acumen left an indelible mark on the Institute, leading ICS into a period of increased financial stability and fundraising success. Perhaps his most significant contribution, however, was his ability to excite passion for ICS’s mission in Christian higher education, and to encourage everyone at ICS to use their gifts to make a healing and transforming impact on the wider world.

In 2012, ICS recognized Fred’s legacy of service to the mission of integrally Christian education by awarding him the degree Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. At that year’s Convocation, Fred delivered an address entitled “Are You Serious?” which ICS published in a 2017 issue of Perspective. There, you can read him suggest—in all seriousness—that reformational philosophers tend to take themselves too seriously:

In our Reformed tradition, we become very serious about our opinions and positions; we forget what it’s like to be open and we need a good measure of self-reflection. Often, it is necessary to be more understanding of each other and embrace the ironic, asking the question: Am I too serious about my own opinions?

My sense is that Fred was critical of our tradition’s tendency to excessive intellectual seriousness because he understood that, ultimately, Christian education has more to do with shaping generous hearts than it does with simply sharpening minds. He was fond of quoting a wise saying he once heard that stated: “God conceals Himself from our minds but reveals Himself to our hearts.” Fred’s message to us was that, while we may disagree intellectually, we should always remain open-hearted with each other, embracing spiritual community amid differing, and deeply held, opinions.

This profound bit of wisdom gave Fred the ability to navigate ICS deftly through controversial waters. As a new Junior Member who first came to ICS in the Fall of 1992, near the end of Fred’s tenure on the ICS Board, I quickly became aware of the controversy surrounding the recently held June 1992 ICS Summer Conference on “An Ethos of Compassion and the Integrity of Creation.” At this conference, ICS Senior Members Hendrik Hart and James Olthuis presented papers suggesting that the reformational assumption that scripture provides certain knowledge of a fixed and ahistorical creation order had become a roadblock to affirming scripture’s call to show compassion to people suffering on the margins of society. To make their case, they pointed specifically to the Church’s harmful treatment of sexual minorities and called for a more loving, even accepting and affirming, alternative.

The controversy these papers sparked rocked ICS, and the Board alongside then-President Harry Fernhout had to field serious calls from influential members of ICS’s supporting community for the dismissal of both Hart and Olthuis. Under Fred’s steady hand, however, ICS leadership proved capable of walking a fine line between holding Professors Hart and Olthuis to account for the validity of their concerns, and the maintenance of an academic environment that permitted and encouraged scripturally inspired yet intellectually open discussion of controversial societal issues. Amid controversy, Fred asked us to both examine and open our hearts to one another, so that we might regain the trust we needed to answer God’s call to walk upon the shalom way that leads to God’s kingdom.

On a very personal level, I remain profoundly grateful for the wisdom and calmness Fred displayed in steering ICS through this tempest, because it allowed Henk to continue to be my mentor through both my MA and PhD degrees, and it also allowed me to benefit from the many classes and conversations I have had with Jim over the years. I simply cannot imagine my intellectual or spiritual life without the deeply edifying influence of these two giants of the reformational philosophical tradition. Dozens of other ICS alumni will no doubt tell you the same thing. ICS faculty and administration at the time must have felt the same way about Fred because they asked him to serve an additional, seventh year as Board Chair after his second three-year term came to an end.

Fred remained a vital supporter of ICS up to his very last days. In the summer of 2021, ICS received a major gift from the Reinders Family Foundation to fund scholarships for students in the Educational Leadership stream of ICS’s MA program, a gift that continues to support students of this program today. Fred never lost faith in what he called “the movement of the heart” that brought a Christian graduate school like ICS into existence. This movement of the heart, he said on another occasion, “must be kept alive and rekindled in our community so that future generations will retain the vision of God’s kingdom in all of life” (Perspective 26.4, 1992). The best way we at ICS can honour Fred’s legacy, then, is to continue to heed this call to seek out and walk upon the shalom way that our Maker and Redeemer continuously reveals to us.

We at ICS thank God for the impactful life of Fred Reinders and are proud to honour his memory.

May 6: Join Us for the Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love Book Launch!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 6th, 2-4pm EST, when we'll gather for a long-awaited celebration of ICS Senior Member Emeritus Jim Olthuis' latest book: Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love: A Theopoetics of Gift and Call, Risk and Promise (Wipf and Stock, 2022)!

This event will feature a panel discussion on topics arising from Jim's book, and ICS Senior Member Bob Sweetman will be moderating. An in-person reception will follow the discussion time. 

The panel discussion portion of this event will be hybrid, so please email cprse@icscanada.edu to RSVP and mention whether you plan to attend in person or online. 

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Book blurb from the publisher's website: 

In the twenty-first century, amid globalized violence, rising demagogues, and the climate emergency, contemporary philosophers and theologians have begun to debate a fundamental question: Is our reality the result of the overflowing, ever-present creativity of Love, or the symptom of a traumatic rupture at the heart of all things? Drawing on decades of research in postmodern philosophy and experience as a psychotherapist, James H. Olthuis wades into this discussion to propose a radical ontology of Love without metaphysics. In dialogue with philosophers like John D. Caputo, Slavoj Žižek, Luce Irigaray, and others, Olthuis explores issues from divine sovereignty and the problem of evil to trauma and social ethics. Experience in therapeutic work informs these investigations, rooting them in journeys with individuals on the path to healing. Olthuis makes the bold claim that while trauma, pain, and suffering are significant parts of our human lives, nevertheless Love is with us to the very end. Creation is a gift that comes with a call to make something of it ourselves, a risky task we must take on with the promise that Love will win. We are all dancing in the wild spaces of Love: ex amore, cum amore, ad amorem.

Save the Date: Celebrations of Bob Sweetman

The Institute for Christian Studies' 2023 Convocation ceremony will be taking place on May 26th around 6:30pm EDT. 

This year, we will be celebrating our Junior Member graduands with a hybrid event at Christ Church Deer Park in Toronto. The evening will also feature an exaugural address by retiring ICS Senior Member Bob Sweetman.

In addition to this yearly event, we will also be hosting the event: Gestures of Grace: Celebrating the Scholarly Contributions of Bob Sweetman. As the title suggests, this will be a celebration of Bob’s work and his lasting impact on the ICS community, and will take place earlier in the afternoon at 2pm EDT on May 26th. This celebration will feature a panel discussion on topics revolving around Bob's work and teaching. This will also be a hybrid event taking place at Regis College (100 Wellesley St. W) in Toronto.

Both Convocation and this panel will be open to the public and available to join in person or online. Feel free to email dyett@icscanada.edu if you have any questions about joining. 

The Vision of Home: A Conversation with Miroslav Volf on May 9

We're delighted to announce an upcoming event with Professor Miroslav Volf, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture! On May 9, 2:30-4:00pm EST, Prof. Volf will be giving a talk entitled The Vision of Home. This will be a hybrid event, graciously co-hosted by Regis College of the Toronto School of Theology, so please let us know if you'd like to join us in person or online. 

In the spirit of his latest book, The Home of God: A Brief Story of Everything (Brazos Press, 2022)co-authored with Ryan McAnnally-Linz, Prof. Volf will explore the contemporary "crisis of home" on display in challenges like nationalisms, natural disasters, mass global migration, and housing crises. We will consider, among other things, what possibilities might open up in the "Christian story of creation, redemption, and consummation through the lens of God's homemaking work."

We look forward to welcoming Prof. Volf to speak with us. Below you'll find Prof. Volf's bio and details for how to RSVP to this event. 

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St. Joseph Chapel, Regis College
100 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 2Z5

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
2:30–4:00pm EST

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Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He was educated in his native Croatia, the United States, and Germany, earning doctoral and post-doctoral degrees (with highest honors) from the University of Tübingen, Germany. 

He has written or edited more than 20 books, over 100 scholarly articles, and his work has been featured in the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Christian Century, Sojourners, and several other outlets, including NPR's Speaking of Faith (now On Being with Krista Tippett) and Public Television’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

Some of his most significant books include:

  • Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996; revised edition, 2019), translated in 9 other languages, winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and one of Christianity Today’s 100 most important religious books of the 20th century
  • Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (2006), which was the Archbishop of Canterbury Lenten book for 2006
  • Allah: A Christian Response (2011), on whether Muslims and Christians have a common God
  • After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (1998), winner of the Christianity Today Book Award
  • A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (2011)
  • The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (2006; revised edition, 2020), winner of the Christianity Today Book Award‍
  • Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World (2016) ‍
  • For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference (2019), co-authored with Matthew Croasmun

After receiving a B.A. from the Evangelical-Theological Faculty in Osijek, Croatia, Miroslav received his M.A. from Fuller Theological Seminary and both his Dr. theol. and Dr. theol. habil. from the University of Tübingen, Germany, studying under theologian Jürgen Moltmann. Prior to his appointment at Yale Divinity School in 1998, he taught at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia (1979–80 and 1983–90) and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (1990–1998).

A member of the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Evangelical Church in Croatia, Professor Volf has been involved in international ecumenical dialogues (for instance, with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and interfaith dialogues (on the executive board of C-1 World Dialogue), and is active participant in the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum. In October 2007, Prof. Volf was the lead author of the Christian response to “A Common Word Between Us and You,” the historic open letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals, which identified some core common ground at the heart of the Christian and Muslim faiths (the complete text can be found online at http://www.acommonword.com). The “Yale response,” as this response to “A Common Word” has become known, was published in November 2007 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, signed by more than 130 prominent Christian leaders and scholars.

Miroslav regularly teaches and lectures in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and across North America. He has given over 30 prestigious lectureships at universities around the world, including the Dudleian Lecture at Harvard University; the Chavasse Lectures at Oxford University; the Waldenstroem Lectures at Stockholm School of Theology; the Gray Lectures at Duke University, the Stob Lectures at Calvin University, and the Cadbury Lectures at University of Birmingham.