For 65 years now, The Canadian Council of Churches has been engaged in a conversation on Faith and the Public Square in Canada. Canadian churches have always played a significant role in the arena of public policy debate and development. Different churches have been involved in advocating for the establishment of universal public healthcare in Canada; petitioning for the cancellation of debt for countries where the debt had become debilitating; delivering essential social services to homeless and all in need; opposing Canada’s participation in nuclear weapons programs; or challenging – in fact, ending – the residential school system in Canada, an ill-conceived venture into which for a variety of reasons the churches had become complicit. Some experiences have had a salutary effect; others have necessitated deep soul searching and apologies.
Members of the Council have consistently rated working together on public affairs as one of our most important tasks. Indeed, the proclamation of the redemptive Gospel story cannot leave one indifferent to government policies and the conduct of public affairs. Laws, policies and legislative initiatives embody important community decisions; public dialogues, respectful civil advocacy and debate strengthen social cohesion. The Government of Canada, through our representatives, significantly shapes the society and world we are called to serve. The call to work for justice is a central task of followers of Jesus and the church.
Since 2005 the Governing Board of The Canadian Council of Churches has organized an annual Forum on Faith and Public Life during its Spring meeting. Each year, the Governing Board invites faith and public life leaders to explore a theme related to faith and the public life.
What Role for Faith in the Public Square?
Co-hosted this year with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, on May 18 the 2010 Forum on Faith and Public Life featured cabinet representative The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. The purpose of the event was to reflect on the role of faith in the public square, the role of churches in the voluntary sector, and to dialogue on the issues of the day – particularly those that will be addressed during the G8 G20 Summits in Canada in June and the parallel InterFaith Leaders Summit organized by the 2010 Interfaith Partnership in Winnipeg on June 21-23.
Click here to view the poster for the event. There is no record of Minister Strahl’s speech available at this time.
What Difference Do Churches Make?
On May 13 the 2009 Forum on Faith and Public Life featured the Leader of the Official Opposition Michael Ignatieff. Faith communities play a significant role in Canadian lives. The Christian tradition in particular plays both an important historic and contemporary role in Canadian society. The idea that faith is a private choice now sounds quaint. What is the role of faith communities, and churches in particular, in the public square today? What contribution are the churches making to the public dialogue in Canada? What do Canadian politicians expect of the churches?
Click here to view the poster for the event. There is no record of Michael Ignatieff’s speech available at this time.
The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy
The 2008 Forum on Faith and Public Life is documented in the publication “The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy”. With a foreword by The Rev. Dr. James Christie, President and Mike Hogeterp, Chair of the Commission on Justice and Peace, the contributions include
- Kathy Vandergrift on Effective Advocacy Strategies for Churches,
- Bill Janzen on Biblical Perspectives, and
- Bishop Bagrat Galstanian on a Case Study: Armenian Genocide.
Faith and the Public Square
The 2007 Forum on Faith and Public Life featured The Rev. Dr. Walter McLean, The Hon. Rev. Dr. Bill Blaikie, and The Rev. Fr. Bill Ryan, sj. During the past year, the CCC renewed its focus on the role of churches in the faith and public life issues of contemporary Canada. In previous Governing Board meetings we heard from various church traditions on how they approach these issues. The Commission on Justice and Peace of the CCC has also been focusing some of its programmatic energy on renewing dialogue on the role of various faith communities in the public arena and how they can more effectively cooperate with witness to just public policy. During this session we learn from and dialogue with experienced political leaders in Canada, who work from explicit faith commitments and ecclesiastical contexts.
What has changed over the years in how religion influences or supports public policy?
What has changed over the years in the role Canadian churches play on the political scene?
How might churches more effectively and appropriately participate in public policy decision-making today?
All three guests made brief presentations which were followed by a question and comments period. Click here to view a brief written record of the forum.
A link to the audio recording of the 2007 Forum on Faith and the Public Square including Bill Blaikie and Moderators Susan Eagle and Mike Hogeterp can be found here.
Church – State Relations
What has become a series of annual forums on faith and public life began with an evening panel at the May 2005 Governing Board meeting in Montreal. After reading from Matthew 4:13, representatives of different Christian traditions in The Canadian Council of Churches were asked: What church-state relations questions are raised for your tradition by these four issues:
- Same-sex marriage
- The military cap-badge in the military chaplaincy, and
- Emergency Planning