Vancouver Island Christian Schools Won’t Profit from Public System Strike

st.patricks kindergartenBy Steve Weatherbe

Although some Christian schools on Vancouver Island face a tough fight maintaining enrolment due to shrinking numbers of children in the population at large, they are making no efforts to attract parents concerned about a threatened closure of public schools this coming fall.
Says Stuart Hall, headmaster of the Christ Church Cathedral School in Victoria. “We don’t want people to come for the wrong reasons. We don’t want parents who are angry.” Nor does Hall want private schools seen as “sheep-stealers.” “Our province depends on good public schools and we wish them well. Our teachers are worried about their friends who teach in the public system.
Hall can count perhaps two enquiries caused by the teacher’s strike. “The woman lives near our school, attends Christ Church and has thought about our school for years. Now, because of the strike, she calls.” And there was a father who had a checklist of grievances against the public system—classroom size, too many students with special needs—“That’s where I drew the line,” admits Hall. “I told him we have special needs students too. It is our responsibility as a Christian school to accept them.” The man left.
David O’Dell, principal at Pacific Christian School, says Victoria’s largest by far K-12 Protestant school is making no effort to attract worried or disgruntled parents and their children.
“We’re not about stealing kids,” says O’Dell. PCS expects parents and children to be believers and churchgoers and once enquirers learn the school is serious about this, they politely withdraw. “We tell we are not judging them for their beliefs but we are a faith community.” Even when there is no strike action imminent, some parents come to PCS hoping it can “fix” their problem-child. “That’s not what we do either,” says O’Dell.
Bev Pulyk, the new superintendent of Vancouver Island’s Catholic schools, agrees. She says her system won’t be doing anything to attract public system pupils, “though certainly there will be a discernable increase in interest in private schools in the province overall,” she says. Enrolment could increase, but only from families that are already committed to the Catholic faith. “We exist to pass on our Catholic faith. We’re not going to dumb that down to appeal to greater numbers.” While Catholic schools do accept non-Catholics, as with Protestant schools, all students must attend all school events, including religious instruction and services.
But in places in the province where there is population growth and, relatedly, income growth, a strike will boost Christian school enrolment, says the head of B.C.’s chief private school organization. “Without a doubt, says Peter Froese, the executive director of the B.C. Federation of Independent School Associations, “ a strike will definitely have an impact.” Already FISA is fielding more than the average number of inquiries from worried parents, but Froese’s prediction is based on past experience.
While public school enrolment is declining year over year as the population ages, Christian schools are bucking the trend and growing at 2 percent a year across the province. And in 2012, the last time labour unrest darkened the educational horizons, Christian school enrolment climbed 4 percent.
“It pushes parents who’ve been thinking about our schools for years over the edge,” says Froese. So does prosperity. When natural resource activity increased in Northern and Central British Columbia in recent years, so did Christian school enrolment: the parents could finally afford it the fees, which vary from $2,500 (for Catholic schools) to $5,500 (for Protestant).
Conversely, Vancouver Island’s relatively stagnant economy has stalled enrolment at most Christian schools here, while public systems have shrunk. In Campbell River, where a pulp and paper mill recently shut down, enrolment at Campbell River Christian School is struggling. There is another factor, according to staff person who talked to the Vancouver Island Christian News: people are immigrating to the region, but they are retirees; they bring income, but not children.
The story is different in Vancouver, which is not only booming, it is booming with young Christian immigrants and is one of the places in Canada where church attendance has actually increased lately. That’s why, Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver schools, says a public-system strike will have no impact. “The reason is simple. We already have a waiting list of Catholics and have had for years.” Lauson guesses the reason is immigration, especially “the influx from South East Asia, which has large Catholic populations who are used to having their own schools.”

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Moral Foolishness from the Worldly Wise

Simon Anholt Helsinki May 2009 01(1)Countries are rated by an ‘expert’ ignorant of morality, history and Christianity

By Steve Weatherbe

The “goodest country in the world” is Ireland, says a British consultant named Simon Anholt, and I don’t disagree. He and “a team of experts” have rated all the countries using some objective criteria they assembled to assess how altruistic each country is towards people outside its own boundaries and Ireland comes up as the most selfless.

But there are two things that ought to appall Christians in the TED talk Anholt gave to an adoring audience about his annual goodness rating. First, he appears to believe he has “discovered” a new idea—that countries ought to do good in the world and not merely act out of self-interest.

This is not new: it is the Christian ideal of statehood and international relations. This ancient view sees states bound by morality as they act as individuals, as parents, really, protecting their own children first, while acting towards other individuals with loving kindness.  Just as parents might have to resort to violence to defend themselves or their families, or others,  from harm, so governments must go to war to protect their citizens—or their allies. Just as parents give generously in service and money and prayer to other individuals and families in need, so states help those beyond their borders. So it’s not new, Simon Anholt.

True, Machiavelli promoted the idea of the amoral king and state and he was backed up by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Today this view of the conduct of states is still popular. It even prevails. But it is not the Christian view. It is appalling that a well-informed person and one self-billed as an international advisor would not know it, or, knowing it, would conceal it.

The second appalling thing is Anholt’s view of morality. His goodness criteria has “nothing to do with morality,” he reassures his Ted audience. It has to do with altruism. My confident guess is that he thinks morality only deals with sex, possibly along with other things his parents forbade him to do when he was a kid—smoking? Slow dancing? Of course, altruism is a form of moral behaviour, called charity or caritas.

In separating the two, he expresses the popular view that we can cherry-pick morality, and that the way the people of a country choose to behave in terms of sexual morality has no impact on their conduct in other areas. We think this is wrong.

So here is a man with good intentions and even a good point to make basing it all on an  exceedingly shallow understanding of morality,  political thought and history. Apparently, he has simply excised Christianity from his understanding. He typifies our intelligentsia in the media and university.Can much good come from this?

I

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Home from Prison: the island’s pro-life heroine

mary-wagnerMary Wagner ‘s mission takes her into abortion clinics and behind bars

Mary Wagner, Vancouver Island’s pro-life crusader, was released from an Ontario prison jail after doing 22 months for entering a Toronto abortion clinic, interfering with the lawful conduct of its business, and breaching probation.
She was released at her sentencing hearing, sentenced to time already served. After “three to five” convictions, she must await trial in jail, because she always returns to the clinic while on probation.
For now, though she is back visiting her siblings in Victoria and parents in Nanaimo. They are supportive of the 40-year-old woman though they expect she will soon return to her calling—witnessing to women seeking abortion—and so to jail.
Mary faces the prospect of every lengthening sentences for her crimes with philosophical aplomb. “I’m not trying to get thrown in jail,” she says. “But if it were a 10-year sentence, then that would at least serve to highlight even more what is at stake–that each unborn baby is unique. What mother or father wouldn’t give their lives to save their own child’s life? Or go to jail? And just as each poor person was Jesus to Mother Theresa, each unborn baby is Jesus to me.”
While others have broken these laws by demonstrating within the bubble zones set up around clinics in Ontario and B.C., Mary Wagner has always gone right into the clinics, not she says, to protest, but to minister and witness.
Her usual modus operandi is to give whomever she finds in the waiting room a flower and talks to whoever will listen. If no one does, she talks softly to the room at large. At Christmas, before police came, she gave the patients little, brightly-wrapped gifts. If they asked what was inside, she replied, “You have to wait, just like to have to wait for what’s inside your womb.” The women she finds there are not usually very receptive, she admits. But occasionally, there is a positive reaction. “Once, when I talked about how 17 dead fetuses were found in a Lansing, Michigan dumpster, discarded by an abortion clinic, and how the bishop held a mass funeral for them, a woman who had been ignoring me looked up, held my gaze in shock , gathered her things and left. I think she finally got it.”
It is the crowning irony of Mary’s ministry that her time in jail—always the Madame Vanier Institute for Women in Mississauga, just west of Toronto—is well spent and may well be more effective than her witness in clinics. “The women in jail are way more receptive. Maybe because they have fallen so low, so much has been stripped away. Maybe God makes His love known to them out of His love for the poor,” she says. “Many have told me they have seen His hand in their lives at crucial moments.” She does not proselytize. The women come to Mary, attracted by her regular prayer life. The Catholics join her in the Rosary. Protestants join in study and meditation on Scripture. Mary does not actively proselytize, but women do talk about why they are inside, and most of her fellow inmates who do talk admit to having had abortions. “Unlike women in the clinics, these women know they took a life.”
Though they know Mary is likely to spend much of her life behind bars, her parents are accepting. “I’ve never had a problem with what she does,” says father Frank Wagner. “Mary is called to do what she does. Who could ask for anything different from their children?I wish she weren’t in jail so much, but she does good work while she’s there.”

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Why Even Atheists Should Fight For The Trinity Western University Law School

Comment By Dan Rutherford[1]

The ongoing fracas over the intention of Trinity Western University (TWU), Canada’s only Evangelical Protestant university, to open a law school has now been met with a new challenge, the recent refusal of both Ontario and Nova Scotia’s Law Societies to recognize any l­aw graduates from TWU. While this may please some secularists,  I would argue that those concerned for a flourishing civil and pluralistic society will find this turn of events disturbing.

There is a significant reason why all Canadians might hope for the success of an institution such as TWU in its Law School application. That reason is the benefit to  Canada as a whole of a healthy, growing religious community. This idea may seem suspect in an age where so many people seem to resonate with the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, that “religion poisons everything.”  However, as renowned Harvard Sociologist Robert Putnam and co-researcher David Campbell have stated, and demonstrated through extensive research on religion and society; “Individual citizens who are members of religious groups are better neighbors and more civically active than their secular counterparts.”

To demonstrate the point, Putnam and Campbell’s research looks at three specific measures of good neighborliness: levels of charitable giving, volunteerism and civic engagement. In each of these areas the remarkable findings are that those who are religiously engaged provide substantially more to the social good (social capital) than those who are non-religious. These areas of volunteering, giving and serving are not confined to the walls of their religious institutions, but spill over in significant ways into the margins of society. Putnam and Campbell point out that 91% of those who volunteer for religious causes also volunteer for at least one secular cause. “69% who did not volunteer for a religious group did not volunteer for a secular one either”. Further, ‘in round numbers regular churchgoers are more than twice likely to volunteer to help the needy compared to … (those) who rarely if ever attend church.”  [2]

Similar measures have been explored in the Canadian context by Researchers Paul B. Reed and L. Kevin Selbee in their work titled, “The Civic Core in Canada: Disproportionality in Charitable Giving, Volunteering, and Civic Participation”. Their findings are quite remarkable and somewhat disturbing noting that, “six percent of Canadian adults account for 35% to 42% of all civic involvement.” They have called this small group of individuals the “civic core” in Canada. When they explore the make up of this civic core, they find that “The profile of characteristics of people in the civic core includes those that are customarily found among elites: elevated levels of occupational status, education, and income. Others of their characteristics are not associated with elites: a strong religious orientation…”[3]

 

The work of Ida Berger, “The Influence of Religion on Philanthropy in Canada”[4] also confirms the impact of the religiously inclined in Canadian society. “Religious affiliation and self-perceived religiosity appear to be important as influences on philanthropic variance. Those who are non-religiously affiliated are the least philanthropic, while those who identify themselves, as conservative Protestants are the most philanthropic.

If religious people and the institutions they support are forced to embrace the values of a non-religious majority, then society ceases to be truly pluralistic. Ultimately all Canadians will lose the valuable and generous contributions of an, albeit small, but vital part of its society. Surely even those who do not share the religious convictions of an institution like TWU would do well to advocate for them, so as not to diminish the provisions that many, both secular and religious, enjoy as a result.

This is not an appeal to make all of society more religious or to say that religious people are better people than secular ones. Nor is this article or the application of TWU an assault on the freedoms of those of any sexual orientation, which by the way is not mentioned in the TWU student covenant. Instead, it is recognition of the significant role that religion plays in our society. In fact, this is a plea to consider how all Canadians are the poorer in every measure when the wider culture seeks to curtail the religious freedoms of a vital part of society.

 

[1] The Rev. Dan Rutherford is currently a Community Sabbatical Fellow as The Center for the study of Religion and Society at The University of Victoria. His recent study has been on the Millennial Generation and Social Capital.

[2] Putnam, Robert D., and David E.

Campbell, American Grace. Simon and

Shuster, 2010. pp. 445-446, 627-628

[3] Reed and Selbee 775

[4] Berger, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, June 2006, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 110-127

 

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The Joy of Music

The Joy of Music

With her three sisters, a Vancouver Island woman brings forgiveness and love into Texas prisons.

The Facts

When Lorraine Bandet of Victoria agreed to help her sister Evelyn in Texas with her prison ministry, she had no idea it would mean talking to young women dimly glimpsed through a one-foot by one-foot plexiglass opening in a steel door, and talking to them through a narrow, floor level slot in that door.

“It took me aback at first, for sure,” says Lorraine, whose speech still bears charming traces of her Francophone upbringing in rural Saskatchewan. “They are all in solitary confinement, in tiny stalls. We each knock on a different door, ask them if they want to talk, to sing, to pray. Usually they do.”

“We” includes Aline and Carmel who  have join Lorraine and Evelyn for the past five years in Berzoria County, Texas, “a place with a lot of prisons,” says Lorraine ruefully, for a week of sisterly fellowship—and prison music ministry. Each year, they put on a concert at a men’s penitentiary, and minister more intimately at a women’s jail.

“Music has always brought us together and brought us great joy,” says Lorraine, recalling how the family of six girls and six boys would sing at Catholic church socials accompanied by their parents. “It was the best time of our lives.” Evelyn became a country gospel singer, cut records in Nashville and continued to perform in Saskatchewan at pro-life events before moving with her husband to Texas 18 years ago. There 12 years ago she volunteered to join her parish priest in providing a Catholic presence in the local prisons and eventually roped her sisters in too.

The sisters sing “everything,” pop, C &W, Gospel to an audience of about a 150 men accompanied by a prison band. “The men are incredibly talented,” says Lorraine. The sisters also testify as to the love Christ and tp the important role Mary can play as their guide through life. “Many of these men came from really bad family situations. Mary is a true mother for these men.”

Lorraine has seen men “lifted up to a different place,” by the hymns the sisters sing.  The message that Jesus forgives them and cherishes them is a welcome one indeed to men serving long sentences. Many are baptised and receive their First Communion in jail, dressing all in white for the sacraments.

But it is working with the women that Lorraine especially cherishes. “There is a real pro-life angle to this,” says Lorraine, who is a regular participant in the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil outside the CRD’s abortion clinic in View Royal. That angle emerges in those talks  conducted through the steel doors.” “Ninety per cent of the women that we speak to have had an abortion. They have destroyed a life and now feel their own life has no value.” The sisters preach Christ’s forgiveness. Later, Evelyn’s parish takes in many of these women when they are released, providing advice and instruction on how to live productive lives, be good mothers and reclaim their children from the foster care system.

As grim as the settings are, says Lorraine, “When we come out we feel renewed.

You never know what these women have been through,” she adds. “We’ re not there to judge or condemn but just give them hope that life can be better for them.  But doing this helps us too. It has made me stronger in my faith, more willing to stand outside the abortion clinic.”

 

The Comment

Unpaid volunteers send a powerful message to those serving time. These men and women know how scary they are and appreciate those brave and kind enough to get close. The Good News that Christ forgives sinners is easier to hear behind a steel door.

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Water for Haiti

Some Victorians band together to bring clean water to a poor community
The Facts
A remote, primitive Haitian community is getting clean water thanks to a small group of

Victoria's Dan Rutherford with Haitian friends

Victoria’s Dan Rutherford with Haitian friends

Victoria Christians. Two hours out of Haiti’s capital of Port Au Prince by road and another 30 minutes by motorcycle (or several hours on foot), scrabbling to exist growing vegetables on one or two-acre plots, farming, the community of a 100 people is also beset by diseases, especially cholera, that are spread by dependence on contaminated rivers and streams. Even the wells are contaminated to a depth of 100 feet.
Now work has begun on a new well, dug down below the contamination line, which will have its own purification system, built by Water for the World, but funded by 14 Victoria families led by Dan Rutherford, former pastor at Gateway Baptist Church.
Dan, if anything, resisted the call God was making for him to do something in Haiti after it was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. “I knew nothing about it except what I’d heard about the danger from disease and violence,” he recalls.
The call came via his wife Beverly, however, which gave it some clout. A physician, she had joined a handful of medical personnel from Victoria who responded to the prostrated nation’s plight and while serving there for two weeks met a young pastor who totally had taken 14 children orphaned by the quake under his care.
“He wasn’t asking us for anything, not money or clothing,” says Dan. “He just wanted to be connected with Christians outside Haiti.” One thing led to another and to Dan being asked to visit for a week with Pastor “Fred,” his wife and his orphans, in the no-named community, despite all his misgivings about the place and about his own inadequacy to deal with it. “It was grinding poverty like I’d never seen,” he recalls. “So far out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t ignore what I’d seen but I couldn’t see how one person could make an impact.” So he studied up on community development, read the book by Paul Farmer, Haiti Since the Earthquake, and decided the people in the community itself had to call the shots. “I asked Pastor Fred to invite everyone to a party. Then at some point break everyone up into small groups and get them all to come up with what the community needed most.” The answer turned out to be clean water.
As it was, the only clean water had to be brought in by motorcycle at 25 Haitian dollars a jug, driving most back on local natural sources poisoned by e coli and cholera. Dan lined up an American aid agency , Water for the World, which had developed a cheap new technology that converts common table salt to chlorine for purification and used solar power to pump it out of the ground. Cheap local labour would dig the well and build the concrete building to house the system and the reservoir.
Dan rounded up Victorians with a free dinner and some dance lessons and raised $6,500. He found a Canadian charity, the Haiti Christian Aid Society, to funnel the funds to Water for the World (and give out tax credits here). The project was soon put together. The plan is to sell the water –at H$2 a jug—rather than give it away, partly to move the community towards having an economy, partly so that the community will value the project and partly to pay the system’s caretakers.
Dan doesn’t know what the next project will be. “We’ll watch how this develops first. Maybe we will build the orphanage. Pastor Fred and his wife are having a baby so there are a lot of people crowded into a home the size of your kitchen right now.”

Thousands of Vancouver Island Christians (and some atheists we know) are quietly doing similar volunteer work, as doctors, engineers, nurses, optometrists, plastic surgeons, missonaries and labourers, in the developing world. We tell this story to inspire imitation—that would be Imitation of Christ. Please pass on any inspiring story you know. Email: steve.weatherbe@gmail.com

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New Bishop of Victoria Lost an Important Battle in the Yukon

Bishop Grdon ceelbrates Mass in Yukon

Bishop Grdon ceelbrates Mass in Yukon

Bishop Gary Gordon reportedly let territorial government weaken Catholic school curriculum

By Steve Weatherbe

The Vancouver Island Christian News June 23, 2014

The Facts

Pope Francis has selected Victoria (and all Vancouver Island)’s new bishop. He is Vancouver-born Gary Gordon, bishop of Whitehorse since 2006. The news media reports on Gordon’s appointment say there are 90,000-plus Catholics on the Island but that is a census number. There are between 5,000 -10,000 actually signed up with parishes. The rest are lapsed, out of lack of interest or opposition to Church teachings or a combination of both. Born in Vancouver in 1957, Bishop Gordon was ordained in 1982 and served in several Vancouver parishes. He demonstrated an administrative flair and rose to head committees of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops related to prison chaplaincy and relations with the Anglican Church. As bishop of Whitehorse he was recently involved in conflict with the Yukon government over Church teaching on homosexuality. The education ministry developed an approach to homosexuality, in order to respond to allegations of bullying, that went beyond tolerance and required the school system to teach homosexuality was normal. Some parents and media pundits complained that the Catholic schools, all tax-funded but under Gordon’s authority, were teaching, as they should, Catholic doctrine. The media focused on a few dramatic phrases in the Catholic Catechism which declares homosexual activity to be “gravely depraved” and “seriously disordered.” Bishop Gordon responded with a policy document and directive to teachers which balanced the need to show equal love to all students and prevent bullying with the need to teach Catholic sexual morality. The territorial government said the policy was out of line and that religious liberty must submit to sexual liberty. Last fall Bishop Gordon came out with a policy that was, as Lifesite News noted, not only revised but renamed: “The original policy contested by the government was called ‘Living with Hope, Ministering by Love, Teaching in Truth.’ The new policy title reads: ‘One Heart: Ministering by Love.’” Gone, says Lifesite, were any negative references to homosexuality.

The Comment

That confrontation reflects the unfortunate position that all Catholic schools –and their bishops–find themselves in, especially those which are funded by the taxpayers. On the one hand, Catholic schools exist for one reason: to teach the faith along with the ordinary public school curriculum. On the other hand, many parents who send their children to these schools do not support certain aspects of the faith, such as the Church’s–and Christianity’s–untrendy teaching on homosexuality. Nor do many teachers in the Catholic system support it. (It is worth noting that the Yukon media and complainers cited the Rome-written Cathechism and not the locally produced Catholic curriculum to make their point—could it be because there wasn’t anything in the curriculum condemning homosexual activity.) Moreover, it is unlikely supporters of the schools would want to lose government funding over the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Bishop Gordon may also have been influenced in his decision by the fact that practising Catholics are a tiny minority in the Yukon—as they are in B.C. In Alberta and Ontario where there are more Catholics—and Christians in general, political parties are less pushy in these matters, and bishops bolder. In reality, self-identifying Catholics and their institutions in the U.S. and Canada have long reflected the immigrants’ eagerness to “fit in” to the larger, once Protestant, and now secular, popular culture. The actual outcome of Catholic school teaching in the two countries reflects this. Two surveys of graduates of public and private, Catholic and Protestant schools in the U.S. and Canada, conducted in the last five years by Cardus, a Toronto Evangelical Protestant think tank in conjunction with Notre Dame University in the U.S., revealed Catholic school graduates emerge with little in the way of Catholic knowledge. But they are more trusting than the public graduates in big government, for example, and more supportive of same sex marriage and sex before marriage, more likely to accept evolution as fact, and less likely to make decisions based on religious morality. That’s compared to public school grads, let alone Protestant ones. On the plus side, Catholic grads are better prepared for university. Protestant private schools, on the other hand, produce graduates markedly more oriented to Christian values, and less to university. The Catholic schools have, significantly, never published a similar study to refute Cardus. So why would Bishop Gordon go to the wall for a school system that doesn’t deliver on its founding premise, and whose parents wouldn’t want him to? Let us hope Vancouver Island Catholics are more willing to stand up for their rights and their faith. Don’t think the secular humanists will stop at dictating what is taught in religious schools. The pulpits will be next and the homes finally.

 

 

 

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