Covenant Weekly - February 6, 2018

Covenant Weekly - February 6, 2018

Some of you may be aware of the controversy surrounding the Canadian Government's 2018 Canada Summer Jobs program. It has centred around the governments demand that every applicant for the summer jobs program affirm the following attestation:

Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. (Article 12.1 i of the Canada Summer Jobs articles of agreement)

When this was announced faith-based organizations who hold an anti-abortion conviction and affirm a traditional definition of marriage reacted very strongly. Church groups have coordinated lawyers in efforts to get this removed (to no avail) and protests have been held. Reactions and anger have been widespread in the media - both traditional and social. While the Canadian Government has maintained the importance of this attestation, they have also issued some supplementary information regarding what they mean by the attestation they are requiring.

You may read the full supplementary information at this link, but here is some of what the government says it means by what they are requiring:

Core mandate: This is the primary activities undertaken by the organization that reflect the organization’s ongoing services provided to the community. It is not the beliefs of the organization, and it is not the values of the organization.
Respect: Individual human rights are respected when an organization’s primary activities, and the job responsibilities, do not seek to remove or actively undermine these existing rights.

In examples about who qualifies for funding, they clearly state that an organization qualifies for funding even if it believes differently than the government on issues presented - so long as the primary activities of the organization and of the student they hire are not directly related to these issues.

As a result of this clarification Be In Christ Church of Canada has advised us that as far as they are concerned we absolutely qualify for funding. None of our BIC Canada primary activities (following Jesus, sharing his message, 
and extending his peace around the world) or Covenant's primary activities (Connecting, Learning, Living, Renewing, Reaching) hinder our ability to affirm what the government is asking based on what they say they mean.

A foundational component of any productive conversation is listening well to the other and honouring what they say. The active listening tool of repeating back to someone what you think you heard them say is a way this can be practiced. If what you heard is different than what was intended there is an opportunity for clarification. Despite the government's clear clarification of what they mean, there are many Christians and faith groups who continue to suggest that we have to believe in the same things as the government in order to receive funding. This simply isn't true. Those who claim it to be true aren't listening well.

As people who are directed to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" (James 1:19) we should be ready and willing to listen to the government's clarification. And we should certainly be less reactive and less angry than many who claim the name of Jesus have been around this issue.

Now . . . does this mean that I am excited about the general direction the government is taking? No, it doesn't mean that. Does their clarification mean that they will never, in the future, narrow requirements for funding to exclude churches? No.

This year's clarification doesn't say anything for the future. It wouldn't surprise me if, at some point in the future, churches were cut off from government funding. It wouldn't surprise me if, over time, things changed in regards to other privileges we enjoy such as charitable status and freedom from property taxes. If changes like that happen, how should we, as Christians, respond to the government? That is another question . . . and one I hope to address in next week's Covenant Weekly.

But in the meantime, we have been assured by the Government of Canada that, based on our primary activities, we do qualify for funding for a summer student. In light of that, and at BIC Canada's encouragement, we have applied for a grant to fund a student to join with Jenn and Kyle in leading special children and youth ministry during the summer. If we receive the funding, we'll proceed with seeking to find a college student to join our team this summer as we work to reach our community with the love and hope of Jesus.