Faith Today Turns 25Whatever happened to so-and-so? The editors tracked down some of the people Faith Today wrote about in the past two and a half decades.
Whatever happened to…? It’s a question we ask more and more as we get older. As Faith Today turns 25, passing from young adult-hood to plain old adulthood, it seems an appropriate time to gauge where we are by looking back to see how far we’ve come.
Audrey Dorsch (then editorial and research assistant), Brian Stiller (editor-in-chief) and Lori Mitchener (managing editor) discuss the layout of a Faith Alive article in 1985. It now takes six full- and part-time staff as well as several freelance writers to put together an issue of Faith Today.
Editors Bill Fledderus and Karen Stiller have compiled the following tidbits from past and present for your enjoyment. If you have similar contributions to share, send them to FTeditor@efc-canada.com. We’ll put them online or in a future issue of the print magazine.
Of course there’s more to be said than what you’ll find below. What about our country’s changing attitudes to faith, money, sexuality, caring for the vulnerable, justice, multiculturalism and more?
Some of that you’ll find in the historical articles about Faith Today at evangelicalfellowship.ca.
But more importantly, these crucial Canadian issues are part of a story that’s still being written in each issue of Faith Today – a story you can help to shape by participating in our online 25th anniversary reader survey.
Take a few minutes sometime during the next few weeks to visit www.faithtoday.ca and click the link to the survey. It will help ensure that Faith Today covers the right topics in the right way over the next few years.
Thank you for your support of Faith Today. Your prayers, subscription payments, advertising dollars and even gift subscriptions enable this communications ministry. The editors welcome and carefully read every letter to the editor. We look forward to hearing from you again soon!
Arrested in Nepal
Mervyn Budd, 26, an Operation Mobilization missionary from London, Ontario, and his American partner Dave McBride were arrested in Nepal on October 27, 1988, and are still (at press time) being held without bail.” That was the first line of a story that appeared 20 years ago in Faith Today magazine.
Merv Budd, far left in 1988, with Dave McBride standing outside the prison in their prison uniforms, and today with his family.
We’re happy to report that Budd and McBride were released four months later and cleared of the charges of “preaching Christianity and disturbing the peace of Hinduism.” Looking back at his time in prison, Budd now says: “I think it was a huge blessing in a lot of ways. I had lots of time to read my Bible and pray. I couldn’t do anything else. I was in the middle of God’s will. I can look back and see all the good that God brought out of it.”
Budd returned to Canada, attended Regent College in Vancouver and serves today as senior minister at North Burlington Baptist Church in Ontario. His zeal for evangelism has not diminished: Budd is also national director for Equipping Evangelists (E2), a network operating on the national initiatives platform of the EFC.
Reflecting on past and present, he points out: “In Nepal people were hungry. You told them you had a Bible they couldn’t own and they wanted it. In Canada you can offer people a Bible in 27 different languages, and they choose ignorance.” Would Budd ever return to Nepal? “I’d love to go back. I love the country and the people.
“When I was young, I used to pray ‘God send me anywhere, even if no one else will go there. I choose to go to the risky places.’ ” Back in Canada he has repeated this prayer and “sensed I was to stay in Canada. I’m wondering now if Canada is one of those hardest places.” –KS
In 1985 Regent College revolutionized Christian education by offering courses on videotape. Today, students can download lectures by Regent professor J.I. Packer and listen to them on their iPods.
Back in 1985 Faith Today (then known as Faith Alive) reported a revolutionary new approach to theological education. Regent College in Vancouver had broken out of “the bounds of the pattern of traditional seminary education,” said John R. Sutherland, then Regent College’s director of extension ministries.
The revolution? Videotapes of Regent College courses available for audit or credit. If you wanted more information on the video courses, you needed to write a letter and mail it – in an envelope! – to the college. Those days seem very far away now. Today, Regent College offers courses through iTunes U. You can download lectures by J. I. Packer and listen to them on your iPod.
“We’ve started to offer a few courses on iTunes U as well as courses on DVD” video, says Fiona Broadhead, co-ordinator for continuing studies at Regent College. “Eventually we hope to offer all our courses on iTunes U.” Of course, Regent College is not alone in its use of the latest technology, but it serves as a great example of just how much things have changed in the past 25 years. –KS
Voices for Victims
The sun is shining again for Wilma Derksen. And it has been a long time coming. In 1990 Faith Today told the story of how Derksen’s faith was helping her cope with the unsolved 1984 murder of Candace, her 13-year-old daughter.
Wilma Derksen is the director of Victims’ Voices of the Mennonite Central Committee. Faith Today reported how her faith helped her cope with the unsolved murder of her daughter.
Working to advance restorative justice and victims’ rights has turned out to be a major calling for Derksen. Today she remains director of Victims’ Voices of the Mennonite Central Committee. Victims’ Voices is “an exploration of victims’ concerns and issues within a restorative justice context,” explains Derksen. “What we’ve done over the years is created resources for victims of serious crimes.”
Derksen says her work in this realm, so deeply connected to the death of her daughter, has been “very rewarding. We’ve had a voice, a moderate voice, in advocacy at all kinds of levels and been part of government advisory committees. I’ve had a significant role and I think my work in creating justice for crime victims has been my contribution, my ministry. It has created meaning in Candace’s death and given me a place to honour her, to continue to value her. All of those things are what God has asked us to do in whatever we are given.”
In May of last year, 23 years after Candace disappeared, her body was found, bound and abandoned in a tool shed. The police came to the Derksens’ front door and told them an arrest had finally been made. The case will proceed in February 2009. “The enormous change for our family and for the public is to know what kind of man had allegedly taken Candace. I think it’s really important because there was a shadow of suspicion around our family because, in most cases, 90 percent of the time, it is family or friends.”
For that cloud to be lifted, says Derksen “has really sort of freed us. Before, we were living under cloudy conditions. Now we are seeing the sun. And it sure is brilliant and sunny.” –KS
Changing face of Mission
Canadian church and parachurch missions agencies are urgently seeking new career missionaries to replace retiring personnel and to increase their effectiveness overseas. But young adults just aren’t coming forward…” That was how a 1988 story in Faith Today began.
People interested in mission today are not necessarily youth. Don Posterski and others saw this trend emerging in 1988.
Two decades later, mission agencies are dramatically different. “In 1988 Canada saw itself strictly as a sending place, but that has totally changed,” explains Greg Bryce, executive director of SIM Canada.
“We have missionaries now coming from places like Brazil and Korea to minister here in Canada, to work in church planting and with growing ethnic communities. We have made a change in our own organization to see ourselves as facilitating missions, and that means people coming and going.”
The “sending” that Canada does today is “more about training others and building into the host Christians so they can carry on the work,” says Bryce.
Don Posterski, recently retired from World Vision International, was quoted in the original article in his role as a youth specialist. Twenty years later, Posterski remains research professor of Christianity and culture at Tyndale University College and Seminary.
Today he welcomes the realization that “people interested in mission today” are not necessarily youth. They are “vocationally gifted in an area where they are strategically needed” and can be a wide range of ages “captivated by a Christian mission driven by love and justice.”
Bryce says there is a growing number of people who are 50-plus and “want to make a contribution in this thing called mission. They’ve taken their retirement and they are saying ‘Send me somewhere.’ They are going for four or five years or less, and they are able to make a huge contribution.” –KS
Once an editor
Audrey Dorsch, Marianne Meed Ward and Larry Matthews are all former editors of Faith Today magazine who continue to work in the Toronto area.
Former managing editors Audrey Dorsch (far left), Marianne Meed Ward and Larry Matthews now work in freelance editing, writing opinion columns or consulting.
Dorsch was the magazine’s first long-term editor, from 1986 to 1995. For the past dozen years she has operated her own editing and proofreading business (www.dorschedit.ca), working on nearly 100 books and many other printed materials. At Faith Today she also organized and taught at conferences about writing and editing. She continues teaching as an active member of The Word Guild, a national association of Christian writers and editors.
Marianne Meed Ward worked with Dorsch for several years as a writer and news editor before taking the helm from 1996 to 1999.
To explain the magazine’s rationale for printing what some readers complained was “bad news” along with the good, they composed A Manifesto for Faith Today. This short document highlighted the need to speak the truth in love and not shirk from including unpleasant details in cases where the details were necessary to give readers a full understanding.
A few months ago, Meed Ward reflected on such issues at the annual convention of the Canadian Church Press association.
She also mentioned she has twice run for political office (and came close to being elected) and hopes to run again for the provincial Liberal party in the next election.
Since 1999 she has also been writing weekly opinion columns for the Toronto Sun and doing similar work with VisionTV, operating her own media company (www.meedwardmedia.ca) and raising her children.
Larry Matthews, a former editor of The Canadian Baptist, edited Faith Today from 1999 to 2000. In a 2003 article he pointed out that Faith Today has always had to “balance its close ties to the EFC with its role as a journal for the wider evangelical constituency. That tension is not something to be resolved, and in fact can be a productive place to be.”
Since 1995 Matthews, a co-founder and vice-president of KMA Consultants, has been providing fundraising, communications and research expertise to charities and churches across Canada.
Current editors of Faith Today are Gail Reid, Bill Fledderus and Karen Stiller. The magazine’s longest-serving staff member is Rob Robotham, production manager. – BF
A profile of Flyn Ritchie and his family from a 1990 issue of Faith Today remarked: “What makes their family distinctive is that Flyn and Margaret share their workweek, trading off days at B.C. Christian News where Flyn is a writer and resource director and Margaret is accounts manager. On days off, one parent is always at home with the [five] children.
“The two met at the L’Abri Christian Community in Switzerland after Flyn had become a Christian in Zambia.”
Today Flyn Ritchie is publisher of that same newspaper, which has grown dramatically to become one of Canada’s most successful Christian newspapers. The organization also publishes a major website, www.canadianchristianity.com.
He reflected on his entry into the “evangelical subculture” (from an unchurched background) in a 1989 column in Faith Today: “The evangelical network may be extensive and international, but at the local level it seems to be resistant to interaction with the broader culture. If some conservative Protestants venture into the world armed with conspiracy theories and visions of satanic forces threatening from all sides, others seem all but oblivious to the dangers of cultural accommodation and too readily succumb to the secular trends around us. But there is a moderate approach to life in the world today.”
Most of the Ritchie children are now in universities across North America. –BF
The multimedia presentation The Scroll was viewed by an estimated one million people at Expo 86 in Vancouver, reported Faith Today that year. It was produced by Bruce Stacey, then of Crossroads Christian Communications (100 Huntley Street).
Bruce, Stacey‘s mutimedia presentation The Scroll was view by an estimated one million people at Expo ’86.
Brian Stiller introduced readers to the centrepiece of The Pavilion of Promise as “a new model of evangelism” aimed at a generation of self-absorbed “yuppies” who were cynical and uninterested in religion.
The Scroll included laser lights, powerful music, riveting photography, disarming interviews with children and an excellent monologue. The English version was read by Malcolm Muggeridge. All audience members were given headphones so they could choose their own language.
Stacey explained: “My original vision was to create a sense of wonder in the hearts of people who don’t accept the notion of the supernatural.”
Success led to Stacey’s involvement in similar productions at four Expos in other major world cities.
Stacey left Crossroads in 1988 and, in 1993, formed his own company, Chelsea Road Productions, which has produced video materials for Cook Communications, CTV and many other major companies and ministries.
A popular project now is God Rocks! featuring a group of talking rocks that have been around since Bible times. God Rocks! includes a series of animated videos, a touring music concert and curriculum materials.
Stacey’s passion has always been to “push the boundaries of faith-based media” in terms of creative excellence and wide distribution. His focus on children is strategic, meeting the need for wholesome media and sharing the gospel with audiences of a receptive age.
“We always need to be communicating the Gospel effectively, using the best tools available in our day,” says Stacey. –BF
Training Christians to engage
Founding Faith Today was one of the first major things Brian Stiller did when he was appointed to lead The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) in 1983. The magazine, initially edited by Lori Mitchener, helped to convey the message that the EFC was a “serious player” in Canadian society, says Stiller today.
Brian Stiller is still calling Evangelicals to be salt and light in our culture.
Tyndale University College and Seminary, which Stiller has led since 1996, is now working hard to be more of a serious player in post-secondary education. Stiller has helped to lead the century-old Bible college to pay down a crushing debt, become a university and acquire a new, larger campus.
Stiller’s past work at the EFC and current work at TynBruce dale both stem from his desire to help train Christians to engage culture.
At the EFC, Stiller says, he aimed “to help Evangelicals understand that sectarianism is neither biblical nor helpful.” In his first 10 years he travelled the country delivering an eight-hour seminar called Understanding Our Times, perhaps 200 times. The seminar looked at how different Christian traditions relate to society and encouraged participants to think about how they could engage their culture – and how the EFC could help.
Canada was becoming more secular, but Stiller argued believers needed to speak up in favour of freedom of religion rather than freedom from religion.
The seminar also helped build an EFC constituency numbering 18,000 members, which in turn helped Stiller to be taken seriously by the federal government when Henry Morgentaler challenged Canada’s abortion law.
Eventually the abortion law was declared unconstitutional, but the proposed replacement, Bill C-43, did not pass. To this day Canada lacks such a law.
Though the failure of Bill C-43 was a “crushing defeat” for Evangelicals, the experience allowed the EFC to make the case to Evangelicals of the need for a realistic, “incremental” approach to political engagement – and the need to differentiate themselves from Christian fundamentalists who rejected “any understanding of incremental grace.”
In place of the angry voices often heard from parts of the pro-life movement and fundamentalism, Stiller used two television shows, The Stiller Report and Crosscurrents, to try to “model how we could engage people of opposing views without getting angry.”
Today Stiller hopes Tyndale students, like all those prospective EFC members in the 1980s, will be equipped to follow Christ’s call to be salt and light in society. –BF
Originally published in Faith Today, July/August 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.