Winter Issue 7
1917 IN 2017
by Alex Strohschein
Oliver came to Vancouver for a nine-week evangelistic campaign which lasted from May 20 – July 22, 1917. Just as observers have pointed out that Graham’s Festival is supported by a diverse array (particularly from ethnic churches), Oliver was invited to the city by the Vancouver Evangelistic Movement (VEM), led by an ecumenical committee “composed of Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren and a Methodist.” The VEM raised enough funds to build the temporary 5000 seat tabernacle. Oliver had initially hoped to secure sponsorship from the Greater Vancouver Ministerial Association but the organization refused because they believed Oliver was a belligerent fundamentalist.
The first six weeks of Oliver’s campaign were without controversy; indeed, the media highlighted the large crowds and Oliver’s oration. The evangelist claimed nearly 2000 came to faith during that time. Oliver’s “vivid portrayal of a literal hell” is what finally ignited a controversy that erupted across Vancouver’s churches. Oliver began lashing out against higher criticism, calling its advocates “pegged-legged infidels,” “little puppets in the pulpit” and “ecclesiastical buzzards.” Higher criticism was also suspected by Protestant conservatives due to its origins in Germany, the same country that was presently at war with the Canada, Britain, and the USA. Oliver also attacked the emphasis on the social gospel.
Liberal ministers retaliated. O.M. Sanford of Grandview Methodist compared Oliver to Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, though Sanford claimed to prefer Russell’s beliefs in annihilationism over Oliver’s belief in eternal torment. Oliver’s denunciation of theological liberalism had a direct impact on preaching in Vancouver as theological modernists rushed to defend higher criticism while Oliver’s supporters, including J.L. Campbell of First Baptist Church, joined the fray and attacked liberal theology.
In the aftermath of Oliver's 1917 campaign, Vancouver's conservative Protestants began forming their own missions and organizations outside of the control of the Protestant mainline, resulting in Vancouver's Christians being separated into a "conservative" and "liberal" camp. The Oliver and Graham events are not entirely the same. The Oliver controversy was an internecine conflict that separated Vancouver’s liberal and conservative Christians, “social regeneration versus soul-winning,” while Graham is most controversial for remarks he has made about non-Christians (along with his support of Trump). But Oliver’s 1917 campaign does demonstrate ecclesiastical controversy is nothing new to Vancouver.
Vancouver’s Rogers Arena will play host to Franklin Graham’s “Festival of Hope” on March 3-5, 2017. The Festival’s website declares the event is “Intended to draw thousands of people to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ” and “each evening will feature Christian musicians, testimonies, and the Gospel message from Franklin Graham.” Proponents also view it as an opportunity for greater church unity in Vancouver.
Despite the best of intentions, the Festival has generated considerable controversy due to Graham’s past incendiary comments about Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community and his close ties to Donald Trump. Several highly respected Vancouver-based pastors, including Ken Shigematsu (Tenth Church) and Tim Dickau (Grandview Calvary Baptist), along with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, have expressed concerns about Graham’s presence and/or withdrawn their support. Despite these concerns, the Festival still has the backing of numerous churches and notable pastors such as Norm Funk (Westside Church), Sam Owusu (Calvary Worship Centre), and Wayne Lo (Chinese Christian Church of Vancouver).
It is admittedly a challenging and multifaceted dilemma for Vancouver’s Christians. Critics have suggested that the Festival replace Graham with a more winsome speaker such as Luis Palau or Ravi Zacharias but the latter strikes me as an apologist more than an evangelist. Graham also has name recognition that few other evangelists have. The Festival of Hope is supposed to be an evangelistic event, not a political or moral platform which Graham can use to rebuke those he is opposed to; if his aim is simply to tell the “Good News” then we can pray he will do so without attacking those who have felt targeted by him. I believe that some folks support Graham because they see the Festival purely as an evangelistic event; they may object to some of Graham’s controversial statements but he is in Vancouver ultimately to preach the Gospel. Graham’s detractors regard him in a more holistic way; for them, it’s not just a matter of preaching the Gospel but of the speaker himself embodying the Gospel in all areas of his life – has he acted Christ-like in his interactions with non-Christians?
The Festival of Hope is happening in 2017, which also marks the 100th anniversary of French E. Oliver’s evangelistic campaign in Vancouver. Robert Burkinshaw provides us with the best analysis of the Oliver campaigns (all quotes are from chapter two of ‘Pilgrims in Lotus Land’). Oliver was a Presbyterian evangelist and dispensationalist who was often compared to the fundamentalist R.A. Torrey. He was also associated with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
QUESTIONING OUR HOPES
by Rob Collis
Ironically, a lot of the church’s public relations work against Franklin has actually become the very catalyst for Vancouver to learn that he was coming in the first place – the public opinion which is now being cited in the Province, CBC and Christianity Today has arisen because Christians, not our Vancouverite neighbours, sought to make an issue out of Franklin’s visit. There are good reasons to oppose Graham, but those are not the reasons being presented before the court of public opinion (indeed, I question whether the court of public opinion would be interested in understanding the actual Christian reasons for opposing Franklin). In seeking to raise objections about an event people were not aware was happening, we are actually serving to bring attention and publicity to a festival we do not want to promote.
I also question whether those who are out-rightly criticising Franklin have stopped to consider the influence they are actually granting him to impact the Christian scene in Vancouver. Franklin Graham will speak this weekend, and on Monday he will fly home. In and of himself, he does not have the power to undermine the work that God is doing in Vancouver. His character and his politics are not representative of the majority of us, so the extent to which he will leave a mark and legacy upon this city will honestly be to the extent that we allow him do so – which will be meted out by the amount of attention we allow ourselves to give to him.
I don’t support Franklin coming to speak at the Festival of Hope – I really don’t. He left a bitter taste in my mouth during the 11 years I lived in North Carolina. I do not presume to make any defense for him – especially in the face of his divisive and hate- and fear-filled rhetoric. But I am concerned about how Christians are responding to him. I think we are right to oppose him, although we would do well to know exactly why we do so. There are sound doctrinal reasons, and there are some good social and political reasons; however, these do not necessarily cohere (and I suspect many of our doctrines are closer to Franklin’s than we realise). We are right to meet with some of the leaders in our community to explain that we don’t support him. But when we seek to leverage the court of public opinion against other Christians – when the case we present against Franklin is rooted in a unity of common opinion in the midst of controversy – I do wonder whether we are sufficiently aware of the love and grace of Christ in our own lives, and whether we have grasped the unity we are to share as brothers and sisters who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb.
A copy of the open letter can be found at – https://vancouveropenletter.wixsite.com/to-franklin-graham
On Friday an open letter co-signed by 37 Christian leaders in the Lower Mainland was finally made public. Its contents are the basis for many of the recent articles that have been circulating in the past week about Christian criticism of Franklin Graham's headlining role at this year's Festival of Hope. I suspect that the majority of Regent students find themselves opposed to Franklin's visit this weekend. I, too, am frustrated and concerned about Franklin's visit. In writing this article, I have no desire to make any defense of Franklin’s incendiary rhetoric; however, I am concerned about how the Church in Vancouver has responded to this controversy.
Friday's letter is right to state that "diversity of opinion is not a sign of disunity," although I am inclined to point out that disunity does indicate such diversity. Moreover, much of the expressed unity is around a common opinion in a controversy – and this is not biblical unity. The letter also does well to explain that Christian leaders have sought to "resolve this matter through dialogue with Festival organizers" over the last nine months. Nevertheless, I question the wisdom of seeking to make the public aware of the Christian controversy surrounding Franklin’s visit, and I especially question the behaviour which led to this letter being partially and pre-emptively leaked to the press. Furthermore, I am not convinced that Friday's letter is primarily about the gospel; I am not convinced that it is actually about the gospel being preached purely through servants who exhibit godly character.
Far too many of the appeals being raised against Franklin are not rooted in a unity of Christian principles, but political ideals. Were this present opposition truly about the gospel, why then was there no similar push back against Joel Osteen when he came last year?
Where one preacher's teaching yields a fear-mongering culture which seeks to lash out in ignorant violence, and another preacher's teaching yields a blessing and sanctioning of greed and selfishness demonstrated in the very lifestyle of the preacher, ought we to have any legitimate basis for denouncing the former over the latter? By denouncing Franklin Graham but not Joel Osteen, we are prioritizing and relativizing sin. Indeed, to denounce sin which is manifested in violence and hate while not raising an eyebrow to sin which masquerades in greed and licentiousness is to demonstrate a warped conception of sin. They ought to be equally denounced. For sin is sin, and no sin is more righteous than another, and no sin ought to be more permissible than another.
Moreover, some of the behaviour surrounding the Church’s response to Franklin’s visit over the last two weeks seems more informed by the concerns of a public relations department than thoughtful Christian engagement.
POEM OF THE WEEK:
THE MAN WHO DISAPPEARED
by Josh Lock
On the edge of Sher Shah village
Turning away I glimpsed him.
Was that fear I’d snatched his soul?
I did have him.
As I ran off, him in my machine,
I heard, musically,
At my desk,
uploaded, filed, renamed, tagged, cropped, white balanced,
pushed, selectively dodged and burned, saturated, vignetted,
toned, unsharp masked, de-noised, flattened, compressed,
I often now
(through stinging eyes)
stare at that beaming look on my wall,
returning a satisfied fisherman’s smile:
What a catch!
What a moment!
What a piece!
His memory now leaked off,
that spontaneous grin beams on
for every guest and resident.
They call him
Old Smiling Man.
I remembered his music:
I returned to Sher Shah,
I’m all, now, toe-to-toe
about that garish reminder
on my wall
of the day I didn’t ask for
Old Smiling Man’s name.
As a photographer it is too easy to turn a subject into my subject, then into an object. Notwithstanding my evident inner shortcomings, this objectifying habit is perhaps encouraged by photography itself—a process, a method, a technique, yielding a lifeless object. The photograph is profoundly multivalent: it can sensitively point us to persons, or abstract flat form from the located, embedded, embodied, complex, flowing beings we humans are. Further, the (ostensibly obligatory) process of image editing effects further distance between an idealised form and a particular, warm, ensouled body. Without ditching our cameras, let us fight for personhood and communion, refusing to mindlessly replace warm touch and dialogue with the dead mediation of technique.
A DATING REVOLUTION
by Ed Smith
The event took place at the Irish Heather, a Gastown pub which has an ideal private room which worked perfectly for the event. Upon arriving and seeing several unfamiliar faces I immediately felt my resolve to initiate conversation with strangers melt away. In fact it felt like everything was melting. The restaurant was uncomfortably hot. I immediately shed my jacket and then, still feeling warm, the cardigan. Looking around I suddenly felt overdressed in my white shirt. I saw a couple Regent friends and went to talk to them so I wouldn’t have to talk to strangers. Still too hot, I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead and back. My friend leaned over and told me, “Dude, your shirt has a stain on it.” The temperature in the room was unbearable. I ordered a beer. I’m in Hell. More sweat. “Did I even remember to put on deodorant?” I would trade a decade of loneliness if I could just run away. I can’t remember the last time I felt this much pressure.
Eventually my beer arrived and, mercifully, cool air entered the room from somewhere and I was able to put on my sweater. With this courage and armour I immediately felt much more comfortable and, shortly afterwards, things formally began and I was soon laughing and having a lot of fun. The format was speed dating with three minutes allotted to spend with each person. Almost without exception I found that three minutes went by too quickly for my liking. Sheets were handed out for people to mark down they’d be interested in dating. The revolution began already. My usual fallback is to think of reasons why not to ask out the single women I meet. At this event, I had trouble finding reasons why not to go on dates with the women there. And why not go out on a date? There needn’t be any pressure!
The full effects of the Mix and Match event have yet to be seen but I can tell you that the first event was fun. Over the next few weeks I’ll be going out on some no pressure dates and I’m looking forward to it. There are more Mix and Match events in the works, for those who missed the first one. Based on my experience, I’d recommend attending. Not only that, but it’s actually possible to go on dates even without joining the group. There’s a change in the air! So gentlemen, take courage and ask out that woman you’ve been thinking about. If you don’t, someone else will! And when you do go on a date, make sure your shirt is clean.
Over the holidays this past year, a friend sent me a meme that said, “Worried that you won’t have someone to kiss on New Year’s? It’s alright. Valentine’s Day is only 45 days away and you won’t have anyone to kiss then either.” I laughed and forwarded the text on to a single friend. I thought the joke was pretty funny because, of course, there’s a close relationship between comedy and tragedy. There is a large number of people who are single, and probably a nearly equally large number who are unhappy about it. This is true in the world at large and maybe even more true at Regent, if you’ll allow me to make such an unverifiable claim about an unquantifiable subject. The irony lies in the fact that there’s a lot of amazing single men and women, who are unhappy about being single and who know that the others are unhappy about it, and yet the dating scene at Regent is perhaps best described as a wasteland.
It’s fun to gripe about the situation but recently a couple of Regent women, Annie Hobden and Chantelle Sawatzky, decided that it would actually be more productive to try to do something to change the flawed Vancouver Christian dating culture. They formed Mix and Match, a dating initiative. Working with the assumption that the major problem is that the stakes are too high, they decided to champion the NPD, the no pressure date. They then organized a Christian singles mixer with the intention that those attending would meet other singles with whom to go on “no pressure dates.” I decided to take part, not least because I was a teenager in the nineties and this was a Christian dating event enthusiastically endorsed by Joshua Harris.
Truth be told I was looking forward to last Thursday’s mixer. Not only am I an extrovert and love social events, but if I was really lucky there would be the sort of awkward situation that makes for great storytelling material. I stressed a little bit about what to wear, wondering how to find the balance between looking like I don’t make an effort and being overdressed. I went with a white button up shirt, no tie, with a blue cardigan. I noticed a subtle spot on front of the shirt when ironing (I knew it was a mistake to not wash with bleach!), but since it would be covered by the cardigan I wore it anyway.
NEW SUMMER COURSE ROSTER RELEASED
Renowned Author Bill Bryson will co-teach this walk in the woods. This tour does not coincide with any significant anniversary of any significant event in the history of the church.
Student teacher Seth Hart will be leading a week long intensive study on fictional theologians Franz Bibfeldt and Elof Sundin.1He commented to the Bunyan “the value in studying these made-up characters is that they can say anything you’d like them to say.”
Not all students were thrilled with the listings. RCSA representative Stephen Straits delivered a petition on to the college demanding more relevant courses for a graduate level theology program. However, faculty have continually backed the validity of these courses. The most outspoken (and calmly spoken) professor has been Craig Gay. “In this post-modern age, everything is relevant and true. Surely a course on sci-fi movies, walking through the woods, or basket weaving has a place in the institution of higher learning.”
No resolution between the RCSA and the college has been reached. Despite the frustration in the student body and the ongoing Gay-Straits debate, the non-traditional courses will go ahead as scheduled.
The Bunyan asked current student Maxime Jamestone if she’d be taking advantage of these new course listings. Her response: “No.”
For those students excited about the new courses, Spilsbury encourages early registration. “It increases the slim chances of accreditation”. Basket-weaving is already being waitlisted. Scholarships are available for those showing high gullibility. Summer truly presents the best of what Regent has to offer.
There was quite the buzz at Regent College last week Wednesday as students were busy registering for summer classes. The academic department made several last-minute additions to the roster of summer courses.
Academic Dean Paul Spilsbury commented to the Bunyan sheepishly, saying that several of the new courses were “a little unorthodox, outside of the box.” He later qualified them in his unique South African North American accent saying, “at Regent we like to be on the cutting edge, pushing against the norms.”
The new course listings certainly push the norms. Headlining the new courses this summer is Christian Thought and Culture III. The course description states, “The future is coming. What will human thought look like in the next 5000 years? Questions of meaning and identity amongst alien life, time travel, and the rise of artificial intelligence will frame this course”. All good things come in three.
Professor of record Iwan Russell-Jones exclaimed, “We now have a trilogy of CTC classes, nay, a Trinity! This course is so full of great substance. The future actually matters now!”
Visiting lecturers for the third installment include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a resuscitated Albert Einstein, and Futurama’s Bender the robot. Matt Nelson will co-lead a full series of science fiction films to complement the course, alongside an actual HAL 9000 computer "in person."
Other new summer course listings include Miriam teaching on Mosaic basket weaving, as well as Bill Nye and Ashley Moyse doing sciencey things for two weeks. The syllabus for either course is not yet posted.
Iain Provan and Loren Wilkinson will be leading a tour of a forest in northern BC in a course titled “Walking Where Nobody Has Walked: A Guided Tour of Endless Trees.”