“We need to take church outside of the church doors, and be a light in the community,” said Bernie Hiller, a Christian minister running in the May 12 B.C. election.
For the past four years, Hiller has been pastor of missions and middle school youth at Coquitlam Alliance Church.
When the Liberal Party nomination in the Port Coquitlam riding became open, he “jumped at the chance.” He was acclaimed April 4 as the party’s candidate.
The career change may not be as great as it at first seems. As a pastor, Hiller has advocated the importance of the church helping “those in need, and the marginalized.”
Besides reaching out to at-risk youth in the Coquitlam area, he led youth mission trips to work at orphanages in Zambia and the Philippines, and to offer famine relief to indigenous people in Mexico.
This social concern also prompted him to be one of the leading advocates for the Cold Weather Mat Program, under which five churches offer shelter to the homeless in the Tri-Cities area.
The proposal raised some controversy, and involved numerous appearances before Coquitlam Council.
While social programs are often considered the concern of the New Democratic Party, Hiller thinks the Liberal Party’s economic expertise is an important consideration.
“We can’t be giving to those in need, and fund social programs, without a strong economy.”
Hiller said his candidacy has been well received by the party, the media and the general public, and no one has raised questions about his identity as a Christian.
In his church, “90 percent are extremely positive,” although some have doubts.
Running as a 29 year old candidate against veteran MLA Mike Farnworth might be seen as a difficult challenge. But Hiller is optimistic, noting that Port Coquitlam is considered a closely contested “swing riding.”
Hiller said he has no plans for what he might do if he loses the election. He resigned from his pastoral position in order to run.
Hiller admitted he may face some challenging issues; but the main controversial and moral political issues are federal, not provincial, responsibilities.
To challenging issues, he wants to bring “a positive voice.”
Expressing his hope that more Christians will run for public office, he said: “We need to work alongside non-Christians. We need to be out there in the community.”
More information about Hiller is available on his website: www.berniehiller.ca.