We take note, this week, of the recent passing of Charles Colson and Frank Jones.
* * *
Jones was a retired Statistics Canada executive who, in recent years, developed the Christian Commitment Research Institute (CCRI). In that role, he “mined” many of the available statistics to establish and research a range of trends with respect to the life commitments of Christians in Canada.
I had gotten to know Jones over the past few years and was honoured to be asked by the editors of ChristianWeek to write a profile on him. It appeared in the issue of December 10, 2010. Here is the link.
Jones underwent heart surgery a few years ago and had recovered considerably. In more recent months, a respiratory illness had taken its toll. It was only recently that he and his wife, Jan, had vacated their home and moved into a Christian seniors’ residence in Ottawa.
A memorial service is planned for May 26 in Ottawa. The work of CCRI will continue and I hope to have something to say not too long from now on its future leadership.
* * *
Charles Colson’s turf was more Washington that Ottawa, of course. His remarkable story began with being jailed, as one of Richard Nixon’s key presidential aides, for a Watergate-related offence. It was in that time frame, that he read C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and, in part, through that reading, committed his life to Christ.
His Watergate history has been well-recounted by mainstream media, some of whose leading lights never did accept the authenticity of his Christian conversion. Conversely (no pun intended) Christian media has taken note of the remarkable work accomplished through his founding of and leadership in Prison Fellowship.
The Canadian connection is worth recounting. Colson became a strong advocate of restorative justice as a means of biblical reconciliation between offenders and victims.
Victoria’s Don and Sharon Rendle, Fellowship Baptist workers who had been active in Colombia, aligned with Prison Fellowship in the mid-90s. Rendle’s first wife, Georgia, who had died a few years before he met Sharon, had written a manual teaching restorative justice concepts for practice in prison settings. Colombia was an excellent and practical workshop in the early part of the century, given prison populations where government guerrillas on one side and drug rebels were literally at each others throats.
The idea of the Rendles’ work was to encourage inmates to embrace and practice such biblical approaches to justice so that, when they were released, they would be transformed. The hopeful effect, which many will attest became fact, was to prevent the continuation of a civil war based on drug issues.
It can safely be said that the Prison Fellowship program was at least part of a reason that Colombia drug unrest was reduced considerably. It came to the point where that nation became a much safer place for people in other American hemisphere countries – including Canada – to engage in legitimate trade and business.
Colson’s strong leadership in the area of biblical restorative justice made a difference. It may not have happened if he, as a self-described “broken sinner” had not been reached by what he called “God’s grace”, through the influence of Lewis and others.
* * *
A new theological school in Ottawa, has grown out of the emerging Anglican Network.
The school is an outcome of Church of the Messiah, one of two Anglican congregations near The Hill that have moved into the theologically-evangelical network. A recent notice is worded thusly:
The Ottawa Theological College, which is associated with Church of the Messiah (Ottawa), will open its doors in September, offering a variety of courses online and in the classroom. Its website states: “Our goal is to bring students and scholars together to teach and equip Christian [ordained and lay] leaders in and around the capital region. We seek to lift up the Good News of Jesus Christ by providing Bible-centred courses and programs for full and part-time students… In the broadest Christian sense, Ottawa Theological College is cross-denominational… Ottawa Theological College is also Anglican… We at Ottawa Theological College are also evangelical Christians. We are dedicated to training students for Christian service by providing them a solid curriculum involving scripture, doctrine, and practical theology, particularly emphasizing expository preaching for those called to proclamation of the word.”
The link for OTC is www.ottawatheologicalcollege.ca.
The principal of the new school is George Sinclair, rector of the Church of the Messiah. He is a familiar figure around The Hill, often leading Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship weekly Bible studies.
* * *
I would be interested in feedback from readers about this week’s Alberta provincial election, particularly on subjects relating to the faith-political interface as it may – or may not – have showed itself during the campaign.
* * *