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The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy: Faith & the Public Square

The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy: Faith & the Public Square
Noteboom, Peter, ed.
Canadian Council of Churches, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9784-4982-7

One of the most important themes in the work of the Council is relating ecumenism to the public square. To this end, the Commission for Justice and Peace has been involved in a number of projects that work through questions on public affairs and policy, laws, legislative initiatives, and respectful civil advocacy as follower of Jesus and the church. Members of the Commission have shared their reflections on t his topic in the new resource The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy. Here, Kathy Vandergrift (Christian Reformed Church in North America), Bill Janzen (Mennonite Central Committee), and Bishop Bagrat Galstanian (Armenian Church of Canada) offer short reflections on these themes from their area of expertise and faith background. The Gospel Imperative to Advocacy pulls together their case studies, biblical reflections, and frameworks for faith-based advocacy in a highly readable and evocative book.

If you would like a copy of this resource for your own library, please e-mail Erin Green, Communications
Officer, at .

For 65 years now, from our very inception in 1944, The Canadian Council of Churches has been engaged in a conversation on Faith and the Public Square in Canada. Canadian churches have always played a significant role in the arena of public policy debate and development. Different churches have been involved in advocating for the establishment of universal public healthcare in Canada; petitioning for the cancellation of debt for countries where the debt had become debilitating; delivering essential social services to homeless and all in need; opposing Canada’s participation in nuclear weapons programs; or challenging – in fact, ending - the residential school system in Canada, an ill-conceived venture into which for a variety of reasons the churches had become complicit. Some experiences have had a salutary effect; others have necessitated deep soul searching and apologies.
Members of the Council have consistently rated working together on public affairs as one of our most important tasks. Indeed, the proclamation of the redemptive Gospel story cannot leave one indifferent to government policies and the conduct of public affairs. Laws, policies and legislative initiatives embody important community decisions; public dialogues, respectful civil advocacy and debate strengthen social cohesion. The Government of Canada, through our representatives, significantly shapes the society and world we are called to serve. The call to work for justice is a central task of followers of Jesus and the church.
(The Rev. Dr. James Christie, President, The Canadian Council of Churches)


As one who passionately believes in the relevance of faith voices in public dialogue, it has been encouraging for me to join in the journey of The Canadian Council of Churches’ presence in the life of the nation. This journey, one of relevance and faithfulness, in the affairs of justice and peace has coloured the Council throughout its history; the wise and passionate contributions in these pages are a moment in this ongoing conversation. These diverse perspectives on the gospel imperative to advocacy deliver an important message: just as multiple voices deepen ecumenical understanding, when articulated with clarity and commitment to public good, so do different perspectives make a positive impact on the life of the nation.
Positive impact on the life of the nation is important. I have regular opportunity to meet with public policy makers and have learned through these meetings that our political leaders are looking for consistent and transparent dialogue about the affairs of the nation. The flipside of this dialogue is that the nation is not well served when faith voices are strident and only critical in public debate. In the pages that follow, Bill Janzen, Kathy Vandegrift, and Bishop Bagrat Galstanian challenge us to understand the limits and possibilities of public engagement. They also call to us act with humility and confidence and to keep Jesus’ profound promise that “all will be made new” at the forefront of Christian consciousness. As a faithful act of service and hope, The Canadian Council of Churches rises to these challenges in the name of justice, peace, and ecumenism.
(Mike Hogeterp, Chair, Commission on Justice & Peace)