Celebrating our institutions with Reformed roots

What value do Reformed institutions give to Christians in Canada today? From our places of work to education to worship and culture, their influence and impact are all around us, often in ways we don’t realize. In his Comment magazine editorial (Fall 2013) James K.A. Smith writes: “Try to imagine ‘institutions’ as spheres of action. Institutions are not just something that we build; they’re something that we do.”

Christian Courier (CC) asked some Reformed institutions across the country to recall their stories and Christian vision for today. CC connects with key Reformed institutions regularly, shown throughout the pages of this issue and others throughout the year. This month is also CC’s 73rd birthday – making us older than the other organizations featured here! Such markers of endurance are worth celebrating.

Citizens for Public Justice

By Brad Wassink

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) was founded in the early 1960s by reformed Christians who believed firmly that God’s sovereignty extends to every square inch of our lives, including our political lives. In those early years, CPJ explored what political and social action for Christians means in a Canadian context, what we call public justice.

They also applied Christ’s own emphasis on the poor to this political worldview. This meant recommending policy changes that focused on the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society.

CPJ is still rooted in this vision today. We encourage Christians to get civically engaged on a federal level. Our campaigns are focused on how the government can develop a plan to end poverty among people living in Canada, how our country can be serious about meeting our climate change goals, and how we can be most welcoming to refugees and newcomers.  

Institute for Christian Studies

By Bob Sweetman

Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) was launched in 1967 in Toronto with the mandate to use the Reformational philosophy of Runner, Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven and their students to train future Christian academics in an integral Christian sense of the academy, its disciplines and methods. In that process it was to insert Christian theoretical constructions into the general scholarly culture so as to contribute to the “inner Reformation” of the disciplines. At the same time, it was to insert Reformational perspectives on the current shape of Christian existence into communities of Christians in service of ongoing Reformation in the churches. The tone was critical in both directions without being intentionally dismissive.  

Over the years, this mission has remained remarkably stable though the language and attitude have altered. Criticism both in the academy and within faith communities is contextualized by appreciation; the point is less to constitute a vanguard storming Satan’s beaches or rooting out Satan’s spies, than to be a small if talented participant-in-partnership with others bearing witness to the active presence of God within these two societal spheres.

Christian Labour Association of Canada

By Stuart Oakley

Like its name would indicate, the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) is a different kind of union. And it’s always been that way. In the early 1950s, the Canadian labour scene was chaotic and violent. Unions were grounded in the ideology of class warfare.

A group of like-minded workers knew there was a better way. Based on Christian social principles, CLAC was founded in 1952 to offer any worker, regardless of sector or background, a different approach to labour relations.  Existing unions tried to destroy CLAC but it survived thanks to the support and courage of workers who paid dues to CLAC out of principle – even though CLAC did not represent them.

Those early sacrifices paid off. Today, CLAC represents over 60,000 workers and is still practicing its principles of justice, respect and fairness. CLAC celebrates workers and believes that the best workplace is one in which everyone works together.

Christian Higher Education Canada

By Justin Cooper

Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC) began as a roundtable of Christian universities in 1998, merged with a Bible college association in 2005 and was joined by a group of seminaries in 2007. Today it is a Christ-centred association of 34 accredited and degree granting members, serving over 16,000 students in seven provinces.

King’s, ICS and Redeemer are members, as are Trinity Western, Tyndale and Regent. These institutions represent more than 20 denominational traditions. The common bond is a commitment to the historic Christian faith as expressed in the WEA (World Evangelical Fellowship) Statement of Faith and to engaging our culture for Christ. As such, their missions have a clear but indirect connection to the spiritual heritage of the Reformation.

On this basis CHEC seeks to foster collaboration for Christ-centred educational excellence and for raising public awareness of the value of Christian higher education both in the Christian community and the wider public. This is challenging given the increasingly secular and post-Christian character of our society and the diversity of educational opportunities open to students.

In the face of these challenges CHEC and its members are evenly more strongly committed to revitalizing their mission of teaching, scholarship and service to prepare and inspire servant leaders for roles in church, Christian community and society, working for reformation and revival in the power of Christ, not only in Canada but globally in 85 countries.  

Society of Christian Schools in B.C.

By Ed Noot

Since 1977, the Society of Christian Schools in B.C. has served Christian Schools throughout British Columbia, many of which find their historical roots in the Reformed tradition. Such schools recognized the sovereignty of God over all and sought to impress this on students through their curriculum. Today many Christian schools, reformed and otherwise, seek to make God’s sovereignty real for students at both a head and heart level. In addition to biblically based curriculum students learn about God’s sovereignty and grace through service and real world projects. The goal of engaging culture for Christ remains alive and well in Christian schools throughout our province.

Office of Social Justice

By Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan

The story of the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) begins in Sierra Leone, where a group of Christian Reformed missionaries and community development workers was working to reach and empower local people. When war broke out because of underlying justice issues related to the diamond trade and destroyed any progress that had been made, it became obvious that advocacy for justice must be the third leg of the “missions stool,” along with evangelism (Resonate Global Mission) and relief and development (World Renew) – that realization was part of why the CRC got involved in the movement that led to greater regulation of the diamond industry.  

Founded in 1996, the OSJ continues today to provide resources to congregations as they learn about the root causes of poverty, hunger and oppression, and we empower the church to call on those in power to improve systems and enact just public policy that allow all people to flourish. We dream of a future where Christians are driven by their recognition of the God-given value of all people and all creation to follow the call to do justice in “all things.”

Christian Heritage Party of Canada

By Vicki Gunn

The Christian Heritage Party of Canada was formed in 1987 by a Reformed couple, Ed & Audrey Vanwoudenberg, and a Catholic couple, Bill & Heather Stilwell. We fielded candidates in the 1988 federal election and have participated in each federal election since.

We have policies based in Scripture on all matters of the federal government but most distinctive are as follows: we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death; we believe in traditional marriage; and we believe governmental debt is theft from future generations.

Our aims are to provide true Christian leadership and to defend, promote and uphold Biblical principles in federal legislation; to gain seats in Parliament so that we can have a direct influence on policy and policy changes; and to contend for, and attain the leadership of the federal government of Canada through the existing democratic process.

Has a Reformed institution made an impact on your life? Add to our list and share your story by writing to ac.reiruocnaitsirhc@rotide.


  • Jennifer Neutel

    Jennifer is CC's advertising and social media manager. She lives in Cobourg, Ont. with her husband and three children. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University.

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