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O Canada . . . thank you

(for Tim Horton’s, the Stanley Cup, and the powerful witness of BIC Canada)

by Perry Engle

For many, news of General Conference’s approval of the BIC Church in the U.S. and the BIC Church in Canada being recognized as two individual national entities has come as a bit of a shock.

This new way of relating between the Churches in the U.S. and in Canada might seem to some like a divorce, conjuring up feelings of sadness and loss. For me, I tend to approach occasions like this a bit more pragmatically. While I, too, experienced some of these emotions initially, I’ve come to view the separation as less a breakup and more as two siblings simply coming of age and setting up separate households.

The start of this new relationship has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the many encouraging interactions I’ve had with my north-of-the-border sisters and brothers throughout the years.

Grace, good humor, and warm hospitality have always marked my time with my Canadian friends. I have laughed more often and later into the night with Canadians than with almost anyone else. Their easy-going, relational, and thoughtful approach to faith and life has continually put me and my family at ease.

In my trips up north, I learned very quickly that Canadian life revolves around their morning (afternoon, and evening) coffee at Tim Horton’s—which I would describe as a classier (and tastier) version of the American donut shop. Once I learned how to order my coffee (a “double-double” is two sugars, two creams), I became quite adept at convincing whoever was driving me around to stop in for a “Tim’s” most any time of day.

I have also come to appreciate Canada’s love of sports and am grateful for its overwhelming generosity in sharing two of its sports icons—Canadian basketball player Steve Nash and hockey’s coveted Stanley Cup—with the city of Los Angeles this year.

But more than just friendship, coffee, and the Stanley Cup, I have come to appreciate the strong spiritual witness of the Canadian Church. Somehow, our Canadian brothers and sisters have had a way of consistently focusing on Christ-centered core values like peace, service, and community. Less encumbered by the marriage of faith and politics, BIC Canada seems to have been able to maintain its focus on simply being the Church of Jesus Christ in the midst of an increasingly post-Christian society.

This led me to suggest at July’s General Conference that God might be telling the BIC Church in the U.S. that we need to raise our alternative voice for Jesus a little more loudly and boldly now that Canada will no longer be in our midst. It might be that it’s time for the U.S. Church to take a little more seriously God’s call for us to be a more prominent and vocal countercultural witness for Christ here.

I sense God calling the BIC U.S. to pick up the banner and press forward with the unique voice and distinctive values that have always defined us as people of God. We can be thankful for Canada’s influence on the U.S. Church for over 200 years, and we can now look forward with expectation to how God will move among us, in both nations, in the years to come.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2012 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle prides himself in having memorized the entire first line of the Canadian national anthem: “O Canada.” He is bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Regional Conferences of the BIC Church U.S. and lives with his wife, Marta, and their family in Ontario, Calif.

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