Dozens of local pastors and Christians leaders gathered at Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Surrey September 26 for the West Coast Christian Accord (WCCA) Reveal.
They in turn were representing 185 pastors and 1,000 others who have signed the accord “to support the biblical perspective of sexuality and gender according to our freedom of worship. We have gathered together today to speak to the issue of SOGI 123 and the infringement of our religious freedom.”
An article in the Globe and Mail November 12, 2017 described how SOGI came about:
The issue began in summer of 2016, when the BC Human Rights Code was amended to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
In response, the government . . . directed all school districts to include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in their anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct. The Ministry of Education, along with the teachers’ union, the Vancouver-based ARC Foundation and others, collaborated on SOGI 123, an initiative that shares resources on how to support students and create more inclusive schools.
Teachers in the classroom, under a revised curriculum currently being rolled out in schools, may explore the various components of the human rights code, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Lessons on family diversity, for example, may include mentions of same-sex families and LGBTQ rights.
Host pastor Kevin Cavanaugh introduced what he described as a “historic moment,” backed by 40 or so fellow leaders representing a wide range of cultures and ethnicities. He said that he and pastor Dave Carson “made an official proclamation September 6, calling pastors, churches and Christian people to 21 days of fasting and prayer in view of this morning’s reveal.” Churches from Victoria to Kamloops were involved.
We are hereby revealing for the first time the West Coast Christian Accord, which in 14 articles provides a biblical statement on the supremacy of Christ, the authority of scripture, salvation, marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity.
We’re also issuing a strong public statement announcing our commitment to stop the teaching of SOGI in our BC schools.
Jack Taylor, in an article for The Light Magazine, described how Cavanaugh initially became involved:
In December 2017, pastor Kevin Cavanaugh (Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Surrey) was hosting meetings for Journey Canada and had invited another speaker to join them. He says that members of the LGBTQ community began inundating . . . the staff with intimidating threats saying they would be turned over to the RCMP for hate crimes and that there would be organized protests happening during his Sunday services.
He knew his congregation was unprepared so called off the meetings. In his reflections he realized that “courage comes from conviction,” so he connected with pastor Dave Carson and pastor Giulio Lorefice Gabeli of Hope Vancouver (Gabeli is also the senior pastor of Westwood Community Church, Coquitlam) to strategize a response. The West Coast Accord grew out of that collaboration.
(See below for the whole article.)
Gabeli spoke next:
God’s word is true, bringing life, purpose and hope to all those who hear it and obey it. For far too long, many of us in the evangelical churches throughout Canada have been dismissed, intimidated, bullied and even threatened because of our biblical worldview regarding human sexuality – a worldview that is not only based on the time-honoured truths of the Bible, but is a view protected by Canadian law.
Late last year, we as Christian leaders became aware of the SOGI agenda, surreptitiously targeting BC schools. At no time were we consulted or asked for any form of input by the Ministry of Education. We also became aware that parents, those duty bound to protect children, were unlawfully omitted from the process in spite of legal requirements concerning involvement of parents concerning the goals, policies and educational services for the BC education system.
René McIntyre, senior pastor of Trumpet of Truth Christian Ministries, offered a more personal insight:
At the end of this past school year, an eight year old Richmond girl was interviewed in the hallway of her school. She said, “A teacher came into our classroom and talked about SOGI. She taught us that if you want to be a girl, you can be a girl, and if you want to be a boy you can be a boy, because you can choose to be whatever you want to be.
The little girl asked the teacher, “Why do we have to change?”
She said, “Because you can be whatever you want to be.”
The little girl said, “I didn’t like hearing that. She said that boys can like pink and purple because colour has no gender, sports have no gender. And then she said, ‘There is no gender. . . ‘”
Other speakers were pastor Bayo Adediran of Grace Chapel in New Westminster; pastor Paul Dirks of New West Community Church, who has studied the issues in depth and led several seminars on related issues; and Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, whose Facebook page hosted the live broadcast of the WCCA.
Following the presentations, the whole group repeated the 14 articles of the WCCA declaration together, and concluded with a heartfelt rendition of ‘O Canada,’ which Gabeli said “is really a prayer.”
See the accompanying video link (from the picture above this paragraph) for the full 24-minute event.
This presentation took place as I was completing my weekly update, so I do not have to time for a full-fledged discussion of the issues. But there will no doubt be considerable debate about the WCCA and the issues raised over the next few days.
Here are some of the elements I see playing into that discussion.
Those who have taken a public stand against opponents of SOGI thus far will no doubt continue, especially with school board elections coming up soon. Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson (who is running for a school board seat in Burnaby), Culture Guard and Paul Dirks have been targeted as hateful and discriminatory.
The very afternoon of the WCCA Reveal, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) sent this note to their members (as part of an online mailout):
New SOGI 1 2 3 Parent Resources are helpful communication tools for members who are using SOGI 1 2 3 in the classroom and need help in talking to parents about the initiative. The website, two videos and the downloadable brochure were developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Committees and can be found at www.sogieducation.org/parents.
There are also some Q&As to share that will support conversations with parents or members of the public about SOGI 1 2 3. The brochure can be downloaded and printed in English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, Punjabi and Tagalog. Farsi and Arabic versions are also on the way.
Christians for SOGI
There are, of course, Christians who support SOGI. Within a couple of hours of the WCCA presentation, for example, one local woman tweeted:
Christian teachers open to SOGI
One Christian teacher I spoke to (he is the SOGI lead at his school) warned against taking an alarmist approach to SOGI.
“Conversations can still happen,” he said. “Our posture is initially more important than our position.”
He also pointed out that we should make a distinction between SOGI policies regarding bullying, harassment, etc – which are required in all schools – and SOGI 123, prepared by an independent group, but endorsed by the Ministry of Education and the BC Teachers’ Federation – which is not.
Christian teachers wary of SOGI
Another Christian teacher took part in a SOGI 123 training session for teachers. While some of the meeting was indeed directed to issues of bullying and harassment, the instructor shared how she approaches student groups on issues of sexuality:
Gender is like a web, we’re all on a continuum, she said. “We tell the children: ‘This is very different than what your parents taught you – you may have to teach them.'”
Though the turnout, number of signatories and Facebook views (well over 10,000 on the first day) for WCCA were all strong, there are obvious gaps in support. In terms of leadership – I haven’t seen the list of all those who signed – there were few, if any mainline Protestants or Catholics.
That may change as more Christians are exposed to the issue, but currently the strongest support appears to come from the charismatic/Pentecostal/nondenominational wing of the church.
SOGI / SOGI 123
Here is a link to the BC government’s Fact Sheet on ‘Sexual Orientation and and Gender Identity (SOGI) in Schools.’
The SOGI 123 site says this about its collaborators:
SOGI 1 2 3 was created by ARC Foundation in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Education; BC Teachers’ Federation; school districts across BC; UBC Faculty of Education; education partners; and various local, national, and international LGBTQ+ community organizations.
Jack Taylor: West Coast Christian Accord revealed
Jack Taylor is lead pastor of Faith Fellowship Baptist Church in Vancouver. He was on stage during the West Coast Christian Accord Reveal. This is his understanding of how the WCCA came about and what it signifies.
The West Coast Christian Accord arose like an unexpected pregnancy. On September 26, after 21 days of fasting and nightly prayer meetings, the WCCA was birthed with over 1,000 signatories affirming 14 clear declarations focusing on human sexuality, gender and marriage; 185 pastors were among the signees.
In December 2017, pastor Kevin Cavanaugh (Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Surrey) was hosting meetings for Journey Canada and had invited another speaker to join them. He says that members of the LGBTQ community began inundating Cavanaugh and the staff with intimidating threats saying they would be turned over to the RCMP for hate crimes and that there would be organized protests happening during his Sunday services.
He knew his congregation was unprepared so called off the meetings. In his reflections he realized that “courage comes from conviction” so he connected with pastor Dave Carson and pastor Giulio Lorefice Gabeli of Hope Vancouver (Gabeli is also the senior pastor of Westwood Community Church, Coquitlam) to strategize a response. The West Coast Accord grew out of that collaboration.
The multi-denominational movement has bonded together diverse churches into a common cause. Gabeli stated publicly that “we were like Jeremiah – we were vexed in our spirit over the sin and immorality.”
He felt that the Spirit prompted him toward the words of Jeremiah 20:7-9. Part of this section reads “So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Paul Dirks (New West Community Church), Sam Owusu (Calvary Worship Centre) and Laura-Lynn Tyler-Thompson are also signatories.
Dirks says, “There is a time and place for church leaders to speak as prophets to our world regarding the Word of God. We’re facing the Bonhoeffer moment where we either speak up or lose the authority to speak.” He says the goal is to access two million people with the vision of the West Coast Accord and that this movement is part of the turning of the tide against the SOGI 123 curriculum.
Tyler-Thompson, running for school board in Burnaby, states:
We, as followers of Jesus, honour the rights of all Canadians to live the lifestyle they choose but we also must be honoured for our values. We don’t want our children taught transgenderism.
Cavanaugh invites others to join in affirming The Accord and says, to those concerned about losing their influence in the community by signing:
Our increasingly secularized society has a zero-tolerance position on anything Christian. Simply hint at any thought, idea or value remotely Christian and you will be quickly dismissed, marginalized, or removed. Friends, there comes a time in every believer’s life when truth and biblical conviction collide with one’s personal standing, even reputation. At one point, one must give way to the other.
The WCCA is a clarion call for Christian leaders to ‘arise and stand as one’ representative of the Canadian Church; declaring that we have the right, as law-abiding citizens, to the freedoms of conscience, speech and the freedom to practice our faith and values. For far too long the church has been silent in the public arena, allowing the secular social engineers to deconstruct the foundational biblical values that made our nation prosperous and the envy of the world.
With SOGI 123, it appeared as if the LGBTQ movement had successfully gained exclusive influence and authority over the messaging of information while the church had been disengaged or distracted with other issues. The social transition in our education system alone pressuring research, teaching, service, credentialing and administration systems, to conform to the new wave, shows the need for collaborative action is clear. Recent legislation across this country reveals that the courts cannot be relied on for consistent support.
The movement has embraced the words of Martin Luther King when he proclaimed: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
The Accord is significant because all 14 articles taken together form a complete declaration that is important for three reasons: first, it is a biblically based teaching resource for the churches on the controversial topic of SOGI; second, it is a plumb line of righteousness to call the church and the city to account; and thirdly, it is a clarion call to pastors and churches to form a like-minded coalition who will stand together on this issue for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
The Reveal for the Accord, along with the wording of the 14 affirmations, can be accessed on the West Coast Christian Accord website westcoastchristianaccord.com.