'Smarter Families’ Needed in Canada

Langley, B.C.—Judith and Peter seemed to have it all together. These bible school graduates were good neighbors who were active in their community and in their church. So their friends were surprised to learn that the couple was separating. What went wrong? This scenario is becoming common for Canadians and as a result many Christians are concerned about struggling marriages and hurting families in our churches.

On June 6 and 7, Trinity Western University’s ACTS Seminaries is hosting an innovative national conference, Smarter Families Canada 2003, aimed at equipping the local church for marriage enrichment, parenting education and recovery ministries.

Featuring Dr. Sandra Wilson, noted Christian author as plenary speaker, with Vineyard Music recording artist Andy Park leading worship, and offering over 30 seminars on marriage, parenting and recovery ministry, Smarter Families Canada 2003 is projected to be a major networking and equipping event for lay leaders, pastors, Christian teachers and counsellors who want to help the Church become a centre for helping marriages and families in Canada.

A recent Canadian Supreme Court decision, in December 2002, found that “common-law” relationships differ substantially from marriage, and do not warrant the same legal rights, since marriage requires much greater sacrifices and commitment. “This is a heartening affirmation of a basic assumption long held by the Christian community—that stable, committed marriages are an important foundation for both the life of the Church and society as a whole,” says Dr. John Auxier, Dean of ACTS Seminary at TWU and co-chair of the event.

According to Auxier, despite this encouraging Supreme Court finding on the legal status of marriage, our treatment of the institution leaves much to be desired. “Researchers describe the current state of marriage in Canada as ‘a marriage crisis,’” says Auxier. “A good example is casual cohabitation. It continues to replace marriage, leaving in its place less stable and less committed homes, where children are at risk for additional stress and uncertainty.” According to Auxier’s research, currently in Canada about 51% of all women in their thirties will choose cohabitation over marriage when they form their first household.

Has this low commitment, “experimental” approach led to more stable, happier marriages and families? “Unfortunately, the answer is no,” says Auxier. “The Canadian divorce rate continues to hover between 36-40%, year after year. Cohabitation before marriage is now recognized as a predictor of later relationship breakdown, and when adult relationships fall apart, children are often the ones who suffer, emotionally, financially and educationally. When we combine the decline of marriage with other problems Canadian families struggle with, such as a lack of parenting models and addictions, it is clear that we are facing a serious erosion of support for healthy, stable relationships in Canada, an erosion which is affecting the Christian community as well as society at large.”

Auxier believes that though there are valuable resources available, marriage support should not be left only to the professional counselling community and Christian organizations. “The local church has both the responsibility and the strategic position to deliver marital, familial and recovery help to hurting families,” he says. “The greatest additional need is to network and train lay leaders and pastors with a heart for marriage and family concerns, to promote and deliver a variety of marriage and family related curriculum and programs in the local church.”

ACTS Seminaries therefore responded to a glaring need to launch Smarter Families Canada 2003, Canada’s first conference of this nature. As a theological consortium representing the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches, the Evangelical Free Church, the Baptist General Conference, the Mennonite Brethren and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (affiliate status), ACTS is uniquely positioned to connect local churches with the leadership training needed for lay and professional ministry.

“ACTS seminary believes that the Church needs to move marriage and family related helping to the forefront of spiritual ministry, to build more stable, healthy and godly homes for the good of the Church and Canada,” says Auxier.

Event: Smarter Families Canada 2003

Title: “Churches Getting Smart about Marriage and Family Ministry this June”

Date: Friday, June 6 and Saturday June 7, 2003

Location: Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Road, Langley, B.C.

How to register: Early Bird registrations (by May 15) $65; After May 15 $95

For more information: www.professionalchristiancounselling.ca for details on seminar options, speakers, registration and accommodations. Visit www.acts.twu.ca or call 604-513-2044 for a 16 page downloadable brochure

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,200 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping