Bill 10/ Guidelines for Best Practices Dr. David Spate As many of you know, last year, our former provincial government passed Bill 10 with the goal of “allowing gay and straight alliances” to happen within the schools. Recently, our present Alberta government has taken this a step farther and sent out an extensive document to our schools and school boards called “Guidelines for Best Practices.”

Over the last few weeks, I have been praying over what our response should be to this issue. As I phoned around, I found that most Churches are doing nothing — which concerns me — and a few are gearing up for war — which also concerns me. So, I have been asking, "What would Jesus have us do?"

Remember, we begin with one important to fact: we are Jesus followers.

As we have said, in other hot button issues, we feel that Jesus’ example was one where He always LED with GRACE and then STOOD on TRUTH. For example, with the woman caught in adultery, the first thing He did was chastise those who wanted to use this woman’s situation to make a point for their cause. He then cared for her in such a way that she could move from a situation which was causing her pain, and was biblically wrong, to a place of freedom and a better … and a godlier… life. So our response must be like his: it needs to be measured and gentle, and the truth presented in such a way as to help people want to walk into a new, or deeper, walk with Jesus … into a life which will be richer and fuller —that is what Jesus would have us do.

But, the hardest part about standing strong on truth is this: we need to do this while understanding that:

1) We have been given an insider’s view of truth … for the Bible tells us how to live. It gives us God’s views on issues such as sexuality … marriage … how to treat one another… SO THAT by following His teachings, we have a road map on how to get the most out of the abundant life He wants everyone to enjoy, and then, by our lives, help others walk into a better life. But right beside that is …

2) The fact is that while some of us grew up in a society where Christian values ruled the day … (For example, when I was growing up in a small town, the school principal or town council would have asked my dad [as a pastor in our town] for his advice before making any “Guidelines for Best Practices” in our local school.) …today, whether we like it or not, things have changed. For example, you may be upset with the price of oil, but if you don’t take the realities of the financial situation into consideration as you run your company, you will not succeed. In a similar way, if we as Christians don’t take into account what our society believes, or sees, as being true, they will never hear a thing we say about Jesus … or about what needs to happen in our schools. So, as people who know from Scripture how we are called to live, but who are also living in a culture that, when we say “the Bible says”, may begin to close their ears. How, then, should we respond … so we can bring light … and salt … and truth into the discussion? How can we respond so that we can stand up for those who are being picked on at school … so we can be an influence on those who don’t believe Christians care about them. And, so we will be heard in a way that will help us protect and care for our kids … our grandkids .. and our neighbour’s kids?

What do we do?

First, we should act like Jesus would in the middle of this discussion.

We must never forget that we are called to care and protect people in the middle of our hurting world. We need to speak and act in a way that says …"We are against homophobia, we are against bullying, we are against abusive talk … especially if it is done while quoting Scripture. We are for reconciliation … and we want to offer grace. Further, we realize that as we speak, many kids and parents, who are wrestling with these issues, are hurting deeply, and as the Proverbs says “a gentle word turns away anger…”. So, first … be like Jesus with your words and actions. Make sure you are caring for teachers, principals, politicians, and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are choosing to believe, that they want, the best for the kids, as well as wanting to help protect and love those kids who are struggling with sexual issues and help parents — who may be hurting as well (just like you would) — for they love their kids desperately. So, move in such a way that you can create friends, and not enemies, as you care.

Second, we need to speak up. As I read these guidelines, I see a number of things that deeply concern me. (ex. Gender-neutral change rooms: while they may make a few individuals feel more comfortable, are, instead, placing other children in very uncomfortable positions; that somehow the idea of equality seems to only go one way; and that there are statements concerning parental rights. I believe it is only fair [and we would say crucial] for the rights and beliefs of all parents to be equally honoured). Furthermore, it seems only fair to honour Christian beliefs in an identical way that other beliefs are being honoured, in these guidelines. Again, I applaud the idea of antibullying programs and teaching on empathy. I thank those who are working so hard to make this a reality. But, I also feel that I need to write my MLA, the Premier, and my local school principal to express some of my concerns. I am also writing Minister Eggen, the Education Minister, because he has asked for input from his principals and school leaders. Therefore, I want to give them the ability to say, "We feel we need to do such and such… or not do some things .. (and our letter help give their word the backing of many parents and community members)…’.

And so, because I choose to believe our Education Minister wants the best for our kids, and that he truly wants to hear from his principals, as well as us as parents, grandparents, and other stakeholders in our communities: first, I will generously affirm those parts of the document that I agree with; second, I will look at the guidelines (notice the web-sites below) so my response isn’t merely someone else’s ideas or words but is mine, and I will express my positive and constructive comments to them; third, gently … and with logic which comes from my understanding of scripture … (but not quoting scripture, for remember, we live in a post-Christian country now … and shouting louder won’t change that) … I will graciously and logically express my views to them. And I will probably remind them that I am a voting member in Alberta. Finally, I will pray for the kids … as well as the principals and the politicians.

Over the next while, we ask you to simply pray for God to move in this situation, so that lives are protected, so grace will be given, and truth will be understood and result in our schools increasingly becoming places that will help encourage our children with ideas which will help them live fuller lives. And as a church, we will be looking at ways to help you as parents lead your children.

Email addresses:

The Honourable David Eggen, Minister of Education edmonton.calder@assembly.ab.ca

The Honourable Mark Smith* draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca (The Wildrose Education Shadow Minister)

The Honourable Rachel Notley, M.L.A., Premier of Alberta premier@gov.ab.ca