Convocation address: hope-filled advocacy

Address delivered by Gerald Vandezande at a reception the day he was awarded a honorary doctorate from the Institute of Christian Studies, on Oct. 20, 2007.

Hope-Filled Advocacy for Public Justice
Love is the Better Way

As a long-time Canadian citizen by choice, and an independent, public-justice advocate by profession, I am most thankful for having enjoyed the privilege to be meaningfully involved in the path-breaking initiatives and ongoing witness of Citizens for Public Justice since 1963.

Jesus tells us:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These biblical teachings are living building blocks that lead to practical steps, concrete ways out of confusion, misery, blind alleys and dead-end streets while on our hope-filled journey, realizing that life is meant to be persistent advocacy for our neighbours’ good. I will not repeat here what I tried to convey in more depth at this afternoon’s reception.

However, I do want to express my sincere thanks. I am deeply grateful to the Institute for Christian Studies for honouring me with this special degree tonight. You have now deprived me of an excuse I have used with people for years, namely that I do not have any academic degree. As an institution of insightful higher learning, together with other respected academics, you face complex economic, educational, political, social, philosophical and theological questions which cannot be avoided with a clear conscience or in good faith. The Institute and its many colleagues serve as a building block towards a better understanding of how to be of blessing and service in this deeply secularized culture. Our world belongs to God. It needs your wisdom. So does Canada, as it struggles to become a beacon of light, a justice-based democracy, a strong, free and generous nation in the service of humanity, an independent servant in the vanguard for the international common good rooted in justice for all.

I also want to express heartfelt thanks to all the dedicated colleagues and generous supporters of CPJ over the years. They have faithfully worked and willingly shared their deep commitment and diverse resources to help build living demonstrations of public justice, responsible stewardship, social harmony, community co-operation and genuine peace. They steadfastly continue to be dynamic affirmations of living faiths and core values at work in aid of poor and powerless people, and they remain empowering illustrations of active citizenship and solidarity rooted in love and respect for all, without discrimination against any.

I especially want to voice publicly my deep love and warm gratitude to Wynne, my faith-filled marriage partner for nearly 50 years. Wynne, your loving care, Christian commitment, expressed so practically and professionally in your social work and community outreach, has been and still is, a true inspiration. May we be given the health and strength to continue in whatever ways we can be of neighbourly service, wherever God provides opportunities to share our expressions of biblical love, justice and peace. Of course, our precious children Janice and Karen and their families are also uniquely supportive.

» Fuller version of Gerald’s address [PDF 119kB]

Let me now conclude in the Biblical spirit that love is always the better way. The apostle Paul declared that the inequitable status quo is unacceptable, morally, politically and economically. He makes clear that we are called “to overthrow the existing order” (“to bring to nothing the things that are”), because it leads to ways of death (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). In this hope-filled advocacy for public justice, and especially in our inter-dependent world, Canada can serve as a beacon of freedom, justice and peace, inviting others to follow ways of hope, renewal and life. Jesus has shown us what makes for this abundant life. As Paul writes:

Now I will show you a better way….Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

…These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (excerpts from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

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