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Rev. DeVries is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Wingham, Ontario, Canada.


Honorary Degree for Canadian Hero?? 

We seem to be digging very deep, scraping the bottom of the barrel, to come up with Canadian heroes these days. At least that is the case with the senate committee of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Let’s see—who would be a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate of laws degree? The obvious choice: notorious Canadian abortion activist and lawbreaker, Dr. Henry Morgentaler!

In 1968 Morgentaler opened Canada’s first freestanding abortion clinic in Montreal. Over the next twenty years he opened abortion clinics in other provinces, and he was repeatedly arrested and charged with conspiracy to perform an abortion. In 1974 he served ten months of an 18-month prison sentence. He was repeatedly tried in the courts, and in 1985 he appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the federal law forbidding abortion unconstitutional. Morgentaler has built eight abortion clinics across the country.

Three months of protest and division led up to the climax as the University of Western Ontario presented this honorary degree to Canada’s abortion rights advocate, Henry Morgentaler. Tony Gosgnach, assistant editor of The Interim, Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper, reports in the July 2005 issue:

The University of Western Ontario resembled more an armed camp under siege than a place of higher learning when Henry Morgentaler’s honorary degree road show rolled into London, Ont., June 16. 

At least five dozen police officers ringed the area around the university’s Alumni Hall as Morgentaler received the honorary doctor of laws degree before about 1,200 graduates and their relatives. Outside, police and security officials erected metal barricades along the laneway about 50 meters from the hall doors to keep out about 600 protesters taking part in the Campaign Life Coalition-organized demonstration, as well as along the heavily traveled Western Road. 

Morgentaler was evidently escorted in and out a back door to avoid confronting the protesters. 

The day capped months of rancor and maneuvering both within and outside the university community, as plans were unveiled to bestow the recognition on Canada’s most notorious abortionist. More than 12,000 people, including many students and alumni, had signed an internet petition against the award and some estimates have placed the loss to the university treasury, through lost donations and bequests, in the tens of millions of dollars…. 

…The university’s administration remained intransigent to the end, however, and even greeted Morgentaler with glowing words as he stepped forward to accept the degree….

…Morgentaler, as has been his custom in public speeches, referred again to his and his family’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps and trotted out his well-worn claim that the abortion of unwanted children has lowered the crime rate and led to a caring and safer society. In an earlier interview in the Globe and Mail newspaper, he told reporter Caroline Alphonso: “I do believe, even if it may not sound modest, that I deserve this degree.” 

The hundreds outside Alumni Hall took issue with that boast. At least six UWO professors—four in full academic regalia—joined the protesters. Professor David Stanford, of the Department of Statistical & Actuarial Sciences, bemoaned “the current of political correctness” that is pervasive at Western and said it was “extremely sad” that his university would choose to honour an individual such as Morgentaler. He said it was necessary to stand in solidarity and witness to life. Speaking from personal experience, he noted that his sister almost killed herself three decades ago from grief over an abortion she underwent. 

Philosophy Professor Thomas M. Lennon, who has worked on campus for 37 years and received numerous awards of his own in that time, said he “couldn’t fathom the intentions of the university” and characterized the Morgentaler honour, as “a silly political event.” He noted that whereas his association with Western was once a source of pride, it is now one of shame. 

He also said he was disappointed by the insensitivity shown by the university’s administration at the moral stance of a significant segment of the student population.

Sociology Professor Paul Whitehead predicted that because of the backlash, he didn’t think the university “will make a stupid decision like that again.” He added he felt bad for the students and parents who didn’t want to be present for the controversial event….

Many young people were evident among the throngs outside the barricades, joined by those toward the middle and older ends of the spectrum, as well as by representatives of entities such as Campaign Life Coalition and Show the Truth. The latter group’s explicit images of aborted preborn babies prompted one radio reporter to tell his station during a live broadcast: “These graphic signs are difficult even for a crusty old guy like me to look at.” 

A new pro-life group, London-based Truth and Love for Life, caused a sensation when about a dozen of its young members showed up garbed in funeral black and carrying a wooden casket topped by a tiny pair of shoes and a banner proclaiming that more than two million unborn Canadians have been killed by legalized abortion. Media cameras swarmed the group for images….”

May we never cease to be horrified and sickened by the abomination of legalized abortion. “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5). 

Sunday Best

In his regular Saturday column in the “Spirituality and Ethics” page of the April 2, 2005 London Free Press, Rev. Bob Ripley writes with his characteristic wit from his perspective in the liberal, mainline United Church of Canada. But in his inimitable way, he makes some very pertinent observations with regard to an aspect of worship that is frequently not taken very seriously nowadays. His column is entitled, “Lamenting the Demise of the Sunday Best.” Think about it!

Sunday best used to be your best duds that you wore on Sunday. 

Saturday night was for polishing shoes between supper and Lawrence Welk. Black paste. Stiff brush. Buffing cloth for that saintly shine. 

The next morning it was coats and ties and dresses and hats. But no more. 

Welcome to casual Sunday. 

In churches, mosques and synagogues, worship is casual. Saints wade into a sea of denim, distinguished only by the fading of the fabric and the label on the pocket. 

In some California sanctuaries, you might think you were on the set of a Gidget movie, singing hymns between Moondoggie and the Big Kahuna…. 

And some preachers, including this one, have been known to swap outfits, depending on the style of worship. Praise band or robed choir? Pick your pants. 

I still lean toward the suit and tie. There’s a trace of Saturday shoe polish coursing through my veins. 

Many Christian ministers don’t care what you wear. After all, Jesus of Nazareth had only one garment and it was gambled away by Roman soldiers. 

I wouldn’t want anyone to stay away from worship because they thought a suit and tie were de rigueur…. Still, I mourn the death of the idea of Sunday best…. 

Certain professions have cast off formal attire faster than others. Members of Parliament still dress up in the house, and lawyers wouldn’t dream of showing up in court in anything else. But otherwise, casual Fridays are now a seven-day norm, with ties as rare as rotary phones. 

How do we justify our disheveled appearance when photos of Depression-era bread lines show men attired in suits and hats, maintaining an air of dignity despite ubiquitous despair? 

I continue to hold to a fast-fading formality against the casual quicksand. There are tons of T-shirts and sweats in my closet, reserved for times when I expect to sweat—like mowing the lawn or writing a column. 

In the quest for comfort, we have lost the glamour of a not-so-distant time when you dressed up for an event that called for refined attire, like meeting someone special.

God included.

Yes, today’s worship has increasingly gone casual. Especially in services seeking to appeal to baby-boomers and Generation Xers, the goal seems to be to make those in attendance feel comfortable. Casual dress is often one aspect of that. In Reformed Worship (p. 32), Prof. B. Gritters comments regarding a local newspaper report covering a new mega-church that showed a young man in jeans, tennis shoes, and a sweatshirt, proclaiming: “This makes me feel good: I’m comfortable here; that’s why I’m here.” Rev. Rick Warren, author of best-selling The Purpose Driven Life, pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, typically preaches while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals.

But we must also examine ourselves in this regard. We certainly would never contend that God goes casual for summer worship. With air conditioning nearly everywhere—in homes, vehicles, and church buildings—casual dress is not a matter of relief from the heat of the day. Yet one sees some dress shirts with ties replaced with golf-style shirts. And in some cases dresses, or skirts and tops, become more casual and/or immodest, revealing more and more skin. Modesty in dress ought always to be observed, but especially in the divine worship services. To my mind a good rule of thumb is that my appearance (clothing, hair style, jewelry, etc.) in the worship service ought not draw attention to me. Nothing in my appearance ought detract or distract from the focus on the worship of the living God.

The biblical principle involved here is “reverence” in public worship. In worship we come into fellowship with the living God, who alone is great and greatly to be praised! Prof. B. Gritters puts it well in his pamphlet “Public Worship and the Reformed Faith”:

If the angels, without sin, cover their faces in the presence of God and cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory,” how can we worshippers, who remain sinners our entire life, do anything less than come into His courts with reverential awe?… 

Understanding this principle, the Reformed believer will not come to worship dressed casually, but in his best. Understanding this, the Reformed pastor will not promote a casualness and carelessness in worship. Understanding this, the Reformed believer will pray for grace to come into God’s presence with a reverent fear…. They are going to meet their King!

Indeed, reverence is a matter of the heart. God requires not a mere outward formality in dress. But reverence is reflected and revealed in many ways, one of which is our dress in worship. May God give us wisdom and discretion in selecting appropriate attire for worship. Let’s wear our “Sunday best.”