Celebrating 40 Years of CLF

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On Saturday, April 7, at the historic Osgoode Hall Courthouse (Toronto), CLF's founders, members, directors, staff, supporters, and friends gathered from across Canada for a sold-out Gala to celebrate 40 years of the ministry of Christian Legal Fellowship.

 

 

 

 

Incorporated in 1978, Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2018 as Canada's national association of Christian lawyers. CLF was founded by law students out of the conviction that the vocation of law is a calling from God. With many of the founding and long-time members in attendance, it was wonderful to gather and celebrate, as one body, the fellowship and work of CLF. 

The evening began with a cocktail reception in the Upper Barristers' Lounge at Osgoode Hall, where lawyers caught up with old friends and made some new ones. After taking a group photo to commemorate the evening together, the celebration moved downstairs to the Great Hall for a delicious dinner catered by the Osgoode Hall Restaurant team.

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The formal program opened with the reading of congratulatory 40th Anniversary greetings extended from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette (the Governor General of Canada) and Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell (the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario). 

The program then moved into a time of worship. It was an exciting moment for many of us, to be able to sing about the goodness of God and blessing His name, as a collective of legal professionals at Osgoode Hall. This time of worship collected songs from throughout the ages. 

A very exciting portion of the program was the Celebration of the various aspects of CLF Ministry, from CLF's work for the church and Christian community, CLF's international reach, CLF's advocacy, CLF's Christian legal scholarship, CLF Law Student Ministries, and CLF's professional development training, including the Christian Legal Institute. 

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Here are a few excerpts from these inspiring celebrations and remarks:

The Christian Legal Fellowship came into being at a critical time for two reasons. First, it was needed to provide a framing of issues for Chrsitians on all sorts of matters within the Canadian social, religious, and legal world, and second, it modeled for other professions our underlying belief that all of life is the Lord’s and each of our callings operates within Kingdom life... I celebrate the great service of CLF in giving leadership to the profound and life-altering issues of faith and social freedom in our great country of Canada
— Brian Stiller (CLF's Work for the Church and Christian Community)
Before I even applied to law school, CLF showed me that a career as a lawyer could be more than just a steady job or a decent paycheck; it’s an opportunity to use the unique gifts and abilities that God has given to serve as an ambassador for His kingdom at the forefront of our culture... I’m overwhelmed by the ways in which CLF has given me countless opportunities to grow both as a believer and a professional.
— Kristopher Kinsinger (CLF's Law Student Ministries)
  Kristopher Kinsinger, CLF Board of Directors Student Representative.   Also pictured: Sarah Mix-Ross & Gwenyth Stadig, emcees at the Gala. 

Kristopher Kinsinger, CLF Board of Directors Student Representative.
Also pictured: Sarah Mix-Ross & Gwenyth Stadig, emcees at the Gala. 

  Ruth Ross, Executive Director of CLF from 2000-2012; 2013-2014

Ruth Ross, Executive Director of CLF from 2000-2012; 2013-2014

Although CLF has worked diligently to mentor students, it became apparent about a decade ago that an intensive training program was needed to face the challenges and isolation of law school, and to be able to respond in a reasoned and winsome way. The Christian Legal Institute became CLF’s answer to that challenge. Since its founding in 2009, this intensive week-long training event has since become a game changer for those who attend. There is nothing quite like this program in Canada and others internationally have been inspired by the Institute to introduce similar training programs. CLF has been blessed to add additional allied organization, the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity, to support this ministry.
— Ruth Ross (CLF's Professional Development & Training, including the Christian Legal Institute)
In my view, Christian Legal Fellowship constitutes a gift to Christian lawyers - in two parts. First, CLF is our bodyguard. It identifies risks to our freedoms, informs us about those risks, and then acts to mitigate and eliminate those risks... In its role as bodyguard, CLF has been active in the courts to protect the constitutional rights of all Canadians... Second, CLF is our mentor. We benefit from the professional and educational support available at CLF conferences and within CLF publications.
— Gerald Chipeur, Q.C. (CLF's Advocacy)
Over the years, CLF lawyers have provided invaluable service to our colleagues in other countries through the drafting of amicus briefs and other legal research as well as providing practical and final support for potential asylum refugees, just to name a few. CLF is engaged in the public square and is a shining light for other Christian lawyer fellowships and we congratulate you on the first 40 years of excellence and pray for God’s grace and peace for the next 40 years and beyond.
— Brent McBurney (CLF's International Reach)
It has been my pleasure to see and participate in the growing academic emphasis CLF is making to the legal community. The special edition of the Supreme Court Law Review on Medical Assistance in Dying, spearheaded by CLF, is but one indicator of the robust scholarship that CLF is capable of producing. I, for one, am excited to see the scholastic achievements yet to be reached in the coming years as CLF sponsors more academic symposia on key legal issues affecting the Christian community. Indeed, not only the Christian community but all religious groups.
— Barry W. Bussey (CLF's Christian Legal Scholarship)
  Founding members of CLF present at the Gala.  From left to right: Karen Henein, Marty Klein (former ED), Ashley Gnyś, Stanley Mayes, Terrance Carter, Robert Reynolds, Calvin Beresh, the Hon. John McKay, Robert Adourian, JoAnne Nadeau, and Robert Nadeau (former ED).

Founding members of CLF present at the Gala.
From left to right: Karen Henein, Marty Klein (former ED), Ashley Gnyś, Stanley Mayes, Terrance Carter, Robert Reynolds, Calvin Beresh, the Hon. John McKay, Robert Adourian, JoAnne Nadeau, and Robert Nadeau (former ED).

Christian Legal Fellowship is a true fellowship. As we celebrated the many aspects of CLF's arms of ministry, we also celebrated the many people who have championed the work of CLF, past and present, from CLF's founding members, to its executive directors and staff, board of directors, local chapter leaders, and student chapters leaders, CLF is rich in dedicated lawyers and leaders. Some of these CLF heroes have been with the ministry since the very beginng. Here are some of the remarks from CLF's community:

I would like to thank all founding members for taking up the torch that God entrusted initially to us, and for those who have stood on our shoulders. Let us continue to run with perseverance the course that is set before us. We are not alone.
— Paul Mack (CLF's Founding Members)
To the student chapter leaders, past and present, I want to honour you and I want to thank you...Let’s continue to turn our focus from what we want to be to who we want to be; and let’s start a conversation in our law schools about what it truly means to be called to the Bar – who it is that’s calling and what He’s calling us to do.
— Kinsey Bowen (CLF's Student Chapter Leaders)
I can attest that one of the strengths of CLF lies in its local chapters. While there is no formal job description, chapter leaders wear a lot of hats: encourager, scoial convener, manager, and go-between for local lawyers and the CLF National office. There are chapter leaders in virtually every major urban centre in Canada and they are doing great work.
— Timothy Stonhouse (CLF's Local Chapter Leaders)
  Many travelled from across Canada to be at the Gala, including members of the CLF Board of Directors.  From left to right: Kristopher Kinsinger (ON; Student Rep.), Shawn Smith (BC), Robert Reynolds (President; QC), Derek Ross (ED; ON), Robert Song (AB), Philip Milley (Secretary; NFLD), and Timothy Sinnott (Ontario). Not pictured: Shayna Beeksma (ON). 

Many travelled from across Canada to be at the Gala, including members of the CLF Board of Directors.
From left to right: Kristopher Kinsinger (ON; Student Rep.), Shawn Smith (BC), Robert Reynolds (President; QC), Derek Ross (ED; ON), Robert Song (AB), Philip Milley (Secretary; NFLD), and Timothy Sinnott (Ontario). Not pictured: Shayna Beeksma (ON). 

  The Hon. David C. Onley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

The Hon. David C. Onley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

 

 

After we heard from many of CLF's members, we were inspired by the Honourable David C. Onley as he challenged us as Christian lawyers to continue in our pursuit of justice and compassion, especially in our efforts for persons with disabilities. His address was titled "Living the Truth in a Post-modern World".

 

 

  In preparation for the Gala, CLF reviewed decades of corporate minutes, Christian Legal Journals, Conference materials, and more.   A commitment to defending religious freedom was central part of CLF's mission from its very beginning.

In preparation for the Gala, CLF reviewed decades of corporate minutes, Christian Legal Journals, Conference materials, and more. A commitment to defending religious freedom was central part of CLF's mission from its very beginning.

 

CLF's own Executive Director & General Counsel Derek Ross then provided an address: "A fresh vision: looking ahead to the next 40 years of Christian Legal Fellowship", in which he traced the history of CLF, having reviewed 40 years of corporate minutes and other important documents. He found that, among many other important pillars of CLF's ministry, religious freedom has been a part of CLF's core mandate since the 1980s.

 

 

 

  CLF's Executive Director & General Counsel, Derek Ross, speaks about the history and future of CLF.

CLF's Executive Director & General Counsel, Derek Ross, speaks about the history and future of CLF.

 

 

Derek then painted a vision for CLF's next 40 years, a vision where Christian lawyers prominently serve in the public square, a vision of "CLF 2.0". A vision where Canadians don't have to ask, as they did in Dr. Francis Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto, "Where were all the Christian lawyers?". It was truly inspiring to celebrate how far CLF has come since 1978: as of 2018, we have grown into an organization of over 700 legal professionals who are passionate about pursuing justice in Jesus' name. 

CLF has celebrated many more significant milestones in its 40 years of ministry (enclosed in the Gala program):

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At the Gala, we also watched a commemorative video, celebrating 40 years of the ministry of CLF. It was amazing to see the generation of laywers who founded, developed, and strengthened this fellowship, and it was even more inspiring to see the next generation of lawyers rising up and taking vested interested in the work of CLF. 

The evening closed in worship and corporate prayer, hands linked from one side of the room to the other, together praying for Canada's decision makers, for lawyers, for our families, and for God's will to be done. The night was one for the books, from exquisite food to delicious fellowship. And the most memorable part of the evening was the overwhelming theme of God's faithfulness.

Through the steadfast work of ordinary people, God has been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. God has allowed CLF to stand in the public square, proclaiming His truth, for the past 40 years, and by His grace, CLF will continue to do so. We are just getting started! 

Don't miss out on the next opportunity to fellowship with CLF! Register for the 2018 CLF National Conference (September 27-30, BC) by May 25 for the best registration price! 

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