Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is Toronto driving the churches away?

Toronto needs more, not fewer, churches.
(Photo: PadoukDesign/Flickr)
Is Toronto driving the churches away? Tim Challies, pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, recently wrote on his blog about the prohibitive increase in rent charges that congregations are now facing. He writes, “This action threatens to drive away churches from a city in desperate need of far more, not fewer, churches.”

Below are excerpts from his blog.
Toronto is a city of 2.6 million where churches are small and real estate is costly. For this reason many churches meet in gymnasiums and cafeterias they rent from the Toronto District School Board. But now, very suddenly, the TDSB has taken action to get churches out of its schools. At the end of August each of these organizations was notified that they would face an imminent increase in rental fees. The next day they learned that this increase would range from 140% to 800% and that it would begin to go in effect in just four days. Unless the Board can be convinced to change course, they will effectively drive hundreds of churches from its nearly 600 schools.

At the end of August, the TDSB announced to their permit holders that effective September 1, 2012, they would streamline the organizational categories under which they distribute rental permits. As of that date, religious organizations (and only religious organizations) would no longer receive subsidies offered to other not-for-profit and charitable organizations. These subsidies are provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Education in their Community Use of Schools Program which allocates funds to underwrite many of the costs associated with fair, equal and diverse use of school buildings.

As the Board revoked subsidies, it simultaneously announced that it intended to raise rental prices for all tenants by 43.7% effective January 1, 2013. Between the rental increase and the loss of subsidies, most churches will no longer be able to afford to rent school buildings. Many of them will have nowhere else to go.
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If you are not a Toronto-area resident, please pray that the Lord would work through this situation. Toronto real estate prices are extremely high and to this point public schools have been nearly the only affordable options for new and small churches. Toronto is among the world’s most unchurched and most diverse cities, with over half of its residents having been born in another country. This action threatens to drive away churches from a city in desperate need of far more, not fewer, churches.
(To read the full blog article, click here.)
What is your take on the raise in rental prices? Would you consider this persecution? If you were a member at one of these churches, what would you do?

2 comments:

  1. The same thing happened in New York City recently. I don't consider it persecution, just money grubbing by city leaders.

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