Alas, a great loss to Canadian broadcasting and to Canadian evangelicalism: the retirement, dreadfully early, of Lorna Dueck.
I’ve known Lorna for a couple of decades, but only well for the last half-dozen years. My first encounter with her was when I was booked for my first appearance on “100 Huntley Street” and, instead of my being interviewed by founder David Mainse, I was to be interviewed by her in the “Listen Up!” show-within-a-show she did back then.
I was apprehensive about that first interview at the Crossroads studio in Burlington, Ontario. I was not confident I would be a good guest for the typical viewers of “100 Huntley Street,” among whom I personally could count only my grandmother. But the experience ended up being a good one entirely because Lorna conducted the interview with her characteristic ability to say big things in simple ways, and thus nicely set the pace for me.
Lorna and I connected occasionally over the next years, whether showing up at the same evangelical event somewhere across the country or when I guested once or twice on her own show, “Context with Lorna Dueck.” When she asked me a few years ago to join the team as a regular writer in this space, I was honoured and quickly agreed.
Lorna had by then emerged as one of the best representatives in the country for evangelical Christianity. Well educated, well dressed, well coiffed, and well spoken, she was someone you’d want standing in for you in public.
Far from the shouty male preachers who have tended to get too much attention in our media, Lorna (with that marvelous deep voice and winsome smile) was invariably calm, obviously thoughtful, unfailingly courteous, and unmistakably committed to telling the truth about difficult subjects, even those that didn’t cast evangelical Christianity in a positive light. And, oh, has she evidently loved Jesus! She has been us at our best.
Lorna has been so competent as a Christian journalist, in fact, that The Globe and Mail, not known for its boosting of evangelical voices, has routinely requested she write for them. Indeed, for some time now she has been the only evangelical who has been asked to participate regularly in one of Canada’s major media.
A generation ago, David Mainse himself along with the late Terry Winter presented splendidly positive contrasts to the hucksters south of the border who were giving “televangelism” such an awful name. In this generation, it has been Lorna Dueck to whom we could point and say, “There! That’s what we evangelicals sound like, or want to sound like, in public.”
I could go on to speak of Lorna’s courage in addressing controversial issues; her commitment to featuring an informative and sometimes disquieting range of voices rather than just those who would comfort her supporters; and her gentle firmness in soothing those who bristled at something they saw, heard, or read under her purview. (Yes, I count myself among the provocateurs she has defended.)
I could also speak of the relief many of us should feel that, in this age of disheartening revelations about public figures, Lorna is leaving her position to spend more time with her family and she really is leaving to spend more time with her family.
I focus today, however, on not only the performance but also the persona with which Lorna Dueck has gifted us over these decades of faithful, capable public service. As I was glad my friend Brian Stiller did such a good job representing evangelicals when he led the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, so I am grateful that today’s best-known Canadian evangelical is someone of the quality of Lorna Dueck.
I therefore unapologetically mourn to see her leave this work, even as I join many others in praying for her and her fortunate husband. My late father contracted Parkinson’s and, to paraphrase Bette Davis, it ain’t for sissies. But Lorna and Vern will have some good times ahead, and they deserve every blessing on the way.