Who wants to go to church when you
can walk in breathtaking parks, ski in the
mountains or windsurf on the ocean? The
polls show the leading religious choice
among British Columbians is “no religion.”
Yet the second-most-popular religious
option in B.C. is evangelical Christianity.
Part of this can be accounted for by
looking in the lower Fraser Valley and up
the Okanagan Valley, both heavily populated by immigrants from the Prairies.
Here grow Mennonite Brethren, Alliance,
Christian Reformed, Pentecostal and
other churches seating hundreds and
That’s remarkable in a country with
virtually no megachurches and in which
fully 90 per cent of the churches have
fewer than 250 people in attendance on a
So it’s no surprise the Fraser Valley is
home to Canada’s largest Christian university, Trinity Western.
Part of evangelicalism’s strength comes
also from immigrants from the other
direction, from the Pacific Rim. Virtually
every urban centre in Canada is being
reshaped by this immigration, and Canadian evangelicalism is changing likewise
as Chinese and Korean churches lean toward more conservative forms of evangelical worship and piety.
It remains to be seen, however, whether second-generation Asian Canadians
will continue to attend these churches
that have also functioned as cultural social
centres, providing their immigrant parents with a welcome place to speak the
mother tongue and remember the old
ways. Or will these young people eventually succumb to the allure of consumerist
capitalism that functions nowadays as
Canada’s de facto national religion?
This relative strength of evangelicalism
in British Columbia reflects a national
reality. Most Canadians continue to iden-
tify with a small number of Christian de-
nominations. The Roman Catholic,
United and Anglican churches claim the
nominal allegiance of about three-quar-
ters of the population. Lutherans, Ortho-
dox and Baptists of various sorts make up
much of the rest.
But allegiance isn’t the same as observance. Look inside churches on Sunday
morning to see who’s actually there. Ask
Canadians who among them prays, reads
the Bible regularly, and contributes money
and time to Christian causes.
The answer to all those questions is the
same – Evangelicals. Both within the
formerly mainline Protestant denominations and in uniformly evangelical ones,
evangelicalism is once again the dominant
orientation in Canadian Protestantism.
This relative predominance, however,
has come only at the expense of the decline of active membership among the
mainline denominations and in the face
of the rapid secularization of the country.
And Canadian evangelicalism also faces
CHALLENGES WI THIN
The majority of inhabitants of the vast North
remain nominally Christian, as do Indigenous
people in the provinces
as well, bolstered by some evangelistic
success among Pentecostals, Baptists and
others who carry on the tradition of
missions established largely by Roman
Catholics and Anglicans.
Leaders among Indigenous peoples,
Pacific Rim immigrants and French Can-
adians, however, remain virtually invis-
ible at the regional and national levels of
evangelicalism. It remains to be seen how
much these various Christian commun-
ities will assimilate into the prevailing
In Winnipeg, a city of 700,000 known
as the gateway to the West, the three lar-
gest denominations in the nation are
represented in order – Roman Catholics,
United Church and Anglican. But equal
with the Anglicans in Winnipeg are the
Southern Manitoba, in fact, is the demographic Mennonite capital of the world.
But all across the Prairies, as well as in
southwestern Ontario, Mennonites shape
society, and especially evangelicalism.
They have supported benevolent societies
such as the Mennonite Central Committee
and the interdenominational Canadian
Many are active in transdenomination-al evangelical groups, and much of the
strength of evangelicalism in Western
Canada is due to the number of people of
Mennonite background who have migrated to a whole range of other churches, such
as the Christian and Missionary Alliance,
Baptist, Pentecostal and independent.
Qualified Christian private elementary
and secondary schools receive some provincial funding in most of Western Canada,
and several free-standing evangelical colleges have received charters to grant BAs,
including Providence University College in
Manitoba and both The King’s University
and Ambrose University in Alberta.
But historically Bible school education
was long the dominant form of postsecondary education in the country, and
many continue to operate and even thrive
on the Prairies.
OVER THE ROCKIES
Two apparently contradictory trends come
together graphically in
province, British Columbia. Most people there are immigrants
and have left more than their previous
residence – most have also left organized
Virtually every urban centre in
Canada is being reshaped by
immigration, and Canadian
evangelicalism is changing
All across the Prairies, as well
as in southwestern Ontario,
Mennonites shape society, and