al vitality” would be, of course, urban
Quebec. Yet here too are green shoots of
promise, as both English- and French-speaking churches have sprung up in
Montreal to serve hundreds of worship-pers each weekend, many of them coming
from unchurched or nominally Christian
Meanwhile, as you consider the training of future pastors in the light of the
struggling, but still fruitful, work of
evangelical seminaries, who would have
guessed even a decade ago Evangelicals
would appear on the faculties of the Atlantic and Vancouver schools of theology?
And that an Evangelical would be named
principal of Knox Theological College in
Toronto? Would anyone have predicted
Presbyterianism might be poised to regain
its place as a vital force in Canadian evangelicalism, and beyond?
Again, there is no Billy Graham or Tim
Keller or John Stott or Nicky Gumbel
spurring any of these developments. In
typical Canadian evangelical fashion,
there are instead hardworking leaders
and faithful coworkers doing what they
are supposed to and thanking God for
Furthermore, the very ebbing of evangelical cultural power across Canada, the
way it has already ebbed in Vancouver and
Montreal, allows more and more people
to encounter the gospel without prejudice
and previous disappointments.
That means a new day for effective
evangelism, alongside the formula of
“retention of youth + enfolding of immigrants” – much like the situation Evangelicals faced when they welcomed into the
faith so much of the country in the decades surrounding Confederation.
On the sesquicentennial of the nation,
it is far too soon to sign off on the story of
evangelicalism in Canada. /FT
John Stackhouse is the Samuel J. Mikolaski professor
of religious studies (and dean of faculty development)
at Crandall University in Moncton, N.B. His latest book Why
You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World will be published this
fall by Oxford.
– or depart from – the national fellowship.
And despite Evangelicals experiencing
a steady rise in socioeconomic status over
the last 150 years, most of their institutions still cope with significant financial
stress, from local churches to nationally
prominent schools, missions and other
organizations. Evangelicals still don’t
come close to giving even 10 per cent of
their income to charity, and it shows.
Meanwhile, what about leadership? In
Canadian history there have been few
Egerton Ryersons, A. B. Simpsons, Tommy
Douglases, or Aimee Semple McPhersons,
not to mention those with more mixed
records such as William Aberhart and
T. T. Shields.
So it’s not unusual, and perhaps not
even problematic, that today no evangelical pastors, authors, scholars or ministry
leaders are widely known or get routinely
consulted by major media. The flagship
organizations – from the EFC to Regent
College to Tyndale to Briercrest to IVCF
to World Vision – go about their work on
the quiet margins of the larger culture.
Trinity Western, to be sure, is the exception to that rule as it is currently notorious
from coast to coast because of its attempt
to found a law school that would require,
among other things, orthodox Christian
sexual behaviour from its members.
T WU might be, however, not the exception but merely the first of many as LG-BTQ+ activism drives a wedge into Canadian culture at large and particularly into
evangelical denominations, congregations and other organizations.
Indeed, the promises made by politicians a decade ago guaranteeing the religious freedom to demur on such matters
seems very quickly to have become endangered just as Canadian society registers increasing alarm about religious
freedoms given to Muslims and other
immigrants whose customs vary from
traditional norms – or from new, liberal
Meanwhile, Evangelicals in the medical world are fighting to retain their freedom to conscientiously object to practices
they see harmful to unborn children or
patients vulnerable to euthanasia.
On the 150th anniversary of Confederation – our country’s great experiment in
co-operation between English and
French, and Protestant and Catholic – it
is not at all clear whether most Canadians
have retained a spirit of accommodation
Evangelicals, who ran the cultural show
for a century in Canada and did not rack
up a stellar record in that regard, might
now have to endure a season on the receiving end of an overbearing cultural
SEEING THE FU TURE IN VANCOUVER
Two generations of sociologists – from the venerable Reginald Bibby to
scholars Sam Reimer and
Michael Wilkinson – have brought further
bad news. They have warned Evangelicals
their growth has plateaued, and they will
do well merely to retain most of their
young people and gain a small boost from
The future for evangelicalism toward
Canada’s bicentennial therefore looks
modest, if not dim.
And yet. Twenty years ago downtown
Vancouver – one of the least churchgoing
places in the country – was home to only
a small evangelical witness as the likes of
First Baptist and Fairview Presbyterian
kept the fire lit. The big churches were all
out in the Fraser Valley.
Today, however, downtown Vancouver
is home to more than a handful of thriving
churches. They generally feature informal
services with lively preaching framed by
lots of Tomlin and Crowder music sung
by enthusiastic, ethnically diverse congregations.
Meanwhile innovative evangelical
ministry is happening in other regions of
Vancouver, particularly among desperate
people on the frightful Downtown
Eastside and the funky crowd on Commercial Drive.
Vying with Vancouver for “least promising place in Canada to expect evangelic-
COVER STORY: CANADA 150
Both English- and French-speaking churches have sprung
up in Montreal.