In reviewing the state of evangelicalism in Canada in the last two decades, theologian John Stackhouse finds patterns of both stability and change, especially the emergence of fundamentalism.
Writing in the Evangelical Studies Bulletin (Summer), Stackhouse notes that evangelicals still represent about 10 percent of the Canadian population since two decades ago, while the percentage of self-professed Christians has dropped by about 10 percent (and is likely to decrease further in the forthcoming 2011 census) and mainline Protestants have hemorrhaged a high rate of “members, dollars, and cultural influence.” With Catholics, evangelicals have been able to retain their young people and even show some small increase through immigration and the evangelism of non-churchgoers.
Institutionally, in the last 20 years, Briercrest College and Seminary and Trinity Western University have become the leading Canadian evangelical educational institutions. Canada has developed its share of megachurches, particularly in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley (to the east of “spiritually dry” Vancouver) and southern Ontario, where the multisite Catch the Fire Network (which emerged from the Toronto Blessing revival of 1990s) is among the largest. But the largest megachurch is Springs Church in Winnipeg, which belongs to the Word-Faith (health and prosperity) movement. But the most noticeable change in two decades is the emergence of an American-style fundamentalism, best represented by Charles McVery, “who openly emulates Jerry Falwell from his Toronto-based Canada Christian College and political organization (the Canada Family Action Coalition),” writes Stackhouse. Some have linked this new politically interested fundamentalism to evangelical Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, but “there was little fire under all that smoke.”
Stackhouse attributes this trend to a reaction against the “increasing secularization of public life.” The questions of whether preaching against homosexuality will be subject to “hate speech” laws and whether Christian institutions can continue to receive public funds while insisting on hiring only Christian staff “all simmer on the stove of legislative and judicial consideration.” It remains to be seen whether evangelicals will become a reactive force against such de-Christianization or “adopt a carefully considered posture of cooperation with increasingly varied neighbors in a new, genuinely multicultural common life,” Stackhouse concludes.
(Evangelical Studies Bulletin, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL 60187-5593)