Tag Archives: Calgary

Register for the 2018 Calvary Grace Conference with Paul Martin!

26230333_1847928538564383_4760767714954106377_nIf you are (or can be!) in Calgary February 9 & 10, don’t miss Paul Martin preaching at the Calvary Grace Conference! Paul is a gifted preacher; I’ve been blessed to attend a Simeon Trust workshop that he taught at. The theme this year is “Delighting in God.”

Online registration closes Friday–sign up here.


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Union Calgary: Theological Education in Alberta!

We’re excited to announce the launch of Union Calgary, a Learning Community of Union School of Theology for Christian theological education and ministry training, hosted by Calvary Grace Church. If you’re in driving distance of Calgary and are seeking an academically rigorous, biblically faithful, and accredited theological education, but can’t commit to a full-time program of study and can’t relocate to a seminary somewhere, this may be for you!

Details on the Calgary Learning Community here.

The program offered through the Learning Community is Union’s Graduate Diploma in Theology (GDip).

Prospectus here.


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Reformation 500–Come Hear Michael Haykin in Calgary!

If you’re in the Calgary area, the annual Calgary Reformed Conference will take place April 7-8 at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church. Our speaker this year is the church historian Dr. Michael Haykin, a good friend of ours at Calvary Grace. In this 500th year of the Protestant Reformation, he’ll be speaking on the theme of the English Reformation. And, it’s a free conference!

More details here.

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Alberta Archaeology

The Calgary Herald has an interesting look at archaeology right here in Alberta, along the Bow River.

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Healthy Eldership Conference with 9 Marks in Calgary November 15-16

If you’re a pastor, elder, minister, missionary, or seminary student in driving distance of the Calgary area, this will be of particular value for you, but everyone is welcome!  We’re holding a conference on Healthy Eldership at Calvary Grace Church on November 15 & 16. Jeramie Rinne is our speaker, coming out on behalf of 9 Marks. Here’s the poster, and more information’s available here:


Eldership Conference Poster


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“Buckle of the Bible Belt”? Part 5

Straitlaced No More: Alberta’s Moral Decline

So far in this series, I’ve asserted that Central Canadian bias, combined with the outsized prominence of individual Alberta evangelicals in Canadian politics, is the main reason for Alberta’s mythical reputation as a “Bible Belt.” I then looked at statistics which prove that, far from being an evangelical hotbed, Alberta is one of the most secular places in the country and its major cities some of the most unchurched in English Canada. Last time, I went on to give three examples of the theological decline of Alberta’s evangelicals in order to show that the church in Alberta is, in fact, in doctrinal trouble.

Still, the popular view of Alberta as Canada’s evangelical heartland is hard to break. It’s easy for many Canadians to assume that, because Alberta has for decades been reliably politically conservative in its provincial and federal politics, Alberta’s culture is therefore more heavily influenced by Christianity than others in Canada. So it’s possible that someone might read what I’ve argued so far, and say: “Well, okay, maybe the church has fallen on hard times, but it’s not all bad—Alberta’s still very conservative and friendly to Christian values, isn’t it?”

Well, no, actually, it isn’t. Not only is Alberta NOT an evangelical heartland—it’s no bastion of morality and ethics, either.

So, the focus of this article is to examine a parallel decline in the friendliness of Alberta’s culture to Christian values. In other words, I’m saying that those expecting Alberta’s broader society to reflect a more “Christian” culture, due to its being an alleged “Bible Belt,” are in for a sore disappointment.

By the way: my fear—and one of my motivations in writing this series—is that Alberta’s unjustifiable reputation as an evangelical hotbed may encourage some Christians, who are considering entering or supporting ministry in Canada, to look elsewhere than Alberta for places to serve or give, thinking that we’re somehow better off and therefore should be “less of a priority.” No, we need all the help we can get! So I think it’s important to show that the diminished evangelical witness of Alberta’s churches has been, I believe, paralleled to a degree in the extent to which Alberta’s culture is abandoning traditional Judeo-Christian values.


It’s sad enough that in our sick and twisted world there are websites dedicated to destroying marriages by promoting adulterous liaisons; it’s even sadder that Canadians, in particular, appear to embrace them. Well, one particularly grim indicator of Calgary’s actual level of morality is the fact that according to one such adultery-promoting website, Ashley Madison, Calgary is the third-most “cheater-friendly” city in Canada, after only Ottawa and Saskatoon. Moreover, half the cities in their “top ten” were in allegedly conservative Western Canada, and two were in “Bible Belt” Alberta (Edmonton is the other one). For those unfamiliar with Canadian demographics, Western Canada does not have even close to half of the nation’s population, and Alberta barely counts one in ten Canadians, much less one in five! So both of those figures are far out of proportion to those regions’ share of the national population.

The sexual dissolution of Alberta’s culture impacts even Calgary’s famous Stampede, which is marketed as a wholesome family event. Now, it’s true that for the most part the fair grounds, exhibits, and competitions are family-friendly; I take my own kids most years. However, the “party culture” that has sprung up in Calgary around the Stampede is anything but. For ten days in the summer, Calgarians “let their hair down” and indulge en masse in adolescent partying. I used to manage a downtown hotel near the Stampede grounds, and while Stampede is a reliable moneymaker for Calgary’s hospitality industry, we came to dread the week from a customer service perspective, knowing that ten days of damaged rooms, inebriated twenty-somethings hollering in the hallways after midnight, and guest complaints awaited us. Aping Las Vegas, a common saying in Calgary during the festival is “What happens at Stampede, stays at Stampede.”

This Stampede “party culture” has been growing in infamy. After hearing some of their interns swapping Stampede stories of young females being pressured into playing sexually suggestive party games at corporate Stampede parties, and young men into attending events catered by topless waitresses, the Sheldon Chumir Foundation conducted a panel exploring the ethical implications of Stampede party culture, especially for businesses. T-shirts have been sold printed with the phrase, “It’s not cheating, it’s Stampeding”;  not too long ago, a prominent Calgary boutique hotel, as a publicity stunt, ran a cheeky marketing campaign offering to allow guests to check their wedding rings at the door–and get a spray tan application to cover the finger’s tan line. This Winnipeg newspaper story, chillingly titled “Debauchery… Divorce, Disease,” reveals some shocking statistics. Stampede, for too many married Calgarians, presents an opportunity to see if things really are “greener” on the other side of the fence. As a result, within about six weeks after Stampede, the number of people calling a prominent local divorce mediation firm spikes by 30 percent. Sadly, Calgary police estimate that during the ten days of festivities, the number of prostitutes in Calgary doubles.

Another telling example of how tenuous social mores have become in Calgary was the scene on Calgary’s infamous “Red Mile” during the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. As the underdog team won game after game, hockey fans spilled out into the streets, beers in hand and clothes falling off. Crowds encouraged young women to disrobe for their amusement and a website was even set up for pictures, leading to justifiable criticism that Calgary’s fans were exploiting the ladies.

And it’s not just a Calgary thing, either. When the Edmonton Oilers similarly reached the Cup Finals two years later, Calgary’s counterpart to the north not only imitated the “street party” atmosphere with their own “Blue Mile” (complete with the debauchery, of course), but its police had to deal with a remarkable amount of violence and property damage to boot.


Christians have always maintained that departures from the biblical teaching regarding sex–that sexual activity is designed by God exclusively for a committed, covenantal marriage relationship between one man and woman–would result in grave consequences for society. The sexual revolution has typecast chivalry as being “patriarchal” and, therefore, discouraged men from thinking of themselves as having a uniquely protective and responsible role in their relationships with women. Moreover, the sexual revolution and technology has diminished the physical consequences of extramarital sex, freeing men to indulge their natural–and sinful–tendency to objectify women through casual sexual encounters. A culture that encourages men and women–but particularly men–to view other human beings as merely means to a pleasurable end is a culture that has diminished the value of other human beings.

So it’s not terribly surprising, then, that Albertans–who we’ve already seen to be happily throwing off every and any social restriction on sexual activity!–are more prone to commit, and be victimized by, explicit or threatened sexual or relational violence. Statistics Canada reports that while more than one-third (39%) of Canadian women experienced at least one incident of sexual assault in their lifetimes, well over half of women in Alberta (58%) have had such an experience. Alberta women were more likely to be victims of stalking than women in other provinces (both of the charts below are originally from this report).

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In 2004, Statistics Canada reported that the rate of spousal abuse against Alberta women was 10% – the highest in the country. 

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It’s not merely family and sexual crimes that are higher than normal in Alberta. More drunk driving charges are laid in Alberta (450 charges per 100,000 people) than in the rest of the country (national average was 262/100K). Now, it needs to be noted that this statistic could be partially attributable to more enforcement (i.e., maybe we’re better at catching them than the rest of the country); still, I’d be very surprised to learn that Alberta cops (as good as they are) are something like 70% more effective than those in other provinces!


It’s not just Alberta’s social culture that’s abandoning Christian values. Alberta’s political conversation is increasingly turning hostile to evangelical Christian beliefs regarding sexuality. One indication of this trend is the fact that Alberta’s Human Rights Commission has been used by homosexual activists to target Christians for publicly stating their beliefs. Despite international condemnation by both Christian and secular conservatives and libertarians, the Commission has not been reformed by Alberta’s Conservative government to prevent such abuse of the system, and Section 3 of Alberta’s Human Rights Act has not been amended to prevent suppression of free speech. The Alberta government’s stark refusal to move such reforms is all the more noteworthy given the fact that even Canada’s federal government responded to such abuse of the federal Human Rights Commission by amending its governing legislation.

It’s not just the bureaucrats of a quasi-judicial body that have shown such disdain for Christian belief. During our last provincial election campaign Alberta’s premier, Alison Redford, harshly criticized an evangelical pastor running for another party for past denunciations of homosexuality during his pastoral ministry. Her exact words were, “The fact that there are people who think that’s a legitimate perspective just absolutely blows my mind…. I think they’re shocking.” Let me restate: Her Majesty’s head of government in Alberta honestly thinks that what Christians (and the vast majority of non-Christians as well) have believed regarding human sexuality for the past two thousand years has suddenly become a totally illegitimate political viewpoint. The historical myopia and logical incoherence of her position aside, it’s another sign of how secular and post-Christian even Alberta’s allegedly “conservative” political discourse has become.


My point in recounting these tales is simple: since Alberta is no evangelical heartland, no one considering the state of the church in Canada has any reason to assume that Alberta is somehow a more Christian-friendly place than the rest of the country. In fact, Alberta society is demonstrating all the signs of a culture given over to secularism. Far from being “better off” than the rest of Canada, Alberta’s need of Christian outreach and mission work is no less than any other part of the country–and, arguably, may be greater than most.

So if you’re considering pastoral ministry, or if you are thinking strategically about places where you may serve the Kingdom or contribute to its work, please don’t count out Calgary, or Edmonton, or Red Deer, or Lethbridge, or anywhere else in Alberta just because “everyone knows Alberta’s the Bible Belt.” This province desperately needs the Gospel, and workers for the harvest. May God answer that prayer–and grant that more may offer that prayer in the first place.


In the next installment of this series, God willing, I’m going to expand somewhat on the theme I closed with above, and examine some of the practical needs of the evangelical church in Alberta.


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“Buckle of the Bible Belt”? Part 4

Beyond Statistics: Alberta Evangelicals’ Critical Theological Condition

So in review: I’ve argued that Alberta’s evangelical reputation is a myth stemming from largely political factors. Last week I laid out some disturbing statistics that prove Alberta is actually one of the least Christian places in Canada. The problem, as I explained last week, is twofold. First, here in Alberta people in general aren’t particularly religious anymore. And second, we don’t have enough evangelical churches in our major cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

Sadly, it gets even worse. Not only do we not have enough evangelical Christians or enough churches, but many of the churches we do have are struggling. Furthermore, even many of the seemingly stable ones are theologically unhealthy.

It’s that last point that today’s article is about. I expect this post will likely be more controversial than others. However, if we care about the strength of Christ’s church in Alberta and Canada, we need to be honest about our problems, including our theological problems—and, boy, do we have some.

I’m going to provide three examples that illustrate the deep theological crisis Alberta’s churches are facing today.


An incident that occurred last year provides an instructive, though deeply saddening, example of the poor theological health of Calgary’s churches. A Christian theatre company in Calgary welcomed, promoted and screened Kevin Miller’s reprehensible film “Hellbound?” (a film I reviewed and responded to at our church blog). In this movie, the filmmaker not only commits heresy–as it denies the biblical teaching about eternal punishment for the wicked–but also commits slander, as the film goes out of its way to associate orthodox Christians with the nutcases at Westboro Baptist Church. Now, the mere fact that someone made a heretical film isn’t that surprising; after all, books that promote bad theology are written every day, and we’re bound to get some bad films as well. And the film wasn’t made here in Alberta. So why does it matter in this discussion? Well, what’s particularly disappointing is the fact that local evangelical Christians actually promoted and supported the film.

Even more worrying is what we learn when we take a brief look at the theatre company’s “About Us” page, which has information about the education and church involvement of its directors and staff. Note that (and this is critical) these are the people whose responsibility it is to oversee the theatre company’s content and uphold the Christian character of the organization–and under whose watch this movie was promoted and supported among the evangelical Christian community in Calgary.

The list includes leaders in several prominent and leading evangelical churches in the Calgary area–notably, the pastor of a significant Baptist church just outside Calgary, a worship leader at a prominent local multi-site megachurch, and a dramatic arts director at Calgary’s largest evangelical church. Represented among the directors and staff are graduates (and even some instructors!) from every evangelical Bible college in the Calgary area (including the very school I attended for seminary training!), not to mention arguably Alberta’s most famous Bible college in Three Hills and a major Baptist university college in Edmonton. Denominations represented on that list include the Christian & Missionary Alliance, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (Canada’s largest evangelical denomination), the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, and the North American Baptist Conference.

This is what’s so surprising and saddening: these are not fringe denominations, or diploma mills, or extremist churches. None of these churches or denominations teach universalism or deny the doctrine of hell, as far as I have been able to determine. So this theatre company’s directors and staff constitute as mainstream and representative a sample of Calgary’s evangelical community as one could hope to find. Therefore, the very fact that Miller’s heretical piece could be shown under the oversight of, and therefore the tacit approval of, such a group of Christian leaders, and thus by them be recommended to the average Christian as a profitable use of their time, is heartbreaking. Their failure to “test all things” not only fed theological poison to an untold number of Calgary evangelicals, but it also serves as a saddening indication of the utter failure of Alberta’s most influential evangelical churches, schools, seminaries, and denominations to teach and practice wisdom and discernment.


A small theatre company in Calgary may be a useful bellweather for evangelical theological discernment, but its actual impact on Alberta’s evangelical culture is no doubt limited. That isn’t the case with our next example.

A more extreme, but undoubtedly more influential, organization–based in Lethbridge, Alberta–is “The Miracle Channel,” touted as Canada’s “First Christian Television Station.” The Miracle Channel is the Canadian partner of America’s reprehensible and chintzy Trinity Broadcasting Network, whose late founder Paul Crouch labored long and hard to build the network’s seedy reputation as a home of charlatans, heretics, and fraudsters. (Interestingly, The Miracle Channel was its founders’ second attempt at importing TBN cheese into Canada; in 1986, they had attempted to set up a rebroadcasting transmitter for TBN, which Canada’s CRTC mercifully slapped down at the time).

Some of you may think my words harsh, but they are warranted. The Miracle Channel, like its American counterpart, is noted for its support and advocacy of dangerous false teaching—specifically, the so-called “prosperity gospel,” also known as “Word-Faith” or “name-it-and-claim-it” teaching. So it’s necessary, at this point, to spend some time explaining what “word-faith” theology is and just why it’s so dangerous.

Charismatic author D.R. McConnell, in his outstanding book, “A Different Gospel” (which I recommend heartily to everyone!) proves that the Word-Faith movement’s teaching is not actually Christian at all, but rather stems from the cultic teaching of E.W. Kenyon and is therefore more closely related to the religions of Religious Science and Christian Science than it is to the faith of the Bible. Word-Faith advocates teach that “we can write our own ticket with God if we decide what we want, believe that it’s ours, and confess it,” thereby redefining faith as the conviction you’ll get something you want—as opposed to the Bible’s definition of faith as an empty-handed, repentant belief and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ for one’s salvation. Word-Faith advocates, in a disturbing correspondence to Mormon theology, diminish God and exalt man by teaching that human beings “are little gods,” teaching that by using the “substance of faith” we have the potential to do anything God does—while reducing God to merely a cosmic vending machine who spits out what we want if we plug in enough “faith.” One of the most ghastly aspects of Word-Faith teaching is their emphasis that physical healing in this life is guaranteed if you just believe strongly enough that you will be healed. This biblically false idea, not confined to Word-Faith circles by any means but certainly characteristic of them, has on more than one occasion prompted gullible parents to withhold medical treatment from sick children. The Word-Faith movement’s sick twist on faith healing results from combining that biblically false idea of healing with its unique teaching about “negative confession” (that is, you can deprive yourself of health and wealth if you doubt you might be healed or say something that questions the certainty of receiving such blessing), meaning that going to a doctor is then seen as such a “negative confession” and can actually thwart healing–a view that all too often has tragic results. Of course, leading Word-Faith advocates would deny a connection with such events, but they promote and advocate a view of faith, healing, and sickness that leads directly to such disasters.

Word-Faith teaching, then, is cultic, heretical, and unbiblical. It kills physically and spiritually, costing people their physical lives and sending souls to hell.  Yet the Miracle Channel’s programming schedule reads like a “Who’s Who” of leading Word-Faith teachers. Streaming forth from their radio tower in Lethbridge are the flagship TV broadcasts of noted prosperity advocates like John Hagee, Paul Crouch, Kenneth Copeland (Believer’s Voice of Victory), Morris Cerullo (Victory Today), Joyce Meyer (Enjoying Everyday Life), Joel Osteen (who is not only shallow but heretical), and Creflo Dollar.

Sure, not everything in the Miracle Channel’s programming lineup is heretical; Way of the Master is a solid ministry, I’ve benefitted personally from Charles Stanley’s In Touch even though I wouldn’t agree with him on everything, and Dr. David Jeremiah is a mainstream evangelical teacher. There are other decent shows as well. But a few good shows does not a Christian TV network make; after all, mixing protein powder into a bottle of battery acid won’t make the final product worthy of human consumption! The fact remains that the Miracle Channel devotes no less than 20 hours a week to rank heresy, much of it in prime programming slots; Hagee is on in the 6/8 PM slot weekdays, and folks tuning into Miracle Sunday mornings for “TV Church” are very likely to run into Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, or Joel Osteen.

The money-obsessed nature of The Miracle Channel’s programming has been noted in even secular Canadian news, and has actually been the subject of a CBC expose. Needless to say, this black eye on Christianity’s reputation among unbelievers only increases the damage this organization was already doing theologically to the cause of Christ in Alberta. Nevertheless, The Miracle Channel could arguably (and sadly) be described as Alberta’s most significant evangelical export today, and even Canada’s national media has had to acknowledge its influence and strong base of support. Which, again, speaks volumes about the profound lack of theological health in Alberta’s Christian community.


 Every year, Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton is the site of Break Forth, which bills itself as “North America’s Largest Equipping and Renewal Conference.” And it is certainly a landmark event in the local evangelical calendar. Break Forth meets in the Rexall Centre, home of the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers. It draws around 15,000 people from more than 1,000 churches, many of them young people. I remember the posters in the student lunchroom at seminary.

Break Forth draws some of the biggest and most influential names in North American evangelicalism every year. Sadly, in recent years it has been drawing some of North America’s most dangerous teachers. 2010’s conference invited as a headliner William Paul Young, the author of the bestselling Christian book The Shack, which despite its popularity promotes badly misleading ideas about the Trinity, submission, forgiveness, and revelation. In 2011, Break Forth had as its headline speaker John Eldredge, author of several bestselling books—and advocate of the heresy known as “open theism,” a denial that God knows the future. Both 2007 and 2012’s iterations invited Tony Campolo, who after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 advocated Christians follow the teaching of Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner and deny God’s omnipotence and control over natural disaster. Again, that’s not to say everyone they invite to speak is bad–but, yes, again, protein powder and battery acid and all that.

Given the popularity of Break Forth with Alberta’s young evangelicals, the lack of discernment shown by its organizers bodes ill for the future of Christ’s church in the province.


Alberta’s evangelical schools and Calgary’s largest churches are failing to teach Christians discernment, and their leaders are neglecting, at best, their responsibility to guard the flock from false teaching. The Christian airwaves in Alberta are dominated by cultic superstition disguised with a Christian veneer. Our largest youth conference introduces the next generation to some of the most dangerous writers of our time.

So not only are Albertans in general less religious, and not only do we not have enough churches, but Alberta’s evangelical community is desperately sick in a theological sense.

Next time, I hope to unpack the challenge that Alberta’s Christians face in the culture–in case anyone still thinks Alberta, while maybe not religious, is still a pretty strait-laced and moral place. (Spoiler: it isn’t).


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