Tag Archives: Canada

Fairview Baptist Church Response to Canada Summer Jobs Attestation Requirement

My brother Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church, a fellow TGC Prairies member church here in Calgary, lays out clearly why Christians cannot abide by the Trudeau government’s unconstitutional Canada Summer Jobs attestation requirement:

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Another blow to freedom of conscience in Canada

Christian doctors in Ontario will now be forced to refer patients to be euthanized.

It’s getting harder for Christians to live their faith in Canada’s increasingly hostile legal environment. But our answer must be more prayer, more proclamation, and more churches started and strengthened–showing our culture “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).

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God Answers Prayer for Political Leaders

Almost every week at Calvary Grace, as part of the order of service, we offer a prayer to God for those serving in our federal, provincial, or municipal levels of government. We do this because we are commanded to, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Don’t forget that when Paul wrote this, the “kings and all who are in high positions” would have been characters like the Herod family, murderers of infants and prophets, and the Roman emperors. In other words, the fact that the government might not be to our liking as Christians doesn’t remove the responsibility we have to plead to God on their behalf. It’s not just our favourite candidates that get prayed for; we pray for every leader, even–and I’d argue especially–for those we oppose.

And these prayers do not go unanswered. Just today, literally within hours of each other, two events took place in federal politics–one in Canada, and the other in the United States–that not only show God’s common grace in guiding governmental decisions toward justice, but also God’s grace to us as believers in answering our prayers.

In Canada, the Trudeau government has been working on cleaning up the Criminal Code and removing archaic and redundant laws. It’s a sad indication of the secular “bubble” that many of our legislators live in that, until today, the government was seriously planning to remove Section 176, which made it illegal to disrupt worship services. The justification offered–that other laws already make such acts illegal–not only rang hollow in a cultural environment that regularly sees the “heckler’s veto” employed to shut down free speech, but in the aftermath of Sunday’s tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas, came off as tone-deaf and insensitive. Thankfully, this morning, members of all three of Canada’s national political parties voted to preserve this section.

In the United States, Republicans in the House of Representatives, which is working to simplify the tax code, have been pilloried for days by their own political base for a tax plan that not only keeps federal funding for an organization that kills, dismembers, and sells pieces of unborn children but removed a tax credit for families pursuing adoption. Even the Democrats attempted to reinstate the tax credit, only to be shot down. Again, thankfully, there was a sudden “change of heart” in Washington today as both the Senate and the House Republicans announced that, having received an utter avalanche of protest calls and emails, the tax credit would be reinstated.

Ultimately, government cannot solve humanity’s fundamental problem of sin. But God has mercifully given us political leaders, governments, and civil services for the purpose of making life livable until he, alone, brings about perfect justice. Both of these decisions serve to restrain wickedness and promote justice in their respective countries. Even more, both decisions in their own way preserve the ability of Christians and churches to display and promote the Gospel before unbelieving fellow citizens.

That witness is, at least at Calvary Grace, a persistent theme in our prayers for political leaders, as we ask God to promote justice and peace through them in order that the Gospel would spread “without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). There are certainly many examples both north and south of the border of wicked and immoral government action, which should spur all Christians to even more fervent prayer while reminding them of the very real limitations of political action. But today, we can thank and praise God that he not only hears our prayers but, according to his will, has in these two cases granted them.

 

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Maskepetoon

On National Aboriginal Day, Clint Humfrey shares the story of the Cree chief Maskepetoon. A must-read:

http://canada.thegospelcoalition.org/cowboyology/witness-not-despair/

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TGC Canada’s Website Now Live!

I’m so excited and thankful to see this finally come together! The Gospel Coalition Canada, a cross-denominational resource and fellowship ministry, has launched its website. Bookmark this and visit regularly, here:

http://canada.thegospelcoalition.org

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TGC Atlantic August Conference Topic Announced!

Folks in the Maritimes and Newfoundland, don’t miss this conference! After being there last year, even as just a visitor from Alberta, I’m more than happy to say that not only is this an incredibly well-run conference and the subject matter will be invaluable, but that the Christian fellowship and encouragement is a real gift to the Atlantic Canadian church. Mark your calendars.

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“Buckle of the Bible Belt”? Part 3

Alberta’s Evangelical Reality: A Wasteland, Not A Heartland

In my first article, and in my second article on the case of William Aberhart, I argued that because of the unique political culture and history in Alberta, because of the influential but biased perspective of a national political, cultural and media establishment rooted in a more secular and postmodern part of the country, because of the outsized impact Western-based and particularly Albertan evangelical Protestants have had in Canadian politics, and because of Canadians’ natural suspicion of American culture combined with the historically close ties Alberta has enjoyed with the more religiously and culturally conservative parts of the United States, Canadians find it all too easy to generalize and assume that Alberta is a Canadian “Bible Belt” and Calgary is its “buckle.”

In this article, I plan to show that, sadly, this perception is not reality.

LOSING OUR RELIGION

The Government of Canada’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada, tracks religious attendance across the country. While unfortunately (for our purposes) they do not distinguish between adherents of different denominations or even of different religions, their figures can provide us an initial snapshot of how “religious,” in general, Alberta is compared to the rest of the country.

Below is a table extracted from a Winter 2000 article in Statistics Canada’s magazine, Canadian Social Trends:

Canadian Religious Attendance by Province

Before discussing these data, a couple of qualifications are in order. First, like I said, no attempt is made to distinguish between adherents of different religions or denominations. So remember: this is a measurement of Canadians’ commitment to religion in general. This is not a measurement of evangelical Christian attendance.

Second, this is a measurement of church attendance for adults 15 and over. This minimizes the impact that conservative religious families, who tend to have more children, would otherwise have on these statistics; a family of 6 young children will not “pad” these stats! On the other hand, it also implies that Canada’s falling birthrates (versus its growing immigrant population) are not the reason for these declines, either.

Third, the date given here is 1998. I was unable to find anything broken down by province that is more recent (if you know of any such data, please let me know where in the comments!). So these data are 15 years old. In that time, various social trends and pressures would have influenced religious attendance. Urbanization has continued since then, as I noted in the first article, and higher urbanization shows some correlation with lower religious attendance. The Catholic church, especially in Quebec, has seen its attendance plummet even as its membership grew due to immigration. The mainline Protestant churches have seen significant decline in their attendance, while evangelical churches have actually shown growth overall at their expense, at least nationally. And don’t forget the increasing numbers of adherents of other religions in Canada, particularly Muslims.

So I would expect the trends represented in this table to have continued somewhat, though there is a “hard floor” of religious commitment that Canadian religious attendance will eventually hit as older mainline churches have no more members to hemorrhage…

However, for our purposes in this series, these data work nicely. For those who simply assume that Alberta is a nest of fervent religious zealots, these figures are, put plainly, shocking. 

Of Canada’s ten provinces, Alberta rates second lowest for the percentage of adults attending religious services regularly. Alberta is tied with ardently secular Quebec, of all places. The only province worse than Alberta is another Western province often viewed as a religious heartland, British Columbia (I would theorize that British Columbia’s significant population of immigrants from East Asia and their descendants, who do not have a cultural tradition of religious attendance–I don’t think many Eastern religions have weekly services–might have something to do with this). Ontario is actually better off than Alberta.

Again, this is not a measurement of evangelical commitment. In theory, the share of evangelicals in Alberta’s population could actually be rising and these numbers would fall if all other religious traditions collapsed. I don’t think that’s the case, however.

UNCHURCHED CITIES

So how can we gauge the strength of Alberta’s (and Calgary’s) evangelical community? Religious attendance isn’t the only “proxy” for religious belief. The number of religious congregations is also an indication of a belief system’s strength.

I work part-time as a corporate chaplain with a Canadian evangelical ministry called Outreach Canada (OC). This ministry has, among other things, gathered some very interesting data on the state of Christianity in Canada, which I’ve placed below. Like the religious attendance statistics above, for many Canadians, some of OC’s statistical conclusions may be surprising. However, for those of us engaged in ministry in Alberta–and in Calgary in particular–OC’s figures are illuminating.

Selected Canadian Metro Areas With Evangelical Church to Pop. Ratios

METRO AREA PROVINCE EVANGELICAL CHURCH TO POPULATION RATIO
Quebec City Quebec 1:23,331
Saguenay Quebec 1:21,733
Trois-Rivieres Quebec 1:9508
Montreal Quebec 1:8688
Sherbrooke Quebec 1:8668
St. John’s Newfoundland 1:6718
Ottawa-Gatineau Ontario 1:6129
Oshawa Ontario 1:5381
Toronto Ontario 1:5229
Great Sudbury Ontario 1:4764
Calgary Alberta 1:3818
Windsor Ontario 1:3773
Victoria British Columbia 1:3674
Hamilton Ontario 1:3654
Kingston Ontario 1:3604
Halifax Nova Scotia 1:3539
Edmonton Alberta 1:3420
London Ontario 1:3351
Vancouver British Columbia 1:3269
Thunder Bay Ontario 1:3214
Winnipeg Manitoba 1:3169
Regina Saskatchewan 1:3148
St. Catherine’s-Niagara Ontario 1:2390
Saskatoon Saskatchewan 1:2331
St. John New Brunswick 1:2099

The original table is found here at J.D. Payne’s blog.

This table arranges the urban areas of Canada by their ratio of population to number of evangelical churches. The 25 cities with the lowest ratio are shown, so cities with higher numbers of churches compared to overall population are not listed. In other words, this is a list of the most “un-churched” cities in Canada, arranged from “most un-churched” at the top to “25th-most un-churched” at the bottom (I know, clunky grammar, but it makes the table more understandable!)

Now, it’s important to note that, culturally speaking, English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Quebec are profoundly different. They speak different languages, but also have different histories, being settled by different nations, living under different versions of civil law, and having different religious heritages. Quebec was once heavily Catholic, but has become so ardently secular that it is one of the least “Christian” places on Earth. Again, I need to note that, because Quebec exercises such a large cultural and political influence on the Canadian national conversation, the profound secularism of Quebec makes the greater religiosity of other regions appear more fervent by way of comparison in the Canadian mind.

It’s more informative, then, to count the Quebec cities out of this comparison. When we do, the result is staggering. Of all the English-speaking urban areas in Canada, measured by ratio of evangelical churches to population, Calgary is the sixth-worst.

I’ll say that again, differently. Calgary has fewer evangelical churches compared to its population than all but five English-speaking cities in Canada.

Who’s worse? St. John’s, Newfoundland is the lowest English-speaking city; it’s a port city and also, like Quebec, has a long Catholic heritage (even today, almost half the city considers itself Catholic). The next area, Ottawa-Gatineau, is actually misleading; Gatineau is located in Quebec, across the river from the capital, and is French-speaking. I would suspect that Ottawa’s ratio is skewed by Gatineau’s inclusion and that the English-speaking part of the metro area should be listed further down the table, while Gatineau might actually be comparable to other Quebec cities. The other three cities are in Ontario. Besides Toronto, Oshawa is actually the eastern anchor of the Greater Toronto Area, while Sudbury is an industrial city located in a more remote area of Ontario.

So you could say that, other than a heavily Catholic and isolated port city in Newfoundland and three industrial cities in Ontario, Calgary is actually the most secular English-speaking city in Canada.

Calgary has one evangelical church for every 3818 inhabitants, according to the table. Actually, I think the situation is even worse. These data date from 2006. Calgary experienced a population boom up till the economic crash in 2008. Calgary’s population in 2006 was 988,193. As of 2013, the city’s population is 1,149,552. That’s a 16% increase in just seven years.

I haven’t done any market research or surveys myself. But having served in pastoral ministry in Calgary since 2006, I would be highly surprised if there has been a 16% increase in the number of established evangelical churches. I’m aware of quite a few failed church plants, but I doubt the number of surviving churches planted since then would have been enough to improve the ratio.

Note, too, that our sister/rival city to the north, Edmonton, is six places further down with a ratio of one church to every 3420 inhabitants. They aren’t really much better off, either.

SUMMARY

So is Alberta a “Bible Belt?” Well, here’s what the numbers tell us.

Far from being a religious heartland, Alberta is, when measured by religious attendance, the second-least religious province in the country.

And far from being the vaunted “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” Calgary actually has fewer evangelical churches (for its population) than all but five other English-speaking cities in Canada.

Alberta’s no evangelical heartland, folks. It’s more of a wasteland.

I’ll close this article here. Next time, in Part 4, I plan to look at some indicators of the health of the evangelical churches we do have in Alberta. That will push the discussion of Canada’s true “Bible Belt” to a later article.

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