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Understanding Evangelicalism in Canada Michael Wilkinson.

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1 Understanding Evangelicalism in Canada Michael Wilkinson

2 Definitions Who’s Counting and What Counts? – Bibby – evangelicals are those who attend conservative churches like Baptists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Missionary Alliance, Mennonite Brethren, etc – about 10% of population – Rawlyk – evangelicals are those who share beliefs - application of Bebbington’s definition in his book Is Jesus your Personal Saviour? and includes evangelical Protestants in the Anglican, United Church, Presbyterian, and Lutheran traditions – about 20-25% of population. – Irenic character of Canadian evangelicalism – Marsden – evangelicals are those who share common organizations that are transdenominational (in Canada, Tyndale University College, Trinity Western University)

3 Attendance, Beliefs, Identity Bibby – attendance, sectarian, conservative socially & politically, high level of religious participation, i.e. not Mainline Bebbington – Biblicism (high view of authority of scripture) – Christocentrism (Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross) – Conversionism (renewal/revival, regeneration as transformative experience) – Activism (engaging Christianity, evangelism, social action) Marsden – Transdenominational (not confined to a single tradition) Hutchinson and Wolffe – Family Resemblance (sameness and difference)

4 Historical Aspects Main Point – The character/culture of Evangelicalism changes over time – “waxes and wanes” – as most movements do. – Rooted in Protestantism and variety of voices in the past 300 years calling for renewal and/or reform. – British evangelicalism often thought to be historical beginning point within Church of England, church reform, social activism – In the United States the role of revivals is prominent with an emphasis on personal conversion, Methodists and Baptists especially. – In Canada, combination of both British and US influences – Popularity declines by late 19 th century – Loss of authority with debates about science, anti-Catholicism, debates and factions within Protestantism, modernism and Seminaries, emergence of Bible Schools as response, in early 20 th century.

5 Historical Aspects Re-emergence of evangelicalism in Early 20 th century – moderate position or third way during the modernist/fundamentalist debates. – Fundamentalism is an ultraconservative variant of evangelical Protestantism. – Role of Carl F. Henry, Billy Graham, Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary as new evangelical response to debates, continued growth through the 1950s. – But this version of evangelicalism did not represent all Protestants – suspicion among some, declines by 1980s

6 Historical Aspects Moral Panic – 1960s begins period of moral panic over variety of issues including women’s movement, environmental issues, sexuality, abortion, war, etc. – Evangelical consensus begins to fall apart and Fundamentalism re-emerges with strong voices in the Religious Right (e.g. Falwell, Moral Majority, Dobson, Focus on the Family, etc). – Further debates between so called left leaning evangelicals and right leaning evangelicals, including differences about how to deal with social change – e.g. legislation and political action, no consensus

7 Faith and Politics A Canadian Irenic View? – there is no consensus on the relationship between faith and politics - Evangelicals are politically diverse in Canada – There is no religious right in Canada – Evangelicals in Canada do not align with any single party (e.g. Conservative or Liberal or NDP, etc). – Evangelical views are broad and include coalitions with non- evangelicals (e.g. Catholics) on issues about multi-faith education, aboriginal issues, poverty, environment, etc. – Differentiating Mainline Protestants from Conservative Protestants and the use of labels like conservative and liberal are not very insightful for understanding evangelical coalitions in Canada that emerge, coalesce, and in some cases disappear. – However, when evangelical Protestants have come together, there is an irenic quality to their work – one that seeks to reconcile differences, avoid polarization, and seek peace.

8 Discussion Implications – What is the glue that holds evangelical Protestantism together? – How might evangelical Protestants gain broad consensus among those who may potentially identify with the movement? – If evangelicalism, historically, is best represented by it’s moderate/moderating tendencies, how might TWU contribute to contemporary evangelicalism in Canada and offer another way? – What would it mean for TWU to be characterized as an irenic, transdenominational, evangelical Protestant institution?

9 Further Reading G.A. Rawlyk Is Jesus Your Personal Saviour? D. Lyon & M Van Die Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity: Canada Between Europe and America. Sam Reimer Evangelicals and the Continental Divide. J. Bielo Emerging Evangelicals. M. Hutchinson & J. Wolffe A Short History of Global Evangelicalism. B. Steensland & P. Goff. The New Evangelical Social Engagement. G. Marti & G. Ganiel The Deconstructed Church. Sam Reimer and Michael Wilkinson A Culture of Faith: Evangelical Congregations in Canada (forthcoming, McGill-Queen’s University Press).


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