state of the Canadian church

canadianchristianity.com is publishing a series of articles describing the state of the Canadian church. This must be an annual thing, because they published a series of seven articles last year. Today’s article is called "Protestant realignment". I thought I’d highlight a few paragraphs that struck me.

First of all, the third point of the writer, Jim Coggins:

Third, there is an increasingly large number of people who are unconnected to any organized religion. This group probably constitutes the largest group of those leaving mainline Protestant churches (and includes some leaving Roman Catholic and evangelical churches as well). These are people who often consider themselves spiritual without being religious, and who are determined to define their own beliefs rather than accept the doctrine of any religious authority.

This is what we have been dealing with in 23 years of ministry. It is very frustrating to make many efforts to reach lost people in our almost totally (and deliberately) secular society, only to see the gospel simply dismissed. Coggins captures our frustrations with one sentence:

This attitude seems to be especially prominent on the west coast of North America and was encapsulated in a 2008 book by Vancouver Sun religion writer Douglas Todd. Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia describes these people as "the least institutionally religious people on the continent" but "eclectically, informally, often deeply spiritual." [emphasis mine]

In observing what he calls a "shift in power" in the Anglican church, Coggins notes that Anglicanism is increasingly being led by churchmen from the Third World. He says this trend is being paralleled in the Roman Catholic church which is

now relying on immigration to maintain its numbers and is recruiting immigrants to serve as priests.

But he goes on to observe this:

One of the very interesting aspects of the developments within Protestantism is the impact it has had on the old Roman Catholic/Protestant divide. One might have expected evangelicals, as the most conservative Protestants, to have maintained the old Protestant mistrust of Catholicism.

This does not seem to be the case.

He cites three factors in this closer relationship:

  1. Co-belligerence on social issues like abortion, etc. [Do we here echoes of fundamentalist criticism of the Moral Majority here?]
  2. New common ground on some theological issues (post Vatican II Catholics supposedly have a stronger emphasis on the Bible)
  3. Charismatics in Catholicism
  4. Increasing support by Catholics of the Conservative Party of Canada

I have to say that I think Jim Coggins is bang-on with his observations. His articles point out the challenges we face here. I urge our American friends to take a look at this series, perhaps subscribe to the RSS feed to get the ones yet to come. I have long maintained that where Canada is, the USA is sure to eventually follow (in an American way, of course). The increasing secularism of Canada is only more pronounced than the secularism of the USA. We need to think about these trends and also think of ways to counteract them in our preaching and evangelism. And trust the Lord, of course!

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