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The Church in Eastern Canada



Basic Geography



















Historical Overview


•Initial contact by Vikings (c. 1100) and John Cabot (1497)

•First permanent settlements by French in 1605 (Port Royal; Acadia) and 1608 (Quebec City; Canada); by English and Basque around 1610 (Newfoundland)

•By 1763 all of eastern Canada was under British rule

•Most of Acadian French were expelled to Louisiana, Caribbean, etc. (Evangeline)

•Colony of New Brunswick created in 1784

•Large-scale Scottish immigration to Cape Breton in early 19th century

•“Dominion of Canada” created July 1, 1867 (without Newfoundland and PEI)

•Flag adopted in 1965

•Constitution was “patriated” from England in 1982

•“Quiet Revolution” in Quebec in 1960s, then separatist movements

•Dominance by Liberal governments and postmodern philosophy since 1960s

Christian Foundations

Martyrdom of French Catholic missionaries to Huron and other tribes

•Establishment of Anglican church under English rule

•Arrival of Scottish (Presbyterian), Irish (Catholic), and Loyalist (Congregational) settlers

•Early Methodist, Baptist, and other Nonconformist traditions

Establishment of the Moravian mission in Labrador (1752-1771)


Leonard Tilley (1818-1896)
"He shall have dominion from sea to sea" Psalm 72:8

•Active in Anglican church from age 21

•Following a domestic murder, he led Temperance Movement in New Brunswick, got into legislature, and passed Prohibition bill

•As premier, participated as a “Father of Confederation”

•Suggested “Dominion of Canada” based on having read Psalm 72 that morning

Sir Wilfred Grenfell (1865-1940)

•Served as medical missionary in Labrador and northern Newfoundland


•William Black (1760-1834): first brought Methodism to Nova Scotia


–Sieur du Monts: Huguenot; founded Port Royal in 1604

–Landing of Hector at Pictou, NS in 1773

Lord’s Day Alliance


United Church

•Merger of most Methodist, Presbyterian, and some other minor groups to form United Church of Canada in 1925

•About 30% of Presbyterian churches refused to join

•Increasingly liberal theology

•In 1997 the Moderator, Right Reverend Bill Phipps stated “"I don't believe Jesus was God", that he didn't consider the resurrection a scientific fact, and that he was agnostic on the question of an afterlife”; also that he didn’t know of anywhere that Jesus claimed to be the only way to God

Roman Catholic

•Roman Catholicism traditionally dominant among French

•Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649): Jesuit missionary to Huron; martyr; patron saint of Canada

•1991 film Black Robe

•Recollects -> Jesuits -> Sulpicians

•Significantly compromised with liberal theology since 1960s

•“Salvation through the Church has been replaced by salvation through the state.”

Anglicans and Presbyterians

•Anglicans (Church of England) are divided, with conservative renewal in some parishes


•Presbyterians have struggled: Presbyterian Church of Canada is largest group; but other groups have sought to hold more firmly to traditional orthodoxy



•Dominated by Atlantic Baptist Convention

•Others are associated with Quebec Baptists, Southern Baptists, independent Baptists, etc.

•Were largest Protestant group in NS/NB in 1900


•Henry Alline (1748-1784): “New Light Movement” in  Nova Scotia; ideas led to Freewill Baptists

•John James Sidey (1891-1966): Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy; led to weak independent Baptist movement

•Emerging Church influence



•Wesleyan and Church of the Nazarene


–Hold closer to traditional Biblical Methodism

•Pentecostal and Charismatic groups: growing


•Mennonite, Nondenominational, Salvation Army, etc.

The Global/American Context

•Rise of “Social Darwinism” and “Social Gospel” in late 19th century

•“Higher Criticism” in early 20th century, leading to “Fundamentalist” reaction

•Growth in U.S. of “Evangelicalism” in latter half of 20th century. In Canada, declined from 20% to 8% between 1900-1990

•Ecumenical movement, especially among mainline churches

•Ties to “Post-Christian Europe” and New England

Cultural Barriers to Gospel

•Country as a whole has been strongly pushed toward postmodernist philosophy

•Rapid growth in occult and other “alternative” religious experience among youth

•Protestant outreach to French population has generally lagged (0.5% evangelical in Quebec)

•Sporadic outreach to native peoples (“First Nations”): Micmac, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, and others

•Population remains largely rural

Legal Challenges to Ministry

•Legalization of same-sex marriage

•Decreased freedom of speech, especially on airwaves

•In past, evangelicals were openly persecuted in Quebec

•Border crossing restrictions, etc.

Issues Affecting the Church

•Dead formalism

•Interpretation and authority of Bible

•Postmodernist thought

•“Emerging Church” movement

•Moral issues: homosexuality, etc.

•Decline of marriage; alcohol/drug abuse; welfare mentality

•Failure of leaders and seminaries

•Needs for ethnic reconciliation

•Power of Freemasonry, labor unions, etc.

Focus on Acadian Coast

•Coast of Gulf of St. Lawrence in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

•Approximately 700 miles of coastline

•Population: 200,000

•Includes heart of Acadian and Scottish settlement/heritage

•Most churches in decline

•How to reach for Christ? PrayerPaddle?