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Patterns of Canadian Baptist life in the twentieth century: Baptists in Canada met in the summer of 1900 in Winnipeg to organize an all-Canada Union.

Those who attended were members of the unions from across Canada hat had their roots in the Regular or Calvinistic Baptists. Baptists had experienced remarkable expansion in the nineteenth century as they grew from several hundred members in 1799 to over 100,000 in 1901. Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier declared the twentieth century to be "Canada's Century," and Baptist expectations were equally high. The national population had reached 5,500,000 and by 1911 would reach 7,500,000. The potential for outreach seemed limitless. (1)

It was forty-four years before an all-Canada Baptist union emerged, and by that time there had been a couple of unions and major divisions so that the new Baptist Federation of Canada represented just over one half of the Baptists in Canada. It took another fifty years before the chief executive officers of the five largest Baptist groups met, not to discuss union, but to discuss common issues and problems. It is indicative of the new denominational structures that the chief executive officers meet rather than the presidents of the various groups.

Baptists, unlike Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics, have no ethnic roots that would determine the direction and control of the movement. Canadian Baptists looked back to common revival experiences and a set of principles that were often held with different perspectives. The Baptists were therefore the last of the significant older religious groups to form national bodies. Jarold K. Zeman, the long-time church historian at Acadia Divinity College pointed out:
 Commitment to the principles of soul liberty and local church autonomy
 inevitably leads to pluralism in views and structures. In all countries,
 Baptists continually face tension between the centrifugal forces of
 diversity ... and the centripetal aspirations for greater cooperation and
 unity. (2)

For Canadian Baptists, 1907-44 saw the centrifugal forces predominate. After World War II, the centripetal impulses created some new alliances.

Trying to distinguish patterns in Canadian Baptist Life during the twentieth century is challenging because Baptist identity, like Canadian identity, is often expressed by what we are not rather than by what we are. A saying declares that Canadians do not vote for things but against things.

As someone who has devoted his adult life to working on behalf of one group of the diverse community of Canadian Baptists, it may sometimes be difficult to see the forest for the trees. The broad picture is clearer, however, because of the new Canadian scholarly interest in religion in general and Baptists in particular. Jarold K. Zeman at Acadia Divinity College from 1968 to 1991 and George Rawlyk at Queen's University until his tragic death in 1995 inspired and led the interest in Canadian Baptist studies. Seven Canadian Baptist History Conferences and a number of books and articles have broadened and reshaped our knowledge of Canadian Baptist History. (3)

Diffusion and Union

Canadian Baptists experienced diffusion in the first half of the century and Baptist unions in the last half. Leadership was a crucial issue and debates usually centered on the education of the next generation. Education was an overriding preoccupation for Canadian Baptists of every persuasion. Any look at the various movements must examine the related schools because they often define the direction of a movement.

In this paper, some issues will, for convenience, be traced for the whole century when they are first raised while others take on a different significance or pattern about mid-century. It is remarkable, after a century of discussion and division, how close the various groups are to each other by the end of the twentieth century.

National characteristics and attitudes have shaped Canadian Baptists. Canada was born in 1867, not in the rush of a revolutionary war but by negotiation among colonies with a motherland that was beginning to get out of the colonial business while remaining an empire. The threat of the new United States emerging from a civil war confirmed the Canadians' attachment to Britain and of the colonies to each other. From the earliest days, the problem was always how to overcome the immense distances, for the natural flow dictated by geography is north and south while Canada is built east to west. This means that both regionalism and the natural contact with the States just below the border are factors in both Canadian development and denominational growth.

The Canadian regions are: the Maritimes or, when Newfoundland joined in 1949, Atlantic Canada on the Atlantic shore; Ontario/Quebec in the St. Lawrence River Valley and above the Great Lakes; the Prairies on the far side of the thousand miles of rocks, lakes, and trees called the Canadian Shield; and finally British Columbia between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Ninety percent of Canadians live within 500 kilometers of the border with the United States. Missionaries and evangelists from the south have always influenced Baptists. The close proximity and historic contacts have allowed the religious tensions of the American religious scene to creep across the border.

Canadian Baptists, however, know we are not American, even though we have been shaped by the pervasive influence of American culture. The divisive issues among Baptists in the United States have been reflected in .Canada, particularly the fundamentalist/modernist controversies. In addition, American methodologies in ministry are often emulated, for the books we read, the parachurch organizations we support, and the special speakers at our events, and many of the higher degrees our leaders hold are from the United States. It is interesting that there have been relatively few Americans who have come to fill Canadian Baptist pulpits although a much larger percentage have come to fill our seminary faculties.

We also know that we are not like the various strains of British Baptists but, like the rest of Canadians, Baptists rose with a single voice to defend the British Empire in both of the world wars. Throughout the twentieth century, many Canadian Baptist churches have looked to the British Isles for people to fill the pulpits of some of the largest churches and often the university chairs. The English influence was strongest in some of the major pulpits and in the educational institutions. The Scottish influences flowed on from the nineteenth century in the Ottawa River Valley and Prince Edward Island. In the twentieth century, the Scots provided a significant number of preachers after World War II, some of whom had been Plymouth Brethren in Scotland. The number of faculty members, particularly at Acadia Divinity College after 1970, who studied at Scottish Universities was significant. The Irish influence, with its strong anti-Catholic flavor and very conservative approach to Scripture, gave significant support to the growing fundamentalist movement after World War II, particularly in the Maritimes. A number of Welsh leaders played an important role in the pulpits of central Canada. In general, the British influence in the first half of the century was toward the theological left and after World War II, it was in a conservative direction.

In the broad Canadian scene, a diverse group of Baptists with different theological or ethnic roots has emerged. David Priestley, in his introduction to papers from the 1990 Canadian Baptist History Conference, suggests that more than ten "denominations" "share a common history and preserve a distinct past." (4) The group often called the "mainline Baptists" which numbered about 139,000 in the 1990s are the members of Canadian Baptist Ministries: the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces (UBCAP), The Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ), the Union of French Baptist Churches (UFBC), and the Baptist Union of Western Canada (BUWC). This oldest Baptist grouping is also the one that most strongly reflects Canadian regionalism.

In addition, there are the groups that withdrew during the fundamentalist-modernist debates of the 1920s and '30s that include: the Association of Regular Baptists in Ontario (ARBO) whose roots lie directly with the Calvinistic tradition of T. T. Shields; the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (FEBC) who look back to both the Shields movement and the Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches; the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB); and several independent streams including the Convention of Regular Baptists in British Columbia. Two other groups, the Free Will Baptists (FWB) and the Seventh Day Baptists (SDB) have a presence in Canada. Three significant groups have ethnic origins: the North American Baptist Conference (NABC, German); the Baptist General Conference of Canada (BGCC, Scandinavian); and the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Convention of Canada which has many dually aligned congregations. (5) In addition to all of these, Canada has many so-called independent Baptist churches, the majority of which have pastors trained in various Bible colleges. Many of the "People's Churches" and the Wesleyan Churches in Atlantic Canada also have Baptist origins.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Baptist union movements seemed the order of the day. The Baptists in the Maritime Provinces had the Regular Baptist or Calvinist Baptists who claimed over 50,000 members and the Free Christian Baptists or Free Will Baptists who claimed about 30,000. They each experienced dramatic growth in the nineteenth century and shared a strong revivalist heritage rooted in the Second Great Awakening. Each had formed conventions, home mission boards, and foreign mission societies. In 1905/06, the two came together to form the United Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces with a combined membership, after the deletion of non-resident members, of about 60,000. The 1905/06 Statement of Faith is a document of theological dexterity that emphasized what the groups had in common. This new union also included the African Baptist Association.

The Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec was also the result of a union in 1888, of the Regular Baptist Missionary Convention of Ontario, the Canada Baptist Missionary Conference of the East, and the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of Ontario and Quebec. It had been a turbulent courtship with open and closed communion, support of educational institutions, and the role of the various societies being large issues. Delegates from the churches now made the decisions, and the former satellite societies and boards became boards of the new convention. In 1900, the BCOQ had 464 churches with over 44,000 members. (6)

The Baptists in Western Canada had two geographic and several theological streams that merged. The first Baptist missionary to the prairies was Alexander MacDonald who arrived in Winnipeg in 1873 from Ontario. By 1880, four churches had joined together in the newly-formed Red River Association. The Baptist Convention of Manitoba and the North West Territories was founded in 1884, and the work moved west toward the Rocky Mountains. At the turn of the century, the Convention had about sixty churches including nine German, one Scandinavian, and one aboriginal. (7)

Baptist work in British Columbia began with several laymen and help from the American Baptists. In 1876, First Baptist Church, Victoria, was the first congregation of the fledgling work. In 1897, British Columbia Baptists formed a convention that was unique in that it integrated the Woman's Board of Missions into the convention. In 1907, British Columbia Baptists joined the Baptist Convention of Manitoba and Northwest Territories to form the Baptist Convention of Western Canada with some 200 churches and a membership of 11,000. Two years later, due to legal technicalities, the name was changed to the Baptist Union of Western Canada. The convention supported Brandon College (1899) and the Canadian Baptist Foreign Mission Board.


All varieties of Canadian Baptists maintained a strong interest in missions throughout the twentieth century. In 1845, the Maritime Baptists were the first Protestant body in what is now Canada to send missionaries overseas. They commissioned Richard and Leleah Burpe for Burma. Each convention or union formed its mission board at an early stage of organization. The regional missionary societies and boards combined in 1911 to form the Canadian Baptist Foreign Mission Board with over 100 missionaries overseas, about 25 percent of whom were single women missionaries who were supported by the different Woman's Baptist Missionary Unions.8 They consolidated the various missionary efforts in India and Bolivia to which Angola was added in the 1960s. In spite of the divisions in central and western Canada in the 1920s, the Foreign Mission Board continued to function. The name changed to the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board, then the Canadian Baptist International Ministries, and finally, in consolidation with the Canadian Baptist Federation, to Canadian Baptist Ministries. Baptists' first permanent national organization was for the specific purpose of missionary endeavor.

The Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board had a fruitful ministry before World War II. After the war, it responded quickly to the rising tide of nationalism in the Third World countries. It was very innovative in the 1960s as it changed from the traditional western model of the missionary as director to an emphasis on team ministries working with indigenous groups. Periods of service were for a specific term with clear objectives and with a commitment of resources and personnel from all participating groups. Theological education, agricultural work, pioneer team missions in new areas, Bible translation, and numerous other ministries were the usual tasks. CBM has workers in over ten countries.

During the century, the pattern of the missionary organization changed from a society to a denominational board with funding moving from specific donations to a portion of the central budgets of the conventions/unions. Since the 1970s, with the program "Partners in Missions," there has been a move back toward a faith-mission approach as each missionary was partnered with a number of local churches. It began as a prayer and support device but now prospective missionaries are expected to raise a significant portion of their support from these partner churches before being sent overseas. CBM presently receives only about a third of its funding directly from the budgets of the conventions/unions. This is a distinct change in philosophy of ministry without much discussion in the churches.

Another new development is joint appointments with other missions. Baptists were going out with the other missions and raising support in the churches, and the joint appointment is an effort to keep the denomination relevant and' supportive to both the missionary and the local church. The concept of short-term volunteer missionaries or workers has also reshaped the pattern of how Canadian Baptists think of missions. Some local churches can now function as a missionary society by sending their own members overseas for specific projects. Keeping these churches committed to the broader organization will be an increasing problem.

As the century progressed and various divisions among Baptists took place, the new groups all set up mission boards. Even before the 1927 split, (9) T. T. Shields and his group had formed the Regular Baptist Missionary and Educational Society. (10) The Independent and Regular Baptists were at least as missionary minded as those in the older unions. A quick look at the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches' web site says that FEB International has work in Belgium, Central Asia, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latin America, Middle East, Pakistan, Spain, and Venezuela. Similar interest in foreign missions is present among the various Baptist groupings and together they probably have between 300 and 400 Canadian Baptists working overseas.

Baptist Distinctives

The move toward unity early in the century was at an end after 1909. A number of factors, which are not just regional issues, have been part of the dynamic. In his book about British Columbia Baptists, John R. Richards made some useful comments about leadership and local church autonomy.
 Despite the absence among Baptists of historically prominent leaders, the
 role of the leadership should not be underestimated. Because of the
 autonomy of the Baptist congregation, the individual pastor is often more
 influential than he would be in a more tightly-organized denomination. In
 fact, he often proves to be a key influence in determining the enlistment,
 outlook, and associations of a local church. This is never more true than
 during times of distress and dissension within the group. (11)

This is certainly true in the broad Canadian context. Another observation from personal experience rather than a detailed study is that people in leadership who are most prone to division are often those with the least theological education or whose theological education was acquired outside the context of the place in which they are ministering.

Baptist distinctives often have been played off one against another in the heated debates that led to divisions. Throughout the century, soul liberty and local church autonomy were used to argue for a broad acceptance of diversity on issues like the importance of believer's baptism for church membership, inspiration of and attitude toward Scripture, the person of Christ, and the role of the Holy Spirit. For instance, in 1998, Baptists in Atlantic Canada voted to affirm a 1970s motion that only people who had experienced believer's baptism by immersion could be delegates at Convention Assembly. The handful of churches in the convention that practice open membership and function as community churches used the Baptist distinctives of soul liberty and local church autonomy to justify their position. They seek to be believers' churches but see baptism as a secondary issue. These same churches are those most likely to be involved in old-line ecumenism and to be members of the interest group called the Atlantic Baptist Fellowship. They were confronted by a more conservative theological group who argued that believer's baptism is a nonnegotiable Baptist distinctive and that delegates to a Baptist convention should be committed to it. The conservative group did not claim any right to tell a local church whom it could accept as a member, but it did define who could be a delegate to the larger decision-making body. The debate at its heart was perhaps as much about theological openness as about Baptist distinctives.

Theological Divisions

Theological divisions among Baptists at the beginning of the century were usually about the degree to which one held Calvinistic as against Arminian views. For others, the issue was the limits of fellowship as defined by open or closed communion. In the 1880s, the holiness movement or second blessing caused a division among the Free Christian Baptists in the east. (This group called itself the Reformed Baptists and, in the 1960s, joined the Wesleyan Church in the USA.) (12)

By the early-twentieth century, the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversies arose over the issues of Higher Criticism and the role of the Bible in the church, evolution and creation, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the development of the Social Gospel. The debates had switched from the means of salvation to the meaning of salvation. The shaping of the next generation of church leaders became a key issue. While local church autonomy allowed for diversity in theology within the churches, each group wanted the theological material in the colleges to be taught from their own perspective. The controversies were almost invariably focused on the colleges and universities. Throughout the century, new alliances were formed in response to the changing theological perceptions and leadership needs.

Michael Gavereau in his work, The Evangelical Century, discussed Methodist and Presbyterian education and argued that the early twentieth-century preacher-professors were rooted in a theology of history from the early-nineteenth century that owed a good deal to the Second Great Awakening. They were not much influenced by either evolution or the Social Gospel. "Although active in various causes of social reform, their involvement was couched in the millennialist, prophetic, biblical terms coined during the pre-Darwinian era...." (13) Gavereau discussed the impact of relativism and the loss of confidence on the part of evangelical professors and then suggested that it was the move from preacher-professors to scholar-professors that broke the link between the university and the pew. (14) There were certainly parallels among Baptists for the faculties at Acadia University in the East, McMaster University in Ontario, and Brandon University in the West were at the center of controversies over the same issues, and this eventually led to denominational diffusion.

In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Canadian Baptist students seeking further theological education usually went to the United States. In the Maritimes, they went often for a first theological degree while in Ontario and the West, it was more likely to be a second theological degree. Many of the students studied at seminaries whose teaching often was more liberal than the beliefs of the people in Canadian Baptist pews. These new leaders returned with different perspectives on Scripture, social action, and evangelism and began to serve on the faculties of McMaster, Brandon, and, to a lesser extent, Acadia. A paper by Robert E. Handy presented at the 1978 Baptist Heritage Conference illustrates the point very well, particularly the importance of the University of Chicago. (15) The impact 0f this worked out in different ways in different regions.

In the Maritimes, Acadia University drew Baptists together. From its foundation in 1838 until the second decade of the twentieth century, periodic revivals swept the university campus. These revivals were seen as God's stamp of approval on both education and Acadia. The lay and pastoral leaders went into the churches and played a major role in the rapid numerical growth among Baptists and in their recognition in the broader society. Before 1923, Acadia did not offer theological degrees and many students were forced to go south of the border to Newton, Rochester, and other schools. It is interesting that few chose to go west to McMaster University. Often these students did not return, and the names of Maritime farm-boys began to be seen on American university faculties and in the pulpits of some of the larger churches. (16) Those who returned may have imbibed the new theological learning but, because of their common Acadia experience, continued to use the old revival-based language.

This did not always placate the critics of Higher Criticism and the Social Gospel. A fundamentalist movement in the 1930s, led by J. J. Sidey, took several churches out of the convention. The major issue was theological liberalism at Acadia, which was probably to the left of McMaster at the time. (17) The controversy took place in the Annapolis Valley, where the Baptists were the largest Protestant denomination and in many ways the "established church." Even with the support of T. T. Shields and The Gospel Witness, which was widely read in the Maritimes, Sidey and his friend, J. B. Daggett, did not garner wide support within the broader group. Sidey was "from away," and the Maritime tradition of working together prevailed. (18) Atlantic Baptists are the largest Baptist group in North America not to have had a serious division in the twentieth century.

In Ontario, the education question developed quite differently. The creation of McMaster University and the consolidation of Baptist education in the 1880s were not without its strife. George Rawlyk argued that Senator McMaster and his Baptist capitalist friends created the institution for both respectability and greater control of the denomination. As early as 1909, Elmore Harris, a member of McMaster's Board of Governors, brought charges against the Chicago-trained professor, I. G. Matthews, because of what he taught in the Old Testament course. George Rawlyk says the people from McMaster tried "to emphasize the institution's theological orthodoxy-but without abandoning ... belief in the efficacy of science and modern scholarship." (19) The convention accepted the assurance of the senate of the university that care would be taken in the issue.

After the First World War and the resignation of Abraham Lincoln McCrimmon as Chancellor of McMaster University, the more conservative elements in the convention missed his "unique Baptist blend of pietism, soul liberty, and missionary outreach." His successor, Howard Primrose Whidden, also a Chicago graduate, was much more taken with science and social sciences and supported those who "were increasingly committed to intellectual accommodation at the expense of orthodoxy." (20) It was the appointment of the British "liberal" professor, L. H. Marshall, to the chair of pastoral theology that precipitated a crisis in the convention.

T. T. Shields, the pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church and a member of the board of governors of McMaster, strenuously objected to the Marshall appointment. Other incidents alienated Shields from the convention or the convention from Shields, depending on the commentator's perspective but this incident would prove to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Before the break, Shields had founded Toronto Baptist Seminary, a new mission board, and his own paper, The Gospel Witness. This controversy and the eventual withdrawal of Shields and 70 of 490 churches and 8,500 of about 60,000 members is probably the most discussed incident in Canadian Baptist history, and only the fact of the break is recorded here. Many of those who withdrew formed the Union of Regular Baptist Churches. (21)

Baptists in Ontario were fragmented, and the hurt and hostilities ran deep. Harry Renfree commented: "The fellowship of decades had been marred and the seeds of suspicion widely sown." (22) Even after three generations, some communities still have Baptists who do not communicate with one another. Renfree reminds us that many of those who remained were as conservative as those who left. The year after the split, the Amherstburg Association, made up of ten black churches, was formally accepted into the convention. In the same year, McMaster applied to move to Hamilton. Secularization of the university moved quickly after that. (23)

Ian Rennie argued that to see this division as a case of "American Fundamentalism transported" is an oversimplification. (24) He pointed out that Shields and several other Fundamentalists were British born and saw Charles Haddon Spurgeon as their model. Shields knew the American issues. With W. B. Riley of Minneapolis and Frank Norris of Texas, he had founded the North American Baptist Bible Union to speak for Conservative Baptists. Rennie added that some Baptist fundamentalists did not follow Shields "because he was too strict a Baptist and because he had little or no interest in fundamentalist eschatology and interdenominationalism. John Linton, "a Scot from Edinburgh, who called its thriving work the Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches," led this latter group. (25)

In the years following the division, those who left the convention went in several directions. The Shields-led Union of Regular Baptists was a "tightly-knit convention." Some, however, were uncomfortable with Shields's contentious spirit and preferred to be independent. In 1933, this group formed the Fellowship of Independent Churches in Ontario. This loose organization was committed to evangelism and grew more rapidly than the more argumentative Regular Baptist Union. (26)

The only major split among Western Baptists came in British Columbia and also centered on education. In 1927, one-third of the British Columbia congregations left the Baptist Union to form the Convention of Regular Baptist Churches. The issue was liberalism at Brandon University where the conservatives wanted "to require definite creedal tests for professors." (27) These dissenting pastors also saw Charles Haddon Spurgeon as their model in separation from any form of theological liberalism. Bob Birkinshaw pointed out that the movement was particularly strong in Vancouver where one-half of the Baptist congregations left the convention. Nine of the sixteen pastors had been born in Britain and one in the U.S. That other British-born Fundamentalist, T. T. Shields, visited British Columbia a number of times, and his Jarvis Street Church supported the new convention. The Gospel Witness was widely read in the churches. (28)

By 1938, Brandon College was sold to the citizens of Brandon as the Baptists walked away. The college had emphasized arts and culture when the Baptist people needed preachers. Walter Ellis said that they tried to create a McMaster on the Prairies and failed. Again, those trained at Chicago had a major influence on the alienation of the institution from the people. At the same time, Bible colleges like Prairie Bible Institute flourished. Walter Ellis said that by 1947 "there were 24 sectarian, and 8 nonsectarian Bible colleges in the west which provided populist functional education in a Christian environment at realistic cost." (29) These institutions were destined to have a major impact on Baptists all across Canada.

In the West, the British Columbia Regular Baptists strengthened ties with Regular Baptist on the Prairies and established the Northwest Baptist Theological College in Vancouver. They also sought a closer relationship to the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARB) in Washington. They formed the International Baptist Fellowship, but after 1949, it slowly died out because the American group was narrower. After an initial look to Southern Baptists, the Regular Baptists looked toward central Canada for fellowship. (30)

Ethnic Differences

Not all of the divergences among Baptists flowed from theological divisions. The North American Baptist Conference has German origins. The first German-speaking Baptist church was founded in Bridgeport, Ontario, as a result of the missionary work of August Rauschenbusch, the father of the well-known theologian, Walter Rauschenbusch. With increased immigration, Germanrspeaking churches were planted in Ontario and western Canada. Initially these churches were affiliated with the local Canadian Baptist conventions/unions and received financial support from them. Caught between their ethnic issues and the problems of the English-speaking churches, they chose to unilaterally align themselves with the North American Baptist Conference in the United States. Today, they are a part of a conference with more than 60,000 members who are in twenty associations with almost 400 churches in Canada and the United States. They have missionaries in Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil, Japan, Eastern Europe, Mexico and the Philippines.

For many years, their leaders were trained at North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls. In 1940, they established a Canadian Christian Training Institute, which by 1958 offered baccalaureate theological degrees. This, in turn, evolved into Edmonton Baptist College and Edmonton Baptist Seminary. Just recently they have become a recognized seminary for the preparation of pastors for the Baptist Union of Western Canada. (31) The North American Baptist Churches are now all English speaking and minister as another Baptist convention in the Canadian mosaic.

A similar movement happened among the Swedish Baptists. Early in the twentieth century, there were eleven Scandinavian Baptist Churches in Canada and another twenty-five preaching points. (32) In 1930, this had grown to twenty-three churches with 929 members affiliated with the Baptist conventions and unions. In 1948, the congregations decided to affiliate with the Baptist General Conference in the USA. Like The North American Baptist Churches, the General Conference has only English-speaking congregations and by the 1980s had seventy-one churches with 5,200 members in Canada. They now have about 10,000 members in ninety churches.

Baptists are often accused of being divisive, but as World War II drew to a close, they began to look for ways to work together. Because of the War, there was a growing sense of national consciousness, and there was a sense of cooperation not only denominationally but also across denominational lines. The alignments had changed from the 1920s, but the various union movements were certainly significant.

Leaders who felt that it was well past the time for Canadian Baptists to unite founded the Baptist Federation of Canada in 1944. Watson Kirkconnell of McMaster wrote the constitution; the general secretaries of the unions/conventions and other key leaders were members of the organizational committee. The initial full meeting of the council met at Saint John, New Brunswick, on December 7, 1944. The new body operated as a fellowship group. From the beginning, it was hampered by the regional interests, for the conventions/unions and Overseas Mission Board were unwilling to give up power to a central agency. (33) In the census of 1941, membership in the three regional groups affiliated with the Federation was 134,000 or 1.2 percent of the population. The census of 1941 stated that 484,000 or 4.2 percent of the population was affiliated with the Baptists. In the Maritimes, Baptists rivaled the United Church and the Anglicans in numbers of adherents. (34)

The leaders of the new movement were those who had been influenced by both the SoCial Gospel and the more liberal theological approaches. The objectives of the new organization were to create a new sense of C4nadian Baptist identity and to speak to the national, international, and ecumenical agendas with committees for social service, war services and rehabilitation, law, radio and publicity, evangelism, chaplaincy, finance, and the churches and world peace. (35)

The social service committee, chaired by Watson Kirkconnell, played the most significant role in the early days as it petitioned the Canadian government on behalf of refugees and various social issues including temperance, help for the poor, and world peace. Close relationships were built with the Baptist World Alliance as the BFC joined the group as a national body and BWA representatives often came to Canadian functions. (36) Within a year of its founding, the Federation became the official Baptist denomination within the newly created Canadian Council of Churches.

It would be the 1970s before the more conservative churches began to really support the BFC. By that time, the role of Abner Langley, Jerry Zeman, and others had shown both the organization's integrity and usefulness. During those years, the Federation joined other North American Baptists in the Baptist Jubilee Advance, which stressed evangelism and growth. The 1981 assembly in Moncton was the largest ever and at that session the Federation took a strong stand against abortion and demonstrated that it stood clearly in the center of Canadian evangelicalism.

The Baptist Federation of Canada existed for fifty years. During that time it served the largest group of Baptists by speaking in the public arena. It also coordinated some ministries and held triennial conferences across Canada. Some of its most significant work has been in calling together of various interest groups from across Canada to discuss problems and ministries. The Federation tried at various times to develop national agencies such as an all-Canada paper, but regional interests usually prevailed.

During the 1970s and 1980s, some success was achieved in creating opportunities for ministry where the regions were not too deeply involved. New youth ministries were created that had an impact across Canada and have led to national youth leaders conferences. Baptist Volunteers was created which allowed lay people to do short-term ministries in Canada as well as overseas. The Sharing Way became the means by which Canadian Baptists contributed millions of dollars each year to caring and development ministries around the world. In the Sharing Way, the Canadian Baptist Federation became the victim of its own success, for the budget of Sharing Way was much larger than that of the Federation. In addition, the organization was involved in development work in the Third World that seemed the natural purview of the Overseas Mission Board. In 1994, the Federation was folded into Canadian Baptist Ministries with Canadian Baptist International Ministries and the Sharing Way. The new Canadian Baptist Ministries is still finding its role. The old loyalty to the Federation has not gone automatically to the new organization. Some even see it as a takeover of the broader work by the Foreign Mission Board. The concept that ministry is what brings Baptists together is true. The single vision of an integrated home and overseas mission is also valid. The world has come to Canada. Toronto, Canada's largest city, now has a minority of people with an Anglo Saxon heritage. Portuguese missionaries have come from Brazil to work in Toronto. The fastest growing churches in Canadian Baptist Ministries are the Canadian Chinese and Korean churches. The difficulty faced by CBM is clarity of vision for by the time the transition to the new structure took place, there was no one left who had been part of the initial discussions of change.


One problem faced by Baptists throughout the century was the limit of fellowship, not only among Baptists but also along denominational lines. The ecumenical issue became a point of controversy as the century progressed. The United Church of Canada was created in 1925 by the Methodists, the Congregationalists, and about 60 percent of the Presbyterians in Canada. Baptists were invited to join but had declined. There was, however, a close working relationship of Maritime Baptists with the new church that predated the union. Through the Maritime Religious Education Council (1919-62), they shared Sunday School materials, Christian education workers, Tuxis (boys work), Canadian Girls in Training, and summer camps. In some communities, churches had Baptist services one Sunday and United Church services the next Sunday.

This was not a strange alliance, for before World War II the United Church still was rooted firmly in the evangelical tradition of the founding Methodists and Presbyterians. All of the denominations were active in the campaign for the prohibition of liquor and saw limiting the sale and use of alcohol as a primary social issue. Together they founded homes for women who had difficulty with the law. They had a joint orphanage and a variety of other social agencies that enabled them to speak to their culture with a united voice on a number of social issues. Maritime Baptists were therefore open to the founding of the Canadian Council of Churches in 1944 and were active in its development.

Much of the instigation for this cross-denominational work came from those who were influenced by both the Social Gospel and the more liberal views of Scripture and the person of Christ. The center of these ideas was at Acadia and, in particular, in the School of Theology. The faculty took leadership on a number of levels in these cross-denominational or interdenominational ventures and were key figures in creating both the Canadian Council of Churches and the Baptist Federation of Canada.

The convention of Ontario and Quebec, after turning down an early invitation to join the United Church of Canada early in the century, began to work closely with it in the late 20s and 30s. Many of the leaders shared the new ecumenical enthusiasm. William Gillespie argued that instead of the earlier tradition of defining Baptist distinctives as the touchstone of associational fellowship, the leadership moved toward a broader evangelical ecumenism that held soul liberty as the key distinctive. (37)

The close association with the United Church of Canada included the 1936 adoption of The Hymnary for the Use in Canadian Baptist Churches that was literally a copy of The Hymnary of the United Church. Gerald Harrop, in 1964, assessed its impact in Ontario.
 While some churches prefer the tabernacle type of "song-book," especially
 in the evening services, the near universal use of the Baptist Hymnary has
 assured a certain amount of dignity and uniformity in common worship. The
 period of the Hymnary's use has coincided, perhaps not accidentally, with a
 trend toward more ordered liturgy and a type of church building featuring
 the chancel with pulpit and lectern. Gowned choirs are all but universal,
 gowned ministers common, and the wearing of the clerical collar no longer
 remarkable.... In fact, Baptist worship, especially in the older urban
 churches and the new suburban churches, is hardly distinguishable from
 worship in the United Church of Canada. (38)

With the exception of the divided chancel in church architecture, similar conclusions could be drawn about a number of the "First Baptist" churches in Atlantic Canada and the West during the same period. This reflected a distinct liturgical shift away from the revivalist tradition to the historic church tradition. Many in the conventions resisted the changes.

Baptists in Ontario as well as the Maritimes used the United Church Sunday School materials with some revision until the introduction of the "New Curriculum" in the United Church Sunday Schools in the early 1960s. This new curriculum made use of many conclusions of the Higher Criticism then in vogue. It rapidly decimated the United Church Sunday Schools and precipitated a break with the Baptists. The Baptist Federation of Canada tried to produce a curriculum in conjunction with the American Baptists but this ended due to the lack of support among the churches. Most Baptist churches used either interdenominational materials or Southern Baptist materials. This move away from specific Baptist Christian education materials has had a significant impact on the decline of Canadian Baptist identity.

This close-working relationship with the United Church, which was increasingly being led by the Canadian culture, caused the conservative Baptist groups with the inclination to withdraw from all contacts with theological Liberalism to assume that Federation Baptists were on the slippery slope to Modernism. When the Federation joined the Canadian Council of Churches, it proved to some that Shields was right.

Theological Education

However, a distinct shift to the theological right has occurred in the leadership of Federation churches since the 1950s. Again, much of the action relates to educational institutions. As seminaries in Canada came under suspicion from the conservative elements in the Baptist churches, increasing numbers of students considering Christian ministry went to the emerging Bible colleges and training schools. In 1947, over seventy students from Maritime Baptist Churches were studying in such schools in Canada and the United States.39 When these students returned, they were often disaffected from the convention churches. In response, the Maritime Baptists founded the United Baptist Bible Training School that, after the province of Nova Scotia took over Acadia University in 1965, changed its name to Atlantic Baptist College. It now is Atlantic Baptist University offering arts and science in a Christian liberal arts setting. The foundation of that school kept many of the suspicious conservatives within convention. (40)

In the 1950s and 1960s, many Maritime Baptists went to Gordon College and Gordon Seminary, and by the middle of the 1960s there were more Maritimers preparing for ministry at Gordon than at Acadia. For a period of time in the 1970s and 1980s, people who grew up within thirty miles of Moncton and went to Gordon led the Overseas Mission Board and the Baptist Federation. At the 1996 convention assembly of the Atlantic Baptist Convention, sixteen missionaries were recognized as they retired after a lifetime of service, and over half of them were Gordon graduates.

The theological education situation in Atlantic Canada changed when the province of Nova Scotia took over Acadia University. The Faculty of Theology became Acadia Divinity College in 1968. The denomination regained direct control of its theological education, and there was a distinct shift to the theological right that reflected the beliefs of the majority of people in the pews. For a time in the seventies and eighties, ADC was the largest Baptist seminary in Canada. At present, it accredits through Acadia University two colleges in Nigeria, one in Hong Kong, and the French Baptist Seminary in Montreal. The large majority of those ordained in the Atlantic Convention in the last twenty years have been Acadia graduates. Every English-speaking executive minister in the Canadian Baptist Ministries is presently an Acadia graduate.

In Ontario, the developments were more complicated. McMaster was taken over by the Ontario government in 1957, and McMaster Divinity College was created. There was not a distinct shift at McMaster until the 1980s when it moved toward the mainstream of evangelical Baptist life. For a significant period before that, many of the pastors in BCOQ had chosen to go to more conservative schools. BCOQ also founded Baptist Leadership Education Centre in Whitby in the 1980s to provide a one-year education similar to a Bible training school. It has drawn some student support and is now having a broader impact on the work.

Toronto Bible College, as an interdenominational college, attracted a number of Baptist students. It later combined with London Bible College to become Ontario Bible College and Seminary. It is now called Tyndale College and Seminary. For much of its history, Baptists were the largest denomination among the student body. Like Gordon for Maritime Baptists, Ontario Theological Seminary trained the leaders for many of the more conservative Baptist churches in the BCOQ. A significant sidelight of the Tyndale influence is that both Fellowship Baptist and Convention Baptist pastors received training there and that will perhaps bear fruit in increased cooperation in the years ahead.

In the Baptist Union of Western Canada, theological education has seen a series of developments that reflect several of the trends in current Baptist life. With the demise of Brandon as a Baptist institution, the BUWC had to depend on other schools to train its leaders. Some went to Bible colleges, some to seminaries in the south, and others went east to McMaster, or Acadia. Over eighty Baptist Union young people attended Bible colleges in 1948. (41) In 1949, the Baptist Union founded Baptist Leadership Training School, which for fifty years trained lay leaders and provided the first step to theological education for many pastors. In March of 1959, Carey Hall was established and began in the summer of 1960 as a Christian witness and as residence for forty-two undergraduate men on the campus of the University of British Columbia. In 1975, courses began to be offered in cooperation with Regent College. Regent, with its Brethren origins and British inspiration, draws students from a broad spectrum of evangelicalism and has drawn Western Baptist Union theological education into a broader stream.

Outside of the Federation of Baptists, a second, and, in some ways, more significant union movement began-the creation of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches in Canada. In the immediate postwar era and up to the early sixties, Canada experienced a significant renewal movement. Church growth was up and all denominations expressed a feeling of optimism. Even the groups born out of reaction to modernism wanted to get on with positive ministries. The creation of the Fellowship Baptists was driven by issues similar to the Federation-fellowship, ministry, and theological education.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, an educational controversy led to fragmentation of one group and expedited unity in another. When T. T. Shields and his group withdrew from the convention, they already had Toronto Baptist Seminary. It emphasized, and still does, a strong Calvinistic and conservative evangelical approach to learning. A controversy between Shields and Dean W. G. Brown of TBS led to the foundation of Central Baptist Seminary at Forward Baptist Church in 1949. (42) The new school was no less conservative, but it was more open to the breadth of conservative evangelical views.


This controversy spelled the end for the unity in the Union of Regular Baptists. Kenneth Davis said many church leaders were tired of controversy and wanted to build something positive. The Independent Fellowship, with its emphasis on evangelism and its rapid growth, provided an attractive alternative for these pastors. The majority of churches left the Shields movement and with the Independents created the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists in Canada in 1953. Davis commented:
 The new fellowship of 1953 was a major triumph for evangelical Baptist
 unity, combining seventy-one churches of the Union and one hundred and
 twenty-three churches of the Independent Fellowship, without schism. But it
 was only a preliminary step in a quickly developing desire for greater,
 national unity. (43)

This was a major feat for it combined two groups whose eschatology and worldviews were quite different.

In the West, the British Columbia Regular Baptists had explored a variety of new relationships but found their Canadian identity and eschatological diversity cut them off. A brief look toward the Southern Baptist Convention had not caused many to move in that direction. When they saw what was happening in Ontario, some of their leaders called for "one great, Canada-wide, evangelical Baptist Convention." (44) By 1965, the British Columbia Regulars, Prairie Fellowship, and Fellowship Baptists joined to create a Canadian union. The new organization has a greater voice in the affairs of the regions and the churches than Canadian Baptist Ministries does in its domain. Part of that is because the breadth of acceptable beliefs is greater in CBM.

With the creation of the Fellowship Baptists, Central Baptist Seminary became their seminary in the East. Like the Federation Baptists, many of their future leaders went to other Bible schools or schools south of the border. Not every one was completely happy with the position of Central Baptist Seminary. By the 1960s, a group of Fellowship Baptists founded London Baptist College so that a more thoroughly dispensational position was articulated. It was sometimes referred to as "the Dallas of the North." Since 1992, Central Baptist Seminary and London Baptist Seminary have joined to form Heritage Baptist College and Seminary. Again, this was a significant mixing of theological cultures but a development that bodes well for the future of Baptists in Canada.

In the West, a similar educational diversity was present although the Baptists had Northwest Baptist Seminary. It recently combined with Canadian Baptist Seminary (Baptist General Conference), Canadian Theological Seminary (Christian and Missionary Alliance), Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (Mennonite Brethren), and Trinity Western Seminary (Evangelical Free Church) to form the Association of Canadian Theological Schools (ACTS). The ACTS web site says, "All partners agree on fundamental biblical principles. Each seminary appoints faculty members who provide the common core courses, as well as courses on denominational history, theology and identity." The long-term implications of this arrangement for Baptist identity have yet to be discerned. It is interesting that both major Baptist groups in the West have opted for cooperative theological programs with others groups but not with one another.

A postwar Baptist dynamic presence in Canada is the Southern Baptists. According to G. Richard Blackaby, they came to Canada as a response to a search "by indigenous Baptist pastors and laymen to identify and develop a distinctly Baptist identity." (45) In the search by the Regular Baptists of British Columbia for broader contacts, they looked first to the south, and rejected that option. They felt they could not return to the "liberal" Baptist Union of Western Canada and instead contacted the Southern Baptists who were doing a dynamic work in the American Northwest. (46)

Southern Baptists provided leadership, ministry contacts, and Christian education materials for the BCRBC through North West Bible College which had been founded in the early 1950s. The common enthusiasm for evangelism and Baptist identity soon caused some British Columbia pastors and ray people to urge closer institutional contacts with the SBC. When this met resistance, Ross MacPherson, pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Vancouver, led the church to change its name to Kingcrest Southern Baptist Church and requested admission into the (Southern) Baptist Convention of Oregon-Washington (BGCOW).

The Baptist Union of Western Canada sent letters of protest at what was seen as an American incursion into Canada, particularly when the SBC and BFC had fraternal relationships through both the BWA and NABF. By 1959, there were fifteen churches in Canada seeking affiliation with the SBC, claiming that because the BUWC through the BCF was a member of the Canadian Council of Churches, they needed a truly conservative Baptist connection. (47)

The SBC could not agree on what to do with these Canadian churches, for on the East Coast, Southern Baptists had warm relationships with the Maritime Baptists. They provided Sunday School materials, evangelists, and special speakers at denominational conferences. The Baptist Jubilee Advance, which included the BFC and the SBC, also caused the SBC to go slowly on the issue of moving into Canada and seating the messengers from the churches there. Numerous simultaneous evangelistic crusades were held with SBC pastors and song leaders coming at their own expense to minister in churches. For many Maritime Baptists, there was a closer identification with the goals and evangelistic ethos of the SBC than to the American Baptist Convention, which was much closer geographically.

In the West, the churches that wanted to identify with the SBC formed the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference in 1963. By 1976, the decision was made to invest resources into the Canadian work, and the number of churches grew to forty-five by the end of the 1970s. The Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary was established at Cochran, Alberta, and financed from the U.S. (48) At about the same time an agreement was reached with Acadia Divinity College for the SBC FMB to provide a professor of preaching. Jerry Barnes taught there a number of years, and the SBC paid his salary and expenses. The first Southern Baptist church in Atlantic Canada was established in Charlottetown, PEI, when the pastor of First Baptist Church was asked to resign, and he left with some of the peoples and requested the assistance of the SBC in establishing a new church.

The debate in Canada continues as to whether this move by the SBC to Canada was a case of American money and methods establishing a new work or whether it was the response to an indigenous people seeking closer links with like-minded Baptists. All Baptist work in Canada had some contacts with outside groups. Perhaps the Canadian reaction, particularly in the center and East, was against Americanization.

One last significant group remains to be discussed and that is the French Union. Because it changed in focus throughout its development, it is useful to examine it after the others. The French Baptist Union has its roots in the Grand Leigne Mission, which was founded by Madame Feller, a Swiss-Baptist widow who had been influenced by the Haldane Brothers. With Louis Roussy, she founded both a mission and a school, Feller Institute. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were several thousand members in the churches in the Ottawa-Montreal area and as far east as Nova Scotia and as far west as Manitoba. There were 126 students at the Institute that, until its closure in the 1960s, grew to be a Christian High School attracting students from a number of areas in Canada with much of the teaching being done in English. (49)

This growth brought with it a good deal of hostility from the Roman Catholic establishment with various forms of physical and mental abuse. The rising French nationalism took a distinctly anti-English flavor, and the mission was seen as a tool of the English. The Board in 1910 went so far as to move the work toward an English base because so many of the French converts had found support from the English community. Many converts married English-speaking people, and the French character of the work was diluted.

Some churches had tried bilingual services and became English by the mid-1920s. In. addition, the public school system in Quebec was French-Catholic and English-Protestant. There was a definite decline in the work in the 1920s. During World War II, Feller Institute was closed with so many of its students off to war. The government of Canada commandeered it as a German prisoner-of-war camp. Funding was down from the rest of Canada.

In the 1920s, Rev. Henri Lanctin began a work in New Brunswick called Mission La Bonne Nouvelle. There was violent resistance to the work by the French-speaking Roman Catholic community, but a church was planted among the Acadians in Moncton. Even there many of the converts moved into English-speaking churches so that by the 1960s its major work was a radio broadcast and a Christian Bookstore which served the English-speaking community in southwestern New Brunswick. Much of the support for the French work was really an expression of anti-Catholicism. Maritime Baptists have never been very effective in French evangelism because of the strong anti-French bias, which is still strong in many of the churches.

In Quebec, the return of Feller Institute with financial reimbursement from the Canadian government began a new period of growth. By 1949, classes had resumed and there were 872 members in the churches associated with Grand Ligne Mission. By 1960, when the Quiet Revolution was beginning in Quebec, of the nine pastors in the French churches, there were two Swiss, six French-speaking English-Canadians, and only one French Canadian. (50) Unless the work could become indigenous, it would not grow in the light of the new nationalism in Quebec.

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec expressed itself in the election of a liberal government, which took the educational system out of the hands of the church. Vatican II had changed the expectations of the people in the pews. French Canadians moved from their old classical education to a new technological and scientific program, and they began to challenge the leadership of English-speaking people who held most of the senior business and technological positions. The province of Quebec went from being the most religious province in Canada to being the least religious. As the Quebecois became more vocal, there seemed to be a real danger that the nation would divide. For French Baptists, however, it became an opportunity for change.

Financial problems forced the closure of Feller Institute in September 1967, and the few resources were turned over to the recently formed union, Elise's Baptistes Francois au Canada, that was granted a federal charter in 1966. Rev. Maurice Boillat, the Swiss-born pastor and former worker for La Bonne Nouvelle became the first full-time general secretary. (51) Boillat was a man of broad vision who immediately began to break down barriers between the French Baptist Union and the broader Quebecois culture. He built bridges into the Roman Catholic community, and his wife served as a gerontologist in a Montreal hospital. By 1969, the union had its headquarters in Montreal, a radio and television studio, and the beginning of a Bible college. In 1970, it became the fourth body in the Baptist Federation of Canada and entered into full partnership in the overseas work through the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board. In 1971, it totalled eight churches with 398 members but it began to grow. By 1986, there were nineteen churches with 1,404 members with nine of the churches being self-supporting, and fifteen of twenty-two pastors were of French-Canadian extraction. The French Baptist Union established the Centre d'Etudes Theologiques Evangeliques in 1982, and the B.Th. degrees are granted by Acadia University. (52) Since 1998, it also offers a Masters level program. The French component of the Federation provided both inspiration and completion to the broader work and their influence is much broader than its numbers. It plays the vital role of interpreting Quebec to the rest of the Canadian Baptists.

For the most part, Quebec Baptists are more theologically conservative than some English-speaking Baptists. They are usually not in favor of women in ministry and would be much more likely to have elders as well as deacons which may be part of the French Huguenot influence. When they joined the Baptist Federation of Canada in 1970, they were against membership in the Canadian Council of Churches. Because the UBCAP had withdrawn in 1971, the Federation withdrew from the CCC. The BCOQ retained membership in the CCC.

Other Baptist works also had French projects, but their stories are not yet well known. The Regular Baptists, Fellowship Baptists, Southern Baptists, and several other American groups have work in Quebec.

The census materials for 1961 and 1991 show that Baptists have grown from 593,553 to 663,360 but have fallen from 3.3 percent of the population to 2.5 percent. The Baptist consolation-is that they have not declined as much as some others. There certainly has not been significant growth in numbers. If it were not for the large number of defections to the Baptists from the United Church because of the adoption of the "New Curriculum" in the 1960s and the ordination of homosexuals in the late 1980s, the decline might have been more dramatic. Reginald Bibby, the Canadian sociologist, in his works Fragmented Gods and Unknown Gods places all Baptists on the conservative side of the Canadian church. (53) That is also the part of the Canadian church that has faced the least decline in the last twenty-five years. While Baptists are still a significant religious group at the end of the twentieth century, they have certainly plateaued.


Several clear patterns emerge from the century. In education, the large number and variety of Baptist schools demonstrate that Baptists are a people who love learning. At the end of the century, Canadian Baptists had seven seminaries, and if you took the Baptists out of the key positions in the Canadian evangelical interdenominational schools, they would face a major crisis. In addition, Baptists run several undergraduate institutions.

In the broader social scene, Baptists have had a strong social conscience. They were active in the prohibition movement and, inspired by the Social Gospel early in the century, they sought social change by encouraging care for the less fortunate. The Federation and its affiliated conventions/unions have given various public statements on a number of issues. In particular, they have pled the case for the unborn child in the abortion issue. Through the Public Affairs Committee of the Baptist Federation and now the Canada Committee of the Canadian Baptist Ministries, members of Parliament were canvassed and encouraged to vote for justice and morality on various issues. In recent years, the BUWC, the NABC, and BCOQ have joined many Baptist churches and individuals in becoming a part of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which is the most active ecumenical movement in Canada. Through that agency, Baptists have spoken to a number of issues

Federation Canadian Baptists have been the most influential in politics. They have been more likely to give leadership in public positions. Since many of the more conservative Baptists were influenced by Dispensationalism, they had a two-world view that saw them separated from the world. Bible colleges like Prairie have played down political involvement as worldly. There was a period in the 1950s and 60s when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker led the Conservatives and former Baptist preacher and Father of Medicare, Tommy Douglas, led the New Democratic Party. Numerous others have been in local and national politics throughout the century.

Baptists have also created some of their own caring institutions to minister in the culture. Early in the century there was ministry to immigrants. During the wars, Baptists sought to bring comfort to the soldiers and their families. They have always responded generously to refugee crises and displaced persons. The Sharing Way has certainly continued the tradition. Another example is Atlantic Canada Senior Citizens Homes, Inc. that owns and operates thirteen facilities in three provinces with equity of over $32,000,000. Canadian Baptists have also played a leading role in military, hospital, and prison chaplaincy ministries. These could be multiplied many times with the inclusion of various church-based ministries that are geared to meet people's physical and spiritual needs.

In theology, Baptists have been on the right of the Canadian spectrum, and others have often wondered what we fighting about. Since the 1950s, there has been a distinct theological shift by Federation Baptists to the theological right. Some of that is because of the moderate American evangelicals like Carl F. Henry and Billy Graham. Another impulse in that direction comes from the Canadian and American Christian colleges and Bible colleges. While the Bible colleges have kept Dispensationalism alive and well in Canada, they have also set a very high view of Scripture against which others are measured. Within the seminaries, there has been a distinct shift back to the preacher-professors of the late-nineteenth century. Every Canadian Baptist educational institution is now evangelical.

Some on the theological left lament the changes. The Atlantic Baptist Fellowship in Atlantic Canada and The Gathering in Central Canada see themselves as having lost something in the conservative swing. They have instituted contacts with the Southern Baptist Alliance. While still conservative in the overall theological perspective, they find themselves at odds with the lack of acceptable limits to fellowship and the curtailing of soul liberty. They would prefer more traditional worship forms and closer ties with the old mainline religious groups in Canada. They would like to be free to at least discuss some of the controversial theological issues of the day. Some would prefer the name "liberal evangelical."

At the same time, within more traditional evangelical Baptist guidelines, a liturgical renewal is occurring that looks back to the thoughtful and contemplative tradition of the historic church. While this has had an impact on some of our churches, the more significant liturgical movement has been inspired by the charismatic renewal, which emphasizes worship teams and "worship songs." Canadian Baptists have always had a problem knowing how to express the work of the Holy Spirit. Some plead for dignity in the presence of a transcendent Holy God while others want to rejoice in the experience of an immanent Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is the old tension of our connection to the historic church versus our revivalist roots.

The charismatic movement has influenced Baptists more broadly than just worship forms in the latter part of the century. Early in the century, Pentecostalism was rejected as being too emotional. It seemed to replace the authority of Scripture by the experience of the individual. There were, however, some Baptists who left to join the Pentecostals, but the numbers were not large.

The Charismatic movement of the sixties and seventies was another matter. The Federation Baptist groups were more open to its influence, and so it did not prove as divisive for them. It did influence worship forms with less structure and more spontaneity. The Vineyard Movement has had a much greater impact with the emphasis on healing and experiencing the Spirit in some kind of phenomena. The most radical form of the movement was Toronto Blessing at the Airport Vineyard Church. A few Convention Baptist leaders were touched by the movement and left to begin Vineyard or Airport Fellowship churches. Some churches became open to the phenomena of the movement, particularly faith healing. The BUWC has been the most responsive to the movement.

Some Fellowship and Regular Baptist churches have had more difficulty because they have followed the traditional fundamentalist reaction and have refused to see the movement as a product of the Holy Spirit. (54) Just a few quotes from a Fellowship Baptist Church Web site will illustrate the point:
 [I]t is wrong to distort the Word of God in order to appear "more"
 spiritual than those around you (the Charismatic movement). Charismatic
 mysticism is perhaps the greatest threat to the evangelical church today.
 It is a return to the gnosticism of the first century (see the Book of
 Colossians). It denies the authority of the Word of God by denying that the
 Bible is God's only means of Revelation for today. It places experience
 above the teachings of Scripture.... This movement must therefore be viewed
 as part of cultic Christianity since they teach "another Jesus, another
 gospel and the receiving of a different spirit" (2 Cor. 11:3-4).

This view has sometimes been described as having a new trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Bible. There is no uniform Baptist approach to the movement, but some Baptists have learned an attitude of expectation.

On the other side, a number of Pentecostal people are leaving their churches that have been touched by the Toronto Blessing and are joining Baptist churches that are closer to their former experience. This has provided a real challenge to some pastors who take a strong anticharismatic stand. The strongest institutional support for the more experiential evangelism is the adoption of the ALPHA program in many Baptist churches. It has been an effective outreach tool, but it has also pulled Baptists closer to a generic experiential evangelicalism.

Throughout the twentieth century, there has been a cycling of Baptists toward structures outside the local church and back toward local church autonomy. As the larger structures grew, the relevance of the local Baptist association has declined. This has meant an alienation of some churches from the structure. Most of the incentive for involvement in the larger structures has rested with the local pastoral leadership, and enthusiasm has sometimes been lacking. This may be part of a larger phenomenon. As the century grew older, the volunteer movement declined, and the clergy gained more and more significance. The controversies throughout the century with all the repercussions have, in fact, been clergy led. Entrepreneurs in our churches have declined, and so the kind of lay leadership which is emerging is also changing as Baptists have moved up the social ladder.

One final issue about which Baptists have not developed a clear pattern is women in ministry. In a pole conducted by Jim Beverley in 1978, only the BCOQ and BUWC pastors had a majority who could agree with the statement "the New Testament allows for it (ordination of women); I am for it." The UBCAP, FEBC, and NABC all had the opposite opinions with the FEBC having by far the largest negatives with 96.8 percent. (55) The debate has died down somewhat but for some it is seen a dividing line between liberal and conservative. "Do you follow the Bible or don't you follow the Bible." Federation Baptists have ordained women for a generation, but there have been relatively few women who have become senior pastors of churches. Each of the member conventions/unions in CBM has had a woman as president, and Shirley Bentall served as Baptist Federation president. For the most part, however, Baptists have been content to let the women form their own organizations. This is interesting in the light of the fact that Canadian Baptists led the way in the British Empire in coeducational education and sending women missionaries. It is both a social-justice and a hermeneutical question. Canadian Baptists need seriously to look at the issue from a Canadian context and not simply quote from American conservative authors on why women should be excluded from leadership in the church.

All Canadian Baptist groups came to the end of the century seeking a new vision and direction. Perhaps the crucial issue is whether a distinct role is left for Baptists in the general Canadian evangelical scene, or whether we will become simply part of a large homogeneous evangelicalism. Baptists early in the century argued Baptist distinctives and polity issues, which gave a theological identity and undergirded decisions. Today, it is more likely to be a debate over how a given program or idea will work. In addition, many of the newer evangelical groups have built on our traditional distinctives. The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada are "bapticost." The new charismatic fellowships have warm fellowship and regenerate church membership. How does one distinguish a Baptist worship service? Denominational structures are increasingly seen as hindrances to ministry. Certainly, only those structures that support local churches in ministry will survive.

Canadian Baptists have an exciting history. They have faced divisions and created new unions. Now, it is to be seen whether we have the vision to establish new patterns that allow our distinctives to open new ministries in an increasingly pluralistic and individualist Canada.

(1.) Harry Renfree, Heritage and Horizon: The Baptist Story in Canada (Canadian Baptist Federation, Mississauga, 1988), 202.

(2.) Jarold K. Zeman, Baptist Roots and Identity (Toronto: BCOQ, 1978), 31.

(3.) The Canadian Baptist ,Heritage Conferences began at the instigation of Jarold K. Zeman to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., in 1978. It included papers from people from most Canadian Baptist traditions and a number of American historians and explored a wide variety of themes. Two volumes of papers were published, and a number of papers were printed elsewhere. The second and third conferences were held at McMaster Divinity College. The 1982 symposium dealt with Canadian Baptists and several polity issues, while the 1984 conference celebrated 300 years of Baptist heritage. A volume of papers emerged from each conference. The fourth conference was back at Acadia in 1987 with a particular emphasis on Baptists and higher education in Canada. Three volumes were published from the conference. The fifth conference was at what is now Edmonton Baptist Seminary in 1990. The papers from this conference were combined with those from the 1993 conference at what is now Tyndale Baptist Seminary, which was jointly hosted by what is now Heritage Baptist Seminary with one volume relating to Atlantic Baptist themes and the second to the remainder of the papers. Three more volumes are currently being prepared for publication, one from a George Rawlyk Memorial Conference held at Atlantic Baptist University in Moncton and two volumes from the 1998 Hayward Lectures and Seventh Baptist History Conference at Acadia University.

(4.) David Priestley, "Introduction," Memory and Hope: Strands of Canadian Baptist History (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 2

(5.) Ibid., 2-3.

(6.) Renfree, 202-03.

(7.) Renfree, 168ff; J. E. Hams, The Baptist Union of Western Canada: A Centennial History 1873-1973 (Privately Printed, St. John, 1976), 26ff.

(8.) Renfree, 199ff.

(9.) See pages 13ff.

(10.) Renfree, 222.

(11.) John B. Richards, Baptists in British Columbia: A Struggle to Maintain "Sectarianism" (Vancouver: Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, 1977), 14.

(12.) George Rawlyk, "The Holiness Movement and Canadian Maritime Baptists," Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States, ed. George A. Rawlyk and Mark Noll (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), 269-292.

(13.) Michael Gavereau, The Evangelical Century: College and Creed in English Canada from the Great Revival to the Great Depression (Kingston: McGill-Queen's, 1991), 216.

(14.) Gavereau, 216ff.

(15.) Robert T. Handy, "The Influence of Canadians on Baptist Theological Education in the United States," Foundations (1980), 42-56.

(16.) Ibid., 42-56.

(17.) George Rawlyk, "Fundamentalism, Modernism and the Maritime Baptists in the 1920s and 1930s," Acadiensis 17, no 1, (1987): 3-33

(18.) Renfree, 236ff.

(19.) George Rawlyk, "A. L. McCrimmon, H. P Whidden, T. T. Shields: Christian Higher Education, and McMaster University," Canadian Baptists and Higher Education, ed. George Rawlyk (Kingston: McGill-Queens Press, 1988), 43.

(20.) Ibid., 48-49.

(21.) Renfree, 216ff; George Rawlyk, "A. L. McCrimmon," 54ff; Clark Pinnock, "The Modernist Impulse at McMaster," Baptists in Canada: Search for Identity Amidst Diversity, ed. Jarold K. Zeman (Burlington: G. R. Welsh Co., 1980), 193-208.

(22.) Renfree, 245.

(23.) Ibid., 246-47.

(24.) Ian Rennie, "Fundamentalism and the Varieties of North Atlantic Evangelicalism," Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond, 1700-1900 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994), 342.

(25.) Ibid., 343.

(26.) Kenneth R. Davis, "The Struggle for a United Evangelical Baptist Fellowship, 1953-1965," Baptists in Canada: A Search for Identity, ed. Jarold K. Zeman (Burlington: G. R. Welsh Co., 1980), 238ff.

(27.) John B. Richards, Baptists in British Columbia: A Struggle to Maintain "Sectarianism" (Vancouver: Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, 1977), 73ff.

(28.) Robert K. Birkinshaw, "Conservative Evangelicalism in the Twentieth-Century `West,'" Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States, ed. George A. Rawlyk and Mark Noll (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), 341-42.

(29.) Walter Ellis, "What the Times Demand: Brandon College and Baptist Higher Education in Canada," Canadian Baptists and Higher Education, ed. George Rawlyk (Kingston: McGill-Queens Press, 41988), 85.

(30.) Davis, 238-39.

(31.) David Priestley has written a number of articles on their history.

(32.) Renfree, 288.

(33.) Shirley Bentall, From Sea to Sea: The Canadian Baptist Federation, 1944-1994 (Mississauga: Canadian Baptist Federation, 1994), 7ff.

(34.) Bentall, 25.

(35.) Ibid., 16ff.

(36.) Ibid., 22ff.

(37.) William Gillespie, "The Recovery of Ontario's Baptist Tradition," Memory and Hope: Strands of Canadian Baptist History, ed. David Priestley (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 25ff.

(38.) Gerald Harrop, "The Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec," in Baptist Advance, ed. Davis C. Woolley (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1964), 175, as found in Gillespie, "The Recovery of Ontario's Baptist Tradition," 5ff.

(39.) Robert. S. Wilson, "Evangelical, Missionary, and Christ Centered: The Founding of Atlantic Baptist College," A Fragile Stability: Definition and Redefinition of Maritime Baptist Identity, ed. David Priestley (Hantsport, N.S.: Lancelot Press, 1994), 138.

(40.) Wilson, 146-47.

(41.) Renfree, 265.

(42.) Davis, 242-43.

(43.) Ibid., 2413.

(44.) Rev. D. Reed, Western Regular Baptist, January 1954, 2. As found in Davis, 243.

(45.) G. Richard Blackaby, "The Establishment of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists," David Priestley, Memory and Hope: Strands of Canadian Baptist History (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996), 99.

(46.) Blackaby, 100-01.

(47.) Ibid., 100ff.

(48.) Ibid., 104ff.

(49.) Renfree, 267ff.

(50.) Ibid., 270ff.

(51.) Ibid., 274ff.

(52.) Ibid., 275-76.

(53.) Reginald Bibby, Fragmented Gods. Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada (Toronto: Irwin, 1987) and Unknown Gods: The Ongoing Story of Religion in Canada (Toronto: Stoddart, 1993).

(54.) Web site, Faith Baptist, Sydney.

(55.) James A. Beverley, "National Survey of Baptist Ministers," Baptists in Canada: A Search for Identity, ed. Jarold K. Zeman (Burlington: G. R. Welsh Co., 1980), 274-76.

Robert S. Wilson is professor of church history, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
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Author:Wilson, Robert S.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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