Paul Bramadat and David Seljak, Eds. Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada

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Paul Bramadat and David Seljak, eds. Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. 448 pp. $100.00 hc. $49.95 sc.

Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada is a companion volume to the anthology Religion and Ethnicity in Canada (2005), also edited by Paul Bramadat and David Seljak. Both are published under the auspices of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. A third volume on Aboriginal religiosity in Canada is anticipated.

The collected essays on Christianity are an impressive addition to scholarly writings about religion in Canada. Each of the eleven chapters runs about 35 pages in length and shares a common format and conceptual discourse with the others. As a whole, the collection observes the way ethnicity is "emerging as one of the most important dimensions of modern religious phenomena" (xi), while surveying the significance of ethnicity in the most populace Christian communities across Canada. The emphasis is primarily historical and sociological, punctuated with ethnographic details. In my view, the anthology strikes just the right balance of academic erudition and ease of reference. It is a timely and valuable collection. Coverage includes: Roman Catholicism, with separate chapters on Anglophone and Allophone (Mark McGowan) and Francophone (Solange Lefebvre) communities; Anglicanism (Wendy Fletcher); Presbyterianism and Reformed Christians (Stuart MacDonald); the United Church of Canada (Greer Anne Wenh-in Ng); Lutheranism (Bryan Hillis); Eastern Christians (Myroslaw Tataryn); Mennonites (Royden Loewen); and Evangelical Protestants (Bruce Guenther).

Due to the thoughtful planning of the editors, the essays have several features in common. Each chapter begins with an often poignant narrative, typically serving as a signpost for roads since traveled or future roads to come. The contributions each offer concise surveys of the often complex histories of the Christian denominations in Canada, identifying key figures and controversies within that history, providing an outline of perceived present and future challenges (particularly concerning gender and sexuality), and describing the role of immigration and ethnicity as constitutive of past and existing membership. In terms of concepts and topics, the editors and contributors manage to come quite close to creating an evenly keeled monograph. The essays are similarly structured and address the "institutional completeness" of the denomination within the Canadian context and examine responses to "discourses of loss" pertaining to dwindling resources and membership. The common themes and shared vocabulary is a real strength given the usual haphazard nature of collected writings. …