An Apostle of the North: Memoirs of the Right Reverend William Carter Bompas

Article excerpt

H.A. Cody, An Apostle of the North: Memoirs of the Right Reverend William Carter Bompas, introduced by William R. Morrison and Kenneth S. Coates, Western Canada Reprint Series (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2002), lxxxv + 391pp. $29.95. ISBN 0-8886-4400-0.

A review in Beaver (68.2, 1988) berated Pentecostals for preaching 'the same ferocious [sic] message' as nineteenth-century Methodists and convert[ing] hundreds of Canadian Indians . . . turning them from liquor, and imposing a rigid religious dogma on a tolerant and easy-going people'. While not appreciating the joyous addiction-free life that can accompany responses to the Gospel, the reviewer at least treats conversion as 'a matter of choice for the people involved'. Secular orthodoxy can lead to a blanket condemnation of Christian missions in their attempt to right the wrongs of the past. 'First nations apologists' (xxxiv) sometimes display paternalism, insisting that the First Peoples should return to the religion of their fathers, oddly enough rarely applying the advice to themselves.

The editors of this volume, a reprint of Hiram Cody's 1908 Apostle of the North, a life of the Anglican Yukon missionary William Carter Bompas (1834- 1906), try to steer between the Scylla of 'gilding the reputation' of the Bishop, and the Charybdis of 'savaging his memory'. It is heartening that in their 60- page introduction William Morrison and Kenneth Coates contextualise mission history and 'humanise' its participants. It is gratifying that they come clean about their own biases: 'Neither of us has an agenda concerning religion, at least as far as self-analysis can tell us, either to glorify missionaries or to excoriate them'. …