A Challenging Time for Religion in Canada

By Longhurst, John | Winnipeg Free Press, May 9, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Challenging Time for Religion in Canada


Longhurst, John, Winnipeg Free Press


It's always a good time when editors of church publications get together for the annual Canadian Church Press convention.

This year's event was held in Toronto at the end of April, and included editors from the American Church Press. (It was a special delight to hear the honeyed drawls of people from the American South in the hallways and meeting rooms.)

The convention brought together people from the Anglican, Catholic, Mennonite, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Baptist, Adventist, evangelical and United Churches, along with others.

In addition to catching up on news and meeting old friends, it was also a time to hear the latest challenging statistics about religion in Canada, and its affect on church publications.

Keynote speaker Jane Armstrong started things off by noting "the decline in religiosity (in Canada) has been nothing short of dramatic."

Armstrong, principal researcher at Jane Armstrong Associates, noted some churches in this country are "losing members at an alarming rate."

The drop in interest in church, and religion in general, is the result of a "perfect storm" of scandals and missteps by church and other faith groups that have "undermined public confidence," together with "an erosion of social values underpinning religiosity."

Those values, she said, include a sense of duty and obligations, respect for rules, regulations and institutions, and deference to authority.

As commitment to those values decline in Canada, "religiosity is an orphan," she said, adding Canadians today prefer to chart their own paths, don't trust institutions, and are skeptical of authority.

As a result, religiosity -- which Armstrong defined as including church membership, church attendance, acceptance of beliefs, knowledge of doctrines and living the faith -- "is not sustainable today."

Adding to the challenge is most non-churchgoing Canadians see religion as "an out-of-date concept that offers little or nothing to contemporary people."

As a person of faith herself, she knows this isn't true for many churches. But, she added, most Canadians are "unaware of how denominations have evolved over the past decades. …

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