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L’évangélisme au Canada

Somewhere between six and ten percent of Canadians are Evangelical. Evangelicals, often called conservative Protestants, include at least 100 denominations in Canada, including Pentecostals, Baptists, Holiness (e.g. Nazarenes and Wesleyans), Mennonites and a growing number of independent churches and networks. In addition, significant numbers of mainline Protestant affiliates (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church) are conservative as well, and could fit into the evangelical camp based on their beliefs (and some scholars would include ‘Catho-evangelicals’ as well). Besides denominations, another way Evangelicals are counted is based on British historian David Bebbington’s famous quadrilateral (Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. New York, NY : Routledge, 1989). This quadrilateral includes conversionism, the belief that people need to be ‘saved’ or converted ; activism, the importance of living your faith by evangelising, reading the Bible, prayer and church attendance ; biblicism, viewing the Bible as authoritative and inspired ; and crucicentrism, the centrality of Christ’s death on the cross as the only means of salvation.

Besides doctrinal distinctives, evangelicals are also known for their resistance to liberalising trends in Canadian society, due to their commitment to the authority of the Bible. Behaviourally, survey research shows that they are more likely than most Canadians to regularly attend church, read the Bible and pray, evangelise, volunteer and give to charitable causes. This activism means that they are able to sustain a disproportionately high number of congregations in Canada, over 11,000, accounting for about one third of all the congregations in Canada. Morally, evangelicals tend to hold to traditional views of the family and the view that life is sacred, thereby rejecting sex outside of heterosexual marriage, abortion, MAID (medical assistance in dying), and pornography. Along with conservative Catholics, they are typically against same sex marriage, which was legalised in Canada in 2005 (although views are changing, particularly among younger evangelicals). Politically, evangelicals tend to vote conservative. However, their voting patterns are diverse, as their concern for issues like poverty and the environment can push them toward voting for left-leaning parties like the Liberals or New Democratic Party.

It is easy to lump Canadian Evangelicals in with Evangelicals in the U.S., who garner much more media attention. In many ways, this is fair, as they are very similar in their activism and moral/ethical views. Protection of life and the traditional family, and concern for the poor energise evangelicals on both sides of the border. They share nearly identical levels of commitment to biblical authority and their churches, which belong to many of the same denominations. However, evangelicals in Canada are probably more like British evangelicals than their American neighbours. Evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic cringe when they are characterised as xenophobic, nationalistic, or aggressive like their (Trump-supporting) co-religionists to the U.S. They work hard to present a more tolerant, irenic version of evangelicalism, without compromising their convictions.

Evangelicalism, like all religious groups in Canada, is changing. The decline of institutional forms of religion (e.g. declining church attendance) and immigration are particularly important. Regarding the former, evangelical churches continued to grow even while mainline Protestant churches declined after the 1960s. However, recent research shows that they are losing about one third of those raised evangelical by young adulthood, nearly all of whom become religious ‘nones’. Many other evangelicals are attending less often than they used to. Most evidence indicates that Canadian evangelicalism is no longer growing. However, it would be clearly declining if it were not for gains due to immigration. As for immigration, new Canadians from Asia, Africa, and South America (particularly Pentecostal/charismatic evangelicals) are changing the face of Canadian evangelicalism, starting new churches (and denominations) and energising old ones. Since immigrants often come to Canada with higher levels of religious commitment, the future of evangelicalism will likely reflect immigration trends.

D 4 mai 2021    ASam Reimer

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