Lord's Dominion

Lord's Dominion: The History of Canadian Methodism

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 544
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  • Book Info
    Lord's Dominion
    Book Description:

    Semple covers virtually every aspect of Canadian Methodism. He examines early nineteenth-century efforts to evangelize pioneer British North America and the revivalistic activities so important to the mid-nineteenth-century years. He documents Methodists' missionary work both overseas and in Canada among aboriginal peoples and immigrants. He analyses the Methodist contribution to Canadian education and the leadership the church provided for the expansion of the role of women in society. He also assesses the spiritual and social dimensions of evangelical religion in the personal lives of Methodists, addressing such social issues as prohibition, prostitution, the importance of the family, and changing attitudes toward children in Methodist doctrine and Canada in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6575-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    When the fathers of the Canadian confederation searched for an appropriate designation for their new country, they found it in the biblical term “dominion.” The Dominion of Canada appeared indeed to reflect the hope of Psalm 72 – “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea” – as well as the Old Testament prophet’s claim for the Messiah: “and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.”¹ No group of Canadians prayed more vigorously than the Methodists that Canada would truly become the Lord’s dominion and a...

  5. 1 The Origins of Methodism
    (pp. 9-26)

    Methodism usually dates its birth to May 24, 1738, at Aldersgate in London. On that day John Wesley’s religious conversion was confirmed as he felt his “heart strangely warmed.”¹ He joyfully reported the event to his brother Charles, who had a similar, but more private conversion at about the same time. These experiences were the culmination of a long quest for personal redemption dating from at least their university days. The two Wesleys and several likeminded friends had sought salvation through the so-called Holy Club, which they had formed at Oxford over the winter of 1729-30. John had also attempted...

  6. 2 The Early Mission to British North America
    (pp. 27-52)

    Infused with a dedication to Wesley’s spiritual revival, a belief in the need for sanctified living, and a keen sense of evangelistic expansion, British and American Methodism undertook to meet the religious needs of the remaining British colonies in North America. As the essentials of Methodism were transmitted to this new world, with its multicultural stock and its diverse religious background, the broadly assumed understandings of the movement had to be clarified and modified to suit local needs.¹ In British America, supervision by Wesley and his successors was at best difficult. Because of the distances and the isolated nature of...

  7. 3 Methodism as a Personal Spiritual and Moral Movement
    (pp. 53-70)

    The Methodist movement and, indeed, the evangelical revival in general were based pre-eminently on a dynamic, personal religion. Methodism found its meaning and drew its vitality from its ability to help individuals to achieve a spiritual rebirth by opening their hearts and minds to Christ and by encouraging them to seek a living relationship to God independent of ecclesiastical intermediaries. In the early evolution of Methodism in British North America, institutional development was of secondary importance. The church did not grow from the top down through legislated fiat or even earnest injunction; rather, it expanded because it provided a satisfying...

  8. 4 Upper Canadian Wesleyan and Episcopal Methodism, 1820–54
    (pp. 71-99)

    The compromise of 1820 between the British Wesleyans and the American Episcopal Methodists regarding the Canadas temporarily ended the period of inter-connexional rivalry. Except at Kingston and a small society at York, the Wesleyans confined their missions to Lower Canada, while the Episcopal Methodists extended their evangelization among the whites and natives in Upper Canada. Once this issue was apparently resolved, the following decade witnessed the emergence of an independent Canadian church and the formation of a splinter connexion under the leadership of Henry Ryan. However, Episcopal Methodist independence was short-lived since union with the Wesleyans appeared to be the...

  9. 5 Divergent Visions: The Wesleyans in the Atlantic Region and the Smaller Connexions before 1855
    (pp. 100-126)

    While the complicated story of mainstream Methodism in Upper Canada spoke generally of growth and optimism, the picture of the movement in the Atlantic provinces was quite different. Most members denied any natural correlation between size and spiritual prosperity, but Methodists were never satisfied with remaining a closed, limited body of converts. Although no true measure of religious progress, “Ecclesiastics are nevertheless very sensitive to membership gains and losses, while the common man unhesitatingly judges the church in large measure by its institutional size.”¹ The Wesleyans in the Atlantic region were never able to capture the evangelical revival for their...

  10. 6 Mass Evangelism before 1860
    (pp. 127-147)

    Revival was essential to the vital and creative existence of the Methodist church. Every service of worship, every private and social means of grace, every sermon, tract, or prayer was directed to this end. The quest for conversion and entire sanctification was unceasing and compelling; it justified all missionary activity and underlay every attempt to reform character and all ethical conduct. “Methodism was wholeheartedly a revival movement: it had been born of a revival; its churches grew through revivals; its ministers preached revival; its success was talked of in terms of revival. Sometimes, when most of those who were converted...

  11. 7 The Methodists and Native Peoples before 1860
    (pp. 148-178)

    By the mid-1850s Canadian Methodists optimistically proclaimed, “The two religious aspects of the nineteenth century are evangelical piety and missions.”¹ With good reason, they believed the drive for emotional spirituality, social morality, and the expansion of missions around the world was well established. Although Methodism had centred its crusade on the European and American immigrants to British North America, it had also made significant gains in evangelizing the native population. The connexion was more anxious than ever to participate in bringing Christianity to the entire “heathen” world. However, while Africa and Asia beckoned, it was the native population northwest of...

  12. 8 The Elaboration of a National Methodist Church
    (pp. 179-210)

    On June 1, 1884, the Methodist Church of Canada, created in 1874 by the union of the Wesleyan and New Connexion Methodists, formally amalgamated with the Primitive Methodist, Bible Christian, and Methodist Episcopal churches to establish “The Methodist Church.” The new body immediately became the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, encompassing nearly the entire family of Methodist connexions in the dominion and Newfoundland and supervising much of the work in Bermuda and a growing mission operation in Japan. Out of the turmoil of more than seventy years of competition, particularly in central Canada, one independent national body emerged to represent...

  13. 9 The Transformation of the Social Means of Grace
    (pp. 211-238)

    Although Methodism was undergoing impressive institutional restructuring, it remained deeply committed to the salvation of the individual and the moral improvement of society. It gradually emphasized different approaches and attempted to encompass new expressions of faith, but these were to elaborate, not abandon, its fundamental mission. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all the Christian churches in Canada were buffeted by new and threatening intellectual and social forces. None the less, Methodism remained optimistic about its ability to control these forces and ultimately to Christianize Canada. Canadian Methodist leaders viewed Methodism as the truly national church encompassing the...

  14. 10 Methodist Education
    (pp. 239-275)

    It is difficult to overstate the significance of education to late-nineteenth-century Canadians or the central role it played in national Methodist history as the denomination transformed its means of grace and ministry and elaborated its broader social mission. Particularly as society became increasingly propelled by urbanization, material, intellectual, and social progress depended on education. Canadians believed that it bred economic prosperity while preventing secular materialism, social dislocation, fanaticism, or anarchy from destroying the country. They considered it an important insurance against poverty, crime, and misery and that at the same time it led humanity to higher planes of wisdom. Education,...

  15. 11 Methodist Missions in Canada, 1854–1925
    (pp. 276-305)

    All the Methodist connexions had been committed to the crusade to evangelize British North America and eventually the world beyond. By the mid-1850s, they were prepared to expand their fields geographically while consolidating their original bases of operations. Methodism demanded a constant readiness to serve wherever needed, especially on the fringes of new settlement, and to provide religion to the spiritually unenlightened and those who had moved beyond regular church worship.

    As the northwest and British Columbia were opened up to settlement, Methodism claimed the right to infuse these regions with the benefits of evangelical, Protestant religion, believing that only...

  16. 12 Methodist Overseas Missions, 1873–1925
    (pp. 306-333)

    The Methodists developed an elaborate mission system in Canada, Newfoundland, and Bermuda, but they were also proud to share in the evangelization of the entire “heathen” world. In fact, they assumed that their absolute right and duty to transform every aspect of life was greatest in the non-Christian lands; at home “heathenism” was a personal fault since Christianity was everywhere available, but abroad much of the population had never heard the saving truths of Protestantism. Moreover, the nineteenth-century spiritual revival had enhanced the sense of guilt in failing to live up to Christian principles and created a profound anxiety over...

  17. 13 Methodism and the Creation of a Moral Order
    (pp. 334-362)

    By the late nineteenth century, Canadian Methodists perceived themselves as members of the truly national church situated at the very heart of Canadian life, and they felt a deep responsibility not only to nurture and protect their own members, but also to transform the entire nation into a highly moral social order. All aspects of life were part of God’s sacred domain and therefore legitimate subjects for Christian action. Moreover, the Methodist church optimistically believed that with dedicated and strenuous labour it could transform the corrupt dominion into a true kingdom of God. By using the most progressive means available,...

  18. 14 Young People and the Methodist Moral Order
    (pp. 363-387)

    The Methodist church was thoroughly committed to the moral transformation of Canada by the latter part of the nineteenth century and acknowledged its obligation to bind everyone in spiritual and moral fellowship. This sense of obligation was particularly strong with regard to children. Religion was the greatest gift that society could offer its young, and religion, in turn, would sustain both their own spiritual and moral health and the prosperity of the church and the nation. The Methodist church also gradually realized that its future strength and therefore its influence for good rested on integrating its own children into the...

  19. 15 Methodism in the Early Twentieth Century
    (pp. 388-415)

    The twentieth century appeared to offer immense opportunities both for Canadian society in general and for the Methodist church in particular. If, as Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier maintained, the twentieth century belonged to Canada, then Methodism assumed that no other denomination had a better claim to leadership in moulding and directing the nation in its spiritual, moral, and social progress in this era. The church was apparently unified, well administered, and materially prosperous. Its religious and intellectual institutions were among the best in the country, and its auxiliary organizations were involving huge numbers of members in religious activity and...

  20. 16 Methodism and the Formation of The United Church of Canada
    (pp. 416-439)

    The central feature of Methodism’s crusade for spiritual and moral progress during the twentieth century was ecumenical cooperation and the union of Protestant forces into one dynamic national church. It did not advocate its own demise, but rather believed that its great commission to spread Christianity throughout the world could best be fulfilled within a broadly Protestant institutional framework. The Canadian Methodist church concluded that there remained little or no justification for a divided Canadian Protestantism while a world of opportunity awaited united action. It seemed improbable that Christ’s earthly rule could arrive as long as Christians continued in their...

  21. Epilogue: Methodism – the Continuing Legacy
    (pp. 440-452)

    What then was Methodism’s legacy? Certainly, it introduced and was the major exponent of the evangelical revival in British North America. Through the promulgation of John Wesley’s particular conjunction of Catholic and Protestant theological understanding and practice regarding universal salvation, conversion, and entire sanctification, Methodism offered an optimistic, forward-looking spirituality for all who wished to partake of its benefits. It adapted the first Great Awakening to the particular spiritual needs of the settlers in the new land. In so doing, it helped to fulfil the fundamental Christian mission to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world and make disciples of all...

  22. Notes
    (pp. 453-548)
  23. Index
    (pp. 549-565)