After Evangelicalism

After Evangelicalism: The Sixties and the United Church of Canada

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    After Evangelicalism
    Book Description:

    At a time when Canadians were arguing about the merits of a new flag, the birth-control pill, and the growing hippie counterculture, the leaders of Canada's largest Protestant church were occupied with turning much of English-Canadian religious culture on its head. In After Evangelicalism, Kevin Flatt reveals how the United Church of Canada abruptly reinvented its public image by cutting the remaining ties to its evangelical past. Flatt argues that although United Church leaders had already abandoned evangelical beliefs three decades earlier, it was only in the 1960s that rapid cultural shifts prompted the sudden dismantling of the church's evangelical programs and identity. Delving deep into the United Church's archives, Flatt uncovers behind-the-scenes developments that led to revolutionary and controversial changes in the church's evangelistic campaigns, educational programs, moral stances, and theological image. Not only did these changes evict evangelicalism from the United Church, but they helped trigger the denomination's ongoing numerical decline and decisively changed Canada's religious landscape. Challenging readers to see the Canadian religious crisis of the 1960s as involving more than just Quebec's Quiet Revolution, After Evangelicalism unveils the transformation of one of Canada's most prominent social institutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8856-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Although the United Church of Canada never quite realized its founders’ aspirations to build a national church that would unite all Canadian Protestants, it nevertheless loomed large in twentieth-century Canada as a major religious institution, and indeed as an important part of Canadian society. Since its founding in 1925 through a merger of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist churches, the denomination consistently commanded at least the nominal allegiance of more Canadians than any other Protestant church.¹ Even in 2001, after four decades of near-catastrophic numerical decline, more Canadians identified with the United Church than with the next two largest Protestant groups...

  5. 1 Setting a Pattern, 1930–1940
    (pp. 17-46)

    In the early part of the twentieth century, change was in the air for Canadian Protestants. This was doubly true of the Methodists and the Presbyterians, who between them represented about a third of the population of Canada. A wave of liberal theology was sweeping through these churches’ centres of learning, opening up new theological possibilities that promised harmony between faith and the apparently limitless progress of human reason – though many laypeople were insulated from these changes because popular preaching was increasingly separated from elite theological developments.¹ Stirring up support more broadly outside the walls of the colleges, the...

  6. 2 Calm before the Storm, 1940–1963
    (pp. 47-73)

    In the years immediately before and after the publication of the Statement of Faith in 1940 the United Church was absorbed, like the country in general, with carrying out its everyday existence as best it could under the cloud of the Second World War. As in 1914, the church was divided about the appropriate Christian response to the war. Although a significant minority of United Church ministers made a principled public stand for pacifism, most of the ministers and members of the church saw the fight as grim but necessary. The lessons of the First World War had been learned...

  7. 3 Creating the New Curriculum, 1952–1964
    (pp. 74-103)

    While the two decades after the war were a time of continuity in the public image and practices of the United Church, they were not a time of stagnation. Important developments were under way within the church, mostly behind the scenes. We have already seen this with respect to the shifting attitude of church leaders such as William Berry towards evangelism. Of these developments, however, the most important was probably the church’s planning and creation of its own new, comprehensive Christian education curriculum for adults and children. Although the “New Curriculum,” as it came to be called, was not launched...

  8. 4 The New Curriculum Controversy
    (pp. 104-143)

    After a long process of development, the New Curriculum was finally launched in 1964 for the 1964–5 school year. Although the promotion efforts described in chapter 3 were successful in producing large sales volumes, the curriculum soon became the centre of a major controversy that rocked the United Church and played no small part in permanently altering the direction and identity of the denomination. The controversy began in the summer of 1964, shortly before the curriculum took full effect, when the boldly modernist content of the curriculum books finally became known to United Church members and the general public....

  9. 5 A New Gospel: Theological Upheaval and Redefinition, 1959–1968
    (pp. 144-187)

    The period from 1958 to 1974, the “long sixties,” was a time of social and cultural change in Western societies so profound that Arthur Marwick justly refers to it as a “cultural revolution.”¹ This revolution took place not only in Britain, the United States, France, and West Germany, but also in Canada. The few Canadian treatments that deal with the 1960s as a coherent era, however, tend to be preoccupied with political themes and as a result have little to say about key aspects of this cultural revolution – particularly religious developments, which they ignore almost entirely.² Fortunately, Marwick’s monumental...

  10. 6 The “New Evangelism” and the “New Morality,” 1962–1971
    (pp. 188-224)

    At the same time that the 1960s witnessed the emergence of a new liberal theological identity for the United Church, the decade also saw the breakdown of the institutional practices of evangelism and moral reform that had formed a prominent part of the church’s evangelical identity since the 1930s. As was the case with the theological shift, this change to the church’s mission came about through a combination of long-term internal trends, medium- and shorter-term international developments, and immediate catalysts. As we saw in chapter 2, the tensions that had developed between the modernist theological convictions of church leaders and...

  11. 7 Aftermath: The United Church and the Legacy of the Sixties
    (pp. 225-249)

    The wrenching changes of the 1960s succeeded in changing the identity of the United Church, severing the ties to its evangelical past, and setting it on a liberal trajectory that it would follow for the remainder of the century. The power of the developments described in the previous four chapters to give the United Church a clear non-evangelical identity was confirmed by the foundation of the United Church Renewal Fellowship, a self-consciously “evangelical” group dedicated to representing what was now thought to be a dissenting minority viewpoint within the church. But the impact of the 1960s also revealed itself in...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 250-254)

    Understanding the fate of evangelicalism in the United Church requires the recognition of a multi-step, non-linear process. The first step in this process was the rise of modernist beliefs in the Methodist and Presbyterian churches during the first heyday of liberalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.¹ The introduction of modernist ideas in the late nineteenth century was tolerated by evangelical church leaders, who were optimistic about the capacity of their flexible evangelical creed to absorb the new thinking. Indeed, until the early twentieth century, evangelicalism continued to be the dominant creed of these churches as elements of...

  13. Appendix: The Decision-Making Structure of the United Church
    (pp. 255-262)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 263-326)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-336)
  16. Index
    (pp. 337-350)