Pilgrims in Lotus Land

Pilgrims in Lotus Land: Conservative Protestantism in British Columbia, 1917-1981

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Pilgrims in Lotus Land
    Book Description:

    Burkinshaw traces the growth of conservative Protestantism in British Columbia from its clashes with liberal Protestants in the early twentieth century; through the post-World War II years when a bewildering variety of smaller groups, including Baptist and Pentecostal denominations as well as Mennonite, Reformed, and Evangelical Free churches, became important; to the 1970s when the majority of worshipping Protestants belonged to evangelical groups. He examines the factors that made evangelicalism more adaptable to changes in the geographic, ethnic, and social distribution of the province's population, and argues that while the evangelical movement in BC was influenced by American fundamentalism it was not simply an extension of the American campaign. He also examines the impact of evangelicals on provincial politics, most particularly their role in the rise of the Social Credit Party.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6529-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  6. Map: Regions and Selected Urban Centres of British Columbia
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-21)

    Many modern observers of British Columbia are struck by two seemingly contradictory facets of its religious life. It is an intensely secular province, yet evangelical Protestantism has come to flourish during the twentieth century in the midst of this pervasive secularism. This study arose primarily out of a desire to provide some answers about why this should be the case. Why did evangelicals grow in numbers on the West Coast from 1921 to 1981 while, according to Reginald Bibby in his landmark bookFragmented Gods, they declined elsewhere in Canada during this century as a proportion of the population? Are...

  8. 1 Protestantism in British Columbia before 1917
    (pp. 22-40)

    British Columbia differed markedly from other parts of Canada in the first two decades of the twentieth century in a number of respects. Its population growth outstripped that of all provinces except the two newly created prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. After disappointingly slow development in the first quarter of a century after it joined the Canadian confederation in 1871, British Columbia experienced fifteen years of extremely rapid growth, from the closing few years of the nineteenth century almost until the outbreak of World War I. A flood of immigrants entered the province and its population more than doubled...

  9. 2 Polarization in Vancouver, 1917
    (pp. 41-54)

    Significant public theological polarization among Protestants in British Columbia did not occur until 1917. In that year, French E. Oliver’s evangelistic campaigns in Victoria, and especially in Vancouver, provoked sharp controversy. The evangelist’s attacks on religious liberalism before crowds of thousands - and the ensuing pulpit and press controversy — dramatically brought the theological issue to the attention of the public. In fact, the Oliver meetings, intended originally as evangelistic services, took on the appearance of massive protest rallies against liberal tendencies in mainline Protestant denominations. Uppermost in the minds of many of these conservatives was the decline of traditional evangelism...

  10. 3 Mainline Conservatives, 1917-1927
    (pp. 55-75)

    Stimulated by the polarization resulting from the Oliver campaign, conservative evangelicals began the process of laying the institutional foundations of their own, separate, version of Protestantism. The stiff opposition of most of the mainline Protestant ministers to the campaign convinced many conservatives that they could no longer rely on the leadership of the major denominations to defend traditional evangelicalism and to carry on the Church’s task of evangelism, missions, and biblical training. Instead, they felt they had to organize alternatives to the dominant institutions. Considerable activity took place in the decade after the Oliver campaign and by 1927 a rudimentary...

  11. 4 The Separatist Solution: Fundamentalist Baptists, 1917-1928
    (pp. 76-99)

    Two more radical conservative responses developed in British Columbia in the decade following French E. Oliver’s evangelistic campaigns 1917. By 1928, the separatist Baptist and Pentecostal alternatives had each attracted thousands of members and adherents and had established their own rudimentary denominational structures in the province. Both groups expressed much more alienation from the major Protestant denominations and the prevailing religious ethos than their mainline conservative counterparts did. However, neither differed from the mainline conservatives in regard to the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity. What the separatist Baptists rejected was a theologically inclusive approach within their denomination, and they therefore...

  12. 5 The Supernatural Solution: The Pentecostals, 1917-1928
    (pp. 100-120)

    The Pentecostals rejected even more of the prevailing ethos of that society than the separatist Baptists did. On the one hand, they defended the same conservative evangelical doctrines as the fundamentalist Baptists and, likewise, rejected the inclusiveness of the mainline conservatives. Some Pentecostals could even be called “ultrafundamentalists” because of their willingness to accept even more radical measures than other fundamentalists in their defence of evangelicalism. On the other hand, many fundamentalists who became Pentecostals abandoned the determined struggles of the separatist Baptists to purge the denomination of liberalism as a primary strategy in the fight against liberalism. Most significantly,...

  13. 6 The Broadening of the Institutional Base, 1928-1941
    (pp. 121-148)

    In 1935 J. Edwin Orr, the well-known Irish revivalist and evangelist, travelled Canada from coast to coast to assess the state of evangelicalism in the country. His observations led him to conclude that it was in the healthiest condition in Ontario and Alberta. Toronto was “the most Evangelical city in Canada,” and the Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta was “a prime factor in the hope of revival in the Dominion.” In contrast, Orr was not impressed with what he saw in British Columbia. In Vancouver, he found “many dead, liberal churches carrying on with a ‘social club’ programme.” Yet the...

  14. 7 Period of Transition, 1941-1961: Developments among the Original Conservative Groups
    (pp. 149-176)

    British Columbia experienced a major wartime and postwar boom between 1941 and 1961. During World War II the city of Vancouver, in particular, received a major influx of people to work in war-related industries, most notably in shipbuilding. At the same time, much of the province’s north was opened up with the building of the Alaska Highway. After the war, a major development and resource boom brought growth to the whole province, especially the interior and northern regions.¹ Provincial governments in the postwar era, notably the Social Credit government that was elected in 1952, built a network of highways and...

  15. 8 Period of Transition, 1941-1961: Immigrant Groups
    (pp. 177-197)

    Immigration into the province came to be a dominant feature in population changes in the 1941-1961 period. As noted in chapter 7, the largest number of immigrants were from the prairie provinces, and the second largest were from continental Europe. The flow from both sources increased the proportion of the non-British segment of the population because so many of the immigrants from the prairies were of European origin.

    The importance of this immigration for conservative Protestants in British Columbia was twofold. First, several significant immigrant-based conservative denominations were established or were very substantially reinforced by these immigrants. Secondly, several newer...

  16. 9 The Worshipping Majority Protestantism, 1961-1981
    (pp. 198-225)

    British Columbia continued to lead all Canadian provinces in the rate of the expansion of its population between 1961 and 1981.¹ Its 1981 population, at 2,744,500, was the third highest in the nation and exceeded that of all four Atlantic provinces combined, and also that of the previously more populous prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined.² Major resource, transportation, and hydroelectric developments boosted growth in the central interior and northeast, while the Okanagan population grew rapidly as a result of its development as a tourist, retirement, and industrial centre. Towns and cities grew to such an extent that by...

  17. 10 Components of Growth
    (pp. 226-260)

    Evangelicalism’s ability to survive and grow significantly in the midst of a rapidly modernizing and secularizing population demands some explanation. Why could numerous little evangelical denominations thrive while the liberal mainline churches experienced serious decline? Compared to the conservative churches, the mainline denominations were far better financed at the outset and were equipped with a message far more adaptable to modern sensibilities. Yet they could not keep pace with the dramatic demographic, geographic, social, and ethnic changes described in the previous chapters.

    No single explanation of the evangelical growth evident by 1981 is possible, but a variety of factors help...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 261-270)

    Developments in the decade after 1981 confirmed both the pre-1981 pattern of evangelical growth in British Columbia and the factors contributing to it. While the mainline churches continued to decline, substantial growth occurred in evangelical churches and new denominations continued to emerge. As with earlier decades, this growth must be explained by paying attention both to evangelicalisms’ conservative stance and to its flexible, adaptable approach towards aspects modernity.

    The mainline United Church was still the largest Protestant denomination in the province in 1991, but it continued to decline in membership and attendance, and it suffered considerable internal controversy over its...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 271-322)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 323-344)
  21. Index
    (pp. 345-353)