Troubles With Church In Canada: Part 2

Reading Time: 9 minutes“Believe In Jesus And We Give You Water?”

“Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:” (Gen 18:4)

living water
living water
Our Canadian Church (collectively) seems to keep painting themselves into the corner. We kind of just do it to ourselves. Look at the “common vernacular. In most places, English speaking places at least, it is common to refer to the larger Protestant entities as “mainline” Protestants. I think that labels like this can be very contentious, (among other things), and that we should avoid them. What does it really say about us when such labels are used? The term “mainline” apparently is American in it’s origin, being denoted as the white, Protestant (American Northeast Coast) elite, which really does not apply to Canada.

In Canada, the larger Protestant Churches have historically been much more diverse socially, and the largest Canadian ones, unlike the American ones, were not formed as a result of regional schisms. (such as between the North and the South, in America). Although historically, one would have to concede that even in Canada, the largest Protestant denominations, (as well as Roman Catholics) were very socially dominant in other ways. (paraphrased from Leaving Christianity, pg 8).

In my mind, as I look at our history, it is this type of social domination that has brought about much of the ecclesial divisions, infighting, and out fighting that has made the UNChurch. The dynamics of “church” in Canada are ever-changing, as in most places, and currently remain in a state of tortuous flux, I think, largely in response to cultural and legal demands of society at large. It has been my experience too, that with the exceptions of some of the smaller, more remote towns and regions, “church” is no longer socially dominant, or relevant. There seems to be a major crises, in most of the bigger players, struggling to be “culturally relevant,” and in trying to stem the tide of closing Church doors, and stifling general “church beefs” amongst the vegetarians. I have driven past several church locations near where I live, and personally seen churches converted into commercial or living quarters. One church I know of has been converted to a photographer’s studio! Id actually love to own that one!

Even 20 years ago, this Protestant went on a bike ride across Canada “for the church,” and all along the way I had speaking engagements in various Adventist Churches. Some of those churches were almost empty, even back then. One place I preached their Sabbath sermon only had 8 members present. The good old glory days of the sixties and seventies have seen steady decline, not just in membersip numbers, but also in the QUALITY of church member experience. It sometimes seems apparent that there is no way for church unity, under the current methods of doing church.

Personally speaking, about The Adventist Church for a moment, I think there have likely always been problems with cultural relevance. When I went on a 2500 MILE bike trip across our beautiful country, it was to raise money for a church ministry run by an outfit called “The Destiny Telecast,” led then by the late Pastor Henry Feyerabend. I even have a copy of the original Adventist Review article featuring my trip, and inviting people to contribute. Now, this would be a good example of the church’s predicaments with “cultural relevance,” because it always seems to come out in the little things, just before they become something bigger. I did really well on the trip, accomplishing many wonderful things, but I did breathe a sigh of relief when it was finished because there were a number of major challenges to over-come, for me to be able to complete that trip.

At the end of it; it had been a couple weeks since I completed the trip, and when I read the next issue of The Review, I noticed there was no follow-up to the first article to let people know, (some of whom were contributors) how I made out, and that I had managed to finish the trip without keeling over. To make a long, sad story shorter, at some point I was curtly told “the church has discussed it and decided they are not comfortable with “raising money by donations like this.””

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Further, I was told, “people should just be willing to freely return their tithes and offerings without “RESORTING” to methods like this to raise money.” Well, I was heart-broken, because it was really a lot of work to accomplish that trip – 2500 MILES in 28 days, with a hundred pounds of luggage on the bike;and multiple health issues; but the church sure didnt waste time taking that money I had collected, and then telling me that I did something “wrong.” by collecting it.

I do recall, about two years later, another Adventist person who did a similar trip and got nothing but accolades. Pickings can get pretty slim when it comes to the church being relevant, as they seem to change with every “wind of doctrine.” (Eph 4:14).

I have wondered, sometimes quite loudly since those days, about “doctrine” and how we tend to weaponise our beliefs to the point where its “us and them.” And always, “THEM” were the enemies. Always carricatured as “the enemy.” And then, of course, if one did not want to ascribe to the “enemy” terminology, they would be magically transformed into THE BACKSLIDER. Some people, historically, have tried to use an “Ellen White Says” or two in order to support the use thereof, of “backslider,” but can it be denied, that our doctrine is all-too often a club, rather than a testimony of “Christ in the life?” (1 John 1:1-3).

In more recent days; I tried to attend one of “our” churches nearby, and I think it must have been because of how I was dressed that I got the old “stink-eye” from most of the apparently dwindling, 24 member congregation. Some of them looked right at me, and visibly, clearly sneered, like a bunch of little grade three students in the playground who didn’t like little David’s new bell-bottom trousers. Twice during that visit, when I tried to say “hello” in the sanctuary to people, they would just turn the other way and start talking to whoever was standing beside them. (I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear what they were talking about).

I don’t think it would have helped much to take my skull-cap off either!

I have shared a bit of very personal church history,from here in Canada for a reason. While I believe its important for us to face the truth about “what hath God rot,” it is equally important to look at what we, the church, have done right. I had a little fun with my wife the other day when she said she loved me; and I said “how do you know?” Could it be time to ask the church why they keep saying they “love Jesus,” I mean, really, how do they know that? How would the general public know THAT?

Jesus once said “ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Mat 7:16, 20).

I think, that all too often, church is more into vegetables, than fruits.

The point about using terminology such as “mainline” can be thought of in light of how, to most people, that word suggests some sort of superiority theology. Is there really a need to talk about others like that?

In The United Church of Canada, which I grew up in, the fruits were very evident. I personally participated in some of their charity works in the community, even in recent years, and they really do walk their talk. And I am not nieve enough to run around talking up a storm about how the Adventist Church has none of this “fruit” bearing that Jesus referred to. For they certainly do.

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Perhaps now, we need to be more cognizant of many other words and terminologies that we use, such as “conservative” and “evangelical,” in addition to “mainline” because all of these have formed a kind of Canadian Cancer, if you will, wherever they are used. Use of labels and stigma’s by Big Religion seems to mostly indicate something within the theological spectrum of Canadian churches. Even the word “denomination” is used in a very stigmatized context that we should be concerned about. Ever hear the phrase “non-denominational?” The very uncomplimentary use of that phrase “non-denominational” is the one sure sign that it actually is a denomination, and that there are some very bad intentions being expressed!

Its likely time to also drop the word “secular” from the vocabulary. “Secularization,” for one example, is mostly used disparagingly, in a religious judgement of sorts against (never for) the un-churched. “Secularization” mockingly implies a “golden age” of religion that once supposedly existed and was perhaps,”forcibly” or “wrongly” taken out of the culture by all the malcontents. The term is bleached of any specifics but usually used to stigmatize someone. (in nice, churchianity, or historian ways, of course). “Church” in Canada keeps running around with their beloved doctrines, and thinking thats all there is to it.

Back now to my main point re wanting to attend a church where I could do something. Something useful. I was quite surprised recently to learn that we have people, a lot of people, right here in Canada, who don’t have access to clean water. Many of our First Nations citizens have had their water supplies trashed by Big Business, and there seems to be no solution in sight. I would like to attend the kind of church that would just get that job done. And for the life of me I cannot figure out why our Canadian Churches don’t get it done. They could IF they wanted to. I guess they are all too busy being politically correct about other “cultural issues.” But, are there reasons why people who need it, wouldnt want our water anyways, even if we did try to help? Would there be any strings attached to such help? You know,

“believe in Jesus and we “give” you water?”

One of the things I have mentioned to more than a few people now, is that I would love to attend a church that has something for me to do. Something that would actually help my neighbors and fellow citizens of the human race. With all of the hoopla about the climate “emergency” I would have thought that some of our churches would get with the program a lot better than has been the past record.
We seem to favor “missionary” work in the far off lands where there is very little contact with “the internet,” (and thats not all bad), but one of the big concerns being expressed now is water. Canadians, and Canadian Churches likely feel that, “in Canada we don’t have water problems,” yet the history sadly reflects something much different. i would add that I am NOT looking for a perfect church. I just want something to do.

In Canada, Grassy Narrows First Nations Chief Rudy Turtle, (Northern Ontario, Kenora region) has been struggling for years to try and get his people clean drinking water. (you can read about it in current, Canadian news). That’s all they want. Just clean, safe drinking water. The water up there has been poisoned, largely with mercury from nearby chemical plants and other industries. Canadian Governments keep doing their annual vote time rhetoric and promises to help secure a safe water system; and all they keep doing is to pass the buck, reassign blame, and in the mean time, the Grassy Narrows people, (Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nations {Ojibwe}), are on long-term boil water advisories!

They have to in many cases buy more and more bottled water, which all the climate change predators are saying we need to get rid of! What on earth do we expect people to do? I seriously dont get why the Canadian Church/es cant get together and just get that job done! They actually could do it! Social differentiations whereby “religion” or “Church” is marginalized and cast off as not needed are only strengthened by our ignoring of the problems people around us are facing every day. What is happening to all of that “pure religion” in Canada? You know, that religion that gets a cup of water to the thirsty?

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27, KJV)

A closer look at what Scripture intends by “pure religion” reveals some startling findings:

James 1:27. “on Pure” See also on Matt. 5:8.Religion. Gr. thrēskeia, religion, especially as it expresses itself in religious worship. However, the apostle does not here define [the full scope of] “true religion,” but points to the fact that the outward evidence naturally accompanies the true heart experience. This is not a description of the whole of religion, but of only two pertinent examples of the genuine religious spirit that leads to such acts. See on Micah 6:8.Undefiled. The Pharisees relied on the forms of ritual righteousness to keep themselves undefiled, but they were full of moral defilement within (see on Mark 7:1–23). James here points to a far superior type of outward evidence of “pure religion.” (Nichol, F. D. (1978; 2002). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7 (515). Review and Herald Publishing Association).

Canada has a situation where “Church” is in decline mode. And yet, the Church is doubling down on “evangelism” and still painting themselves into a corner with huge, expensive, “crusades” complete with all the terminology just discussed above, which must make the “cost” of each soul into the thousands of dollars, per person, and even with those ones, we dip em and dump em so fast, that what we are doing simply makes no sense.

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ONE of the “outward” signs of the “true religion” referred to in scripture, for Canada, SHOULD be something just as simple as clean drinking water. We could “visit these people in their affliction” by bringing clean water into the package. Just a no strings attached clean water is all thats needed. THAT would be what the Bible calls “true religion.”

Where is the clean water?

“The tender sympathies of our Saviour were aroused for fallen and suffering humanity. If you would be His followers, you must cultivate compassion and sympathy. The widow, the orphan, the sick, and the dying will always need help. Here is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel-to hold up Jesus, the hope and consolation of all men. When the suffering body has been relieved, the heart is opened, and you can pour in the heavenly balm.” {OFC 79.6}

(In the next post, I will cover a few ways in which Canadian History reflects upon some of the very positive aspects of “church,” and that will show how not all religion in Canada was/is “colonialism”)

“Only like can appreciate like. Unless you accept in your own life the principle of self-sacrificing love, which is the principle of His character, you cannot know God.” {Mar 88.4}

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