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Canadian Baptists: An Introduction

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Canada was described in our national newspaper as a country of five regional solitudes or cultural regions. These solitudes interact and sometimes clash.

These solitudes interact and sometimes clash. They include Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies and the West.

Canadian Baptists reflect this national reality. Each of the five major Baptist groups in Canada has its strength in a specific region.

The largest and oldest group is Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM), a 1995 union of the Canadian Baptist Foreign Mission Board and the Canadian Baptist Federation. CBM is not a national convention, but is an agency of four regional convention/unions for specific mission and ministry activities, foreign and domestic.

By far the largest regional convention in CBM is the eastern Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches. Created at the beginning of the 20th century, it includes Free Christian Baptists (an indigenous Maritime Canadian denomination), Freewill Baptists, Baptists (aka Regular Baptists) and African Baptists (the indigenous identity of Maritime Black Baptists).

In the Maritimes (the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), Baptists were a denomination of settlement in the 1760s. Many immigrated here as a result of religious persecution in what is now the United States.

The last fires of the New England Great Awakening took place among the Baptist settlements nurturing a spirituality that would produce an indigenous revival late in the 18th century.

In Central Canada, the CBM convention is the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ). It was formed in the late 19th century as a result of an uneasy peace in the interests of mission between evangelical (Free Communion Baptists, Scotch Baptists, British Particular Baptists) and Strict (British)/Regular (American) Baptists.

BCOQ Baptists were also a denomination of settlement. Lacking a shared revival experience, the BCOQ experienced tension over issues of faith and order. In addition to foreign mission, mission to Canada’s west was a specific focus.

The Union d’Églises baptistes françaises au Canada is the product of three missions to Québec in the 19th century which united in the Grande Ligne Mission.

The Baptist Union of Western Canada (BUWC) united the last two solitudes—the Prairies and the West. It was created as a result of mission work from central and eastern Canadian conventions and unions and from American missionary activity.

The next largest Baptist grouping is the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (FEBCC). Formed in 1953, it is a union of two groups which came out of the fundamentalist schism in the BCOQ and the BUWC in the 1920s. While its greatest strength was in Ontario, smaller regional branches existed in Québec, Atlantic Canada and western Canada.

Two Baptist groups are a product of ethnic settlement in Western Canada. German Baptists are part of the North American Baptist Conference. Swedish Baptists form the Baptist General Conference of Canada (BGCC). Both have a few churches in Ontario.

The newest and perhaps most controversial Baptist group in Canada is the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC).

The CSBC roots lie in an indigenous schism in the 1950s among fundamentalist Baptists in Western Canada, where the CSBC strength remains the greatest. The CSBC mission to the rest of Canada has had varied effect.

Each of the major Canadian Baptist groupings has their own foreign and domestic mission organizations and educational institutions.

Philip Griffin-Allwood is a Canadian pastor and academic living in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Most recently he was senior pastor of the Kentville United Baptist Church and is currently researching and writing as he awaits a call.

Click here to read his guide to Canadian Baptists.

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Maritimes refers to the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Atlantic is used in reference to the Maritimes plus the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Central Canada refers to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
Prairie Canada refers to the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Western Canada refers to the Prairie provinces plus British Columbia.