Canadian Anglicanism: One Generation Away From Extinction? Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 20:26
I've been reading e-mail, which has piled up at a fearful rate, and cruising favorite blogs and interesting links, trying to catch up on all that has happened in the larger world during the past 6 weeks while I have been rushing about.

And came across this, which may have been discussed elsewhere about St. Blog's but I still find stunning:

From the yesterday's Globe and Mail:

"The Anglican Church in Canada – once as powerful in the nation's secular life as it was in its soul – may be only a generation away from extinction, says a just-published assessment of the church's future.

The report, prepared for the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia, calls Canada a post-Christian society in which Anglicanism is declining faster than any other denomination. It says the church has been “moved to the far margins of public life.”

According to the report, the diocese – “like most across Canada” – is in crisis. The report repeats, without qualification or question, the results of a controversial study presented to Anglican bishops five years ago that said that at the present rate of decline – a loss of 13,000 members per year – only one Anglican would be left in Canada by 2061.

It points out that just half a century ago, 40 per cent of Vancouver Island's population was Anglican; now the figure is 1.2 per cent. Nationally, between 1961 and 2001, the church lost 53 per cent of its membership, declining to 642,000 from 1.36 million. Between 1991 and 2001 alone, it declined by 20 per cent."

Since Fr. Michael Sweeney, co-founder of the Institute, is a native of Vancouver, BC, we spent a lot of time in Vancouver and the lower mainland of British Columbia in the early years. His mother was an Anglican until Fr. Michael received her into the Catholic Church himself at his first Mass after being ordained..

Fr. Michael always made sure that I knew that everything Canadian was better than in the US. According to him, my native Seattle was Vancouver's ugly step sister. Canadian drivers were better, Canadian laws, government, even Canadian hamburgers (White Spot!) were superior to those south of the border. I know that Fr. Michael lathered it on to bait me (what else do you have to do when driving hundreds of miles from workshop to workshop than harass your Yankee partner-in-crime?) but the emotional energy behind it was real.

But the collapse of Christianity in Canada is no laughing matter. And I don't think that even Fr. Michael could turn into into another proof of northern superiority.

As the Globe and Mail article continues:

"Regular attendance is declining at all Canadian Christian churches, except for the Roman Catholic Church, whose small increase is attributed to immigration. But Anglicanism's problem is aggravated because it is primarily a tribal church, the offspring of the Church of England. It has traditionally been home to Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent who increasingly have no ethnic identification with the church, said religious studies professor David Seljak of St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ont."

Or as an Episcopalian rector put it to me when i asked what the Anglican communion was for (other than Henry and his wives), he responded: "It's a cultural coalition". A "tribe" on the verge of extinction, it seems.

As I reported to the Companions of the Cross last month in Houston, the Canadian and US Catholic Churches have more in common than I had realized:

United States

Catholics are 24% of the population
(65.2 million and growing mostly due to immigration)
40,666 priests with a 1,603 Catholics/priest ratio
36% attend Mass weekly (averaged across the nation and across generations)

Unaffiliated” (claim no religious affiliation): 16.1%
Atheist: 1.6%
Unaffiliated/atheist together: 17.7%

Evangelicals are 26.3% of the population.


Catholics: 46% of the population
13 million (growing due to immigration)
8,000 priests or 1,625 Catholics/priest
27% attend Mass (national average - varies significantly from area to area)

“Unaffiliated”(claim no religious affiliation): 19%
Atheist: 7% (438% higher than in the US)
Unaffiliated/atheist together: 26%

Evangelicals: 12% (half the size of the US but the number of Canadian evangelicals has grown nearly 50% since 1981)