MARKHAM – The Centre for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism (CRCE) announces its first round of successful applicants for research funds in its “Healthy Churches” initiative. Three projects will be funded that together will provide new insight into the current state of Christianity in Canada.
The first project is a large-scale study of evangelical congregations throughout Canada that will seek to determine what factors in church life produce a “healthy church.” Dozens of churches and their leaders will be surveyed to ascertain what worship styles, leadership structures, evangelistic strategies, Christian education programs, preaching emphases, and congregational priorities contribute most to congregational strength and service to its community.
Sociologists Sam Reimer of Atlantic Baptist University in Moncton, NB, and Michael Wilkinson of Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, will head the project. Seasoned pollster Andrew Grenville of Angus Reid will assist in the project and ensure that the best possible survey data are obtained.
The second project is a pioneering study of the burgeoning “Word-Faith” movement in Canada. This movement, an amalgam of Pentecostalism and “prosperity gospel” emphases, enjoys a high profile in the United States via such television preachers as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and Fred Price. It is also widely popular in Africa and Latin America. Few Canadians realize, however, that this movement is growing rapidly in Canada as well.
Historian Kate Bowler, a Canadian pursuing her Ph.D. at Duke University in the US, will conduct interviews with leading pastors and conduct studies of leading churches to begin to analyze this phenomenon, correlating what she finds in Canada with her extensive study of similar groups in the United States.
The third project will revisit the work of Canada’s best-known scholar of religion, sociologist Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge. This project will try to determine what factors prompt Canadians to be more or less involved in Christian churches. In particular, it will analyze whether Bibby has been correct to claim that Canadian churches have a large latent membership in the millions who say that they belong to a denomination but rarely attend one of its services. Some of Bibby’s own interviewees will be asked a new set of questions to determine under what circumstances, if any, they would indeed return to church.
Sociologist Joel Thiessen, currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Waterloo, will conduct this project, focusing on Bibby’s original research site, the city of Calgary.