The State of the Canadian Church 2009 — Part 1
The church made news in 2008 — but how, and why? And what do the news stories reveal about the state of the Canadian church, its priorities, its strengths and its weakness? First in a series.
There were 102 full news stories posted on CC.com in 2008. An analysis reveals that 13 concerned the Roman Catholic Church, nine featured mainline Protestant churches, nine featured evangelical churches and two featured charismatic churches. Those ratios very generally correspond to the relative sizes of the various church traditions in Canada.
However, the stories also reveal how much easier it is to report on an institutional church. When a Roman Catholic bishop speaks on an issue, there is a sense in which he speaks as a representative of the church. And institutional churches are more likely to make official pronouncements.
Evangelicals were more likely to make the news for being involved in ministries, and their denominational affiliations usually received less attention. In fact, a number of stories about ministries were posted which probably concerned evangelicals but which were identified simply as Christian ministries. The same is true of charismatic churches.
The only two clearly identifiable news stories concerning charismatics (who have even fewer institutions in Canada than evangelicals) focused on troubled evangelist Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Outpouring.
Of the nine stories about mainline Protestant churches, six dealt with the division within the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic stories were more mixed, but several dealt with abuse in residential schools. Of the evangelical stories, two dealt with the collapse of a church floor during a concert, and one with the bombing of a Campus for Christ worker. Unfortunately, bad news often seems more newsworthy than good news. A one-time event (such as an accident) offers a more focused topic for a news story than a ministry that continues for years.
See State of the Canadian Church — 2008
It is surely a sign of the times that there were 12 stories that concerned homosexuality but only four that concerned abortion and only two that concerned evolution. A generation ago, those numbers would have been reversed. Only two stories concerned assisted suicide, but that is an issue that will likely increase in prominence in the future. Surprisingly, only one story concerned the environment. But six stories, all in the second half of the year, concerned economics.
Seven stories concerned politics, mainly due to the Canadian and US elections. The importance of government is indicated by the fact that 13 stories featured issues of church and state, and 15 featured human rights issues. Many of the human rights stories reported on human rights tribunal rulings on a variety of issues related to religion, but some related to persecution of Christians overseas.
Although CC.com focuses on Canadian Christian news, 15 stories had a significant ‘international’ element (as Canadian Christians related to a variety of countries other than the United States). Islam featured prominently in seven of the stories; again, Islam would not have been so prominent a generation ago. Nine stories included interaction with Native peoples.
Twelve stories had a strong focus on ministry; some were profiles of the ministries of individuals or organizations. Thirteen stories had an education component, eight dealt with social justice issues, and eight dealt with abuse issues (both Christian leaders accused of abuse and Christian ministries trying to stop abuse).
CC.com also took note of what was going on in the media. Six stories dealt with books (both individual books and problems in the book industry). Five stories dealt with movies, two with television, eight with music, two with magazines and one with video games.
Apparently beliefs still matter in church. Twenty-one stories had a significant theological component. Some stories were mainly about theological issues, but many of the stories about the Anglican schism also had a strong theological component, for instance. Four stories dealt with worship, and four dealt with evangelism. It is likely that evangelism would have been more prominent a generation ago. One of the evangelism stories looked back at the career of evangelist Billy Graham, and another at the smuggling of Bibles into China a quarter-century ago.
See State of the Canadian Church — 2008.