email interview with Damian Macpherson, director for interfaith affairs, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto

1. What are the main challenges and issues the Canadian church is facing? How are we doing at dealing with those challenges and issues?

Across the board a sustained concern for Canadian churches is the crisis or loss of active membership of it's constituents. Christian leadership has not been successful in resolving the down turn in church attendance, which has been in effect for some time. Some ecclesiastic communities feel the burden of this reality more than others do.

From a Roman Catholic perspective, institutional loyalty seems to be in decline and this can be identified by a continued weekly decline in church attendance. Today Catholics are less likely to feel guilty for not having attended Sunday Eucharist.

At the same time, baptized Roman Catholics are less likely to abandon their roots. The sacraments, such as baptism, first Eucharist, Penance and marriage frequently bring lapsed Catholics to the Church despite their inactivity. Often enough when this happens, parish leadership teams will attempt to create a genuine outreach program in order to provide a welcoming environment for such people.

2. What are the bright spots, encouraging trends, and new movements in Canadian Christianity? How will the Canadian church and Canadian society change in the future? What future trends and issues will we have to deal with?

Christians must always be citizens of hope and for others, ambassadors for the same.

More than thirty years ago the renowned Roman Catholic Theologian, Karl Rahner acknowledged that the future of Christianity will numerically see a smaller public confession of faith, which at the same time will bring a stronger response to the Gospel. Rahner's prediction or prophecy appears to be taking shape.

3. What is the character of the Canadian church? What distinguishing characteristics does it have? What are its strengths and weakness? Is this changing?

It would take a dissertation to adequately respond to such inquiries.

I am not sure there is such a thing as "the Canadian church." We do have the Canadian Council of Churches. This it reminds us that there is no Canadian church.

Today churches and ecclesial communities within Canada do experience some relatively new stress points related to new and emerging moral questions. This makes it increasingly difficult for a common voice of Christianity to prevail.

4. How is the church doing quantitatively? How committed are church members? Are churches generally optimistic, pessimistic, fearful, expectant discouraged, energized, complacent, disinterested, etc.?

Challenged, I would say is the hallmark of the mission and ministry of those churches and ecclesial communities who seek to respond to the gospel. My best guess is that some Christian communities are more, even much more, optimistic that others.

My impression is that for those who are active participants they are committed, but at the same time are vocal and critical of some of the practices, positions, teachings of their Church or denomination

5. What is the sate of the church in Canada numerically, both in terms of the number of church members and the number of Christians . . .

This is a statistical response already calculated elsewhere.

6. What is the attitude of the larger Canadian society to Christianity? Is this changing? In what ways? What impact is secularism having? What is the character of Canadian society generally, how is it changing, and what impact is that having on the church?

Increasingly Christianity is being called upon to recognize and identify the value and importance of world religions, especially Islam. Although a significant minority within Canada a new awareness of the importance of Islam is not something that can be ignored. Unfortunately Christians, in general, remain uninformed about the religion of Islam. Most get their information form the CBC and CNN. Canadian Christians need a catechizes or teaching about the fundamental beliefs of Islam.

I believe, for example Christians and believers in Islam would share a common belief that we are being threatened by the ternary of secularism, which leaves little or no room for our common belief in one God.

7. What is the ethnic makeup of the church in Canada and what impact is immigration having on Canada?

Roman Catholic immigrants have changed the face of the church, for example, in the archdiocese of Toronto, where Italians once the ethnic majority has now given way to Asians.

In general immigration has done much to increased Roman Catholic membership.

8. Are we converting immigrants to Christ?

The Roman Catholic Church does not prostelize, that is, actively seek the conversion of other.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is committed to active evangelization and those who respond are welcomed as members of the Catholic Church.

Are we winning our children or losing them?

I believe the children of whom you speak make their own independent effort to respond to the gospel, often in non-traditional ways. For a time it may seem that we have lost them, yet as events such as marriage and family life become their responsibility there often is a reexamination of what is important, even essential, in their lives and religion is commonly acknowledged as a needed part of that evaluation.

9. What are the most important moral issues that the churches will be wrestling with in the next few years?

From an ecumenical point of view, these issues are clear and they are presently haunting the Anglican Communion throughout the world.

No, the question of abortion has not finally been laid to rest. It is my impression that this issue will remain in the forefront, especially in the United States.

10. What can and should the church be doing in these areas?

Respect and protection for life, from conception to the death and dying of all individuals is among the highest moral priorities within the Roman Catholic Church.