“The Crisis of Faith in Fellowship in the United Church of Canada, 1950-1990”

“… how that initiative fared will shed light on some of the decisions related to mission and ministry that a number of denominations are now facing. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Phyllis D Airhart Emmanuel College, Victoria University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Ecumenical Protestantism’s model of the church is widely assumed to be failing, rejected by spiritual seekers in their escape from institutional forms of religion. In early Christianity, those who followed Bishop Cyprian’s lead dared to declare to the world that there is no salvation outside the church; today many wonder whether there is salvation inside it and are looking to find God in the world. My project explores some sources of that discontent with institutional religion in the calls for a “religionless” or “churchless” Christianity that surfaced after the Second World War. Designed to look at the United Church of Canada as a case study, it analyzes the shift in the understanding of God’s mission in the world and the critique of congregational ministry that accompanied it. Affirming that the world would set the agenda for the church, rather than the other way around, had significant ecclesiological consequences, with implications for the church both as an institution and as a fellowship responsible for socializing individuals to become part of a Christian community. It also left the United Church with a crisis of mission that came with the realization that a pluralistic world might be indifferent to its outreach.