Living as a Christian in Canada’s “New Orthodoxy”
The experience of living out one’s Christian faith in Canada has changed over the past several years.
One person that has seen this progressive shift firsthand is Bruce J. Clemenger, Senior Ambassador and President Emeritus of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). During his 30-plus years serving with the EFC, 20 years as President, and through his firsthand work on Parliament Hill and his supervision of over 60 court cases, Clemenger witnessed the cultural and societal shift in the way Christianity is viewed in Canada and the influence it has on the nation.
This shift towards what he describes as a new orthodoxy in Canada has and will continue to impact the way Christians today live as a beacon of light for the gospel in Canada. It’s why this important topic will be Clemenger’s focus at this year’s Ministry Leadership Day at Heritage College & Seminary, happening on Thursday, March 30.
He explains that it is essential for pastors and ministry leaders to understand what is happening in the cultural landscape so they can properly equip their congregations to live faithfully amid this unique, national context.
“Jesus expects his followers to be able to read the signs of the times in order to anticipate and prepare for challenges and opportunities,” says Clemenger. “Living in a religiously diverse society requires us to understand the gods, idols, philosophies, and ideologies of our times so that we are able to engage faithfully and not be swayed or unknowingly absorb the beliefs and patterns that prevail in our society.”
It is also essential for churches to understand the cultural perspective in Canada because of the impact that it is already having on evangelical Christians today. Clemenger titles this new perspective as a new orthodoxy—or a set of doctrines and commitments that are increasingly shaping not only government policy and influencing Canadian society. From the rapid expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying policies to societal views on topics like human sexuality and the freedom of conscience and religion, he says this new orthodoxy has not only influenced societal thinking, but adherence to these values has become an expectation.
According to Rick Hiemstra, Director of Research and Media Relations at the EFC—who will also be presenting at Ministry Leadership Day—this new orthodoxy has even influenced how evangelicals approach and understand evangelism.
“Evangelicals often feel evangelism is improper or impolite or harmful even as they deal with the cognitive dissonance of at the same time believing they should share their faith,” says Hiemstra. “This results in all kinds of outreach that skirt around any kind of propositional proclamation of Christ or a call to give one’s life to Christ.”
Though this cultural landscape comes with significant challenges, Clemenger says there is hope for the church in Canada today to continue to be a beacon of light for the gospel. He believes that if the church is faithful to live as the body of Christ and as witnesses of the coming Kingdom, in and through our life together and our ministry to others, we can point this culture to Christ.
“Amidst a culture that champions individual autonomy and choice, and in a time of polarization, uncertainty, and angst, the church body of Christ offers an alternative community of fellowship, hope, and belonging which honours the dignity of all and calls each to repentance and a new life in Christ,” says Clemenger. “Our witness is truly counter-cultural as we live as citizens of God’s kingdom and bear witness to God’s goodness, love, and grace.”