Vol 1 No. 21 Christian Demographics

I mentioned in my earlier newsletter that I had met with other Executive and Area Ministers from other Baptist groups in Canada.

The meeting was held in Edmonton under the leadership of Jamey McDonald who is the Baptist General of Conference of Canada Executive Director. As part of the two day meeting we met with Reginald Bibby the University of Lethbridge’s sociologist. Reg is well known to many of us as an effective and prolific writer of religion in Canada. He has been enormously helpful in challenging the popular media’s cultural dismissal of the Christian faith in Canadian society. A reading of Bibby’s latest book, Restless Churches, gives a picture of a healthy, growing and energizing Christian faith at the beginning of this new century. Reg is also known as a former Baptist Union minister and more importantly, for me personally, he was a counselor (and Ken Hilmer the director) at Gull Lake Camp where I became a Christian. More of Bibby in this newsletter later…let’s go back to the other Baptist groups in Canada.


There are five main Baptist groups in Canada:


Group         # of Churches Sunday Attendance

BGC Canada 100 14,000

NAB Conf 126 22,434

South. Bapts (Canada) 206 11,446

Fellow. of Evang. Bapts 503 86,299

Baptist Union/Ontario & Quebec/Atlantic

Baptist Conv ON & QC 1050 143,000


Why so many Baptists? There are many answers to that question, some of them not very flattering to those of us who call ourselves Baptists. The simple “e-mail” version is in Canada the variety of Baptists have been determined by ethnicity and theology. While this is a wild oversimplification it touches on the basis of these groups and not necessarily their configuration today.

The Baptist General Conference comes out of the Swedish tradition and the North American Baptists out of the German tradition. These two groups along with a very strong Ukrainian cohort were originally part of the Baptist Union. The Southern Baptists represent both an ethno-cultural perspective along with (in the last two decades) a more conservative theology. The fellowship evolves out of a split with mainstream (not to be confused with mainline) Baptist life in the 1920’s and are also more conservative in culture and theology. That’s a thumbnail sketch. So what does it rear?

To begin with what statistical place do these groups have in Canadian society?


Canada’s Top 12 Religions Groups in 2001 

1. Roman Catholic 12,936,910 45%

2. United Church   2,839,125 12%

3. Anglican   2,035,500   8%

4. Christian (unspecified)     780,450   3%

5. Baptist     729,475   3%

6. Eastern Orthodox     606,620   2%

7. Lutheran     606,590   2%

8. Muslim     579,640   2%

9. Protestant (unspecified)     549,205   2%

10. Presbyterian     409,830   1%

11. Pentecostal     369,480   1%

12. Jewish     329,995   1%

(Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census)


(Note: These are minimum numbers as the totals represent how people “self describe”. In other words, someone may go to a Mennonite, Pentecostal or Baptist church but not describe themselves as such. Non- affiliation language is a popular method of church planting while by-passing perceived regular cultural labels associated with a specific denomination.)


How many churches does that represent?


Number of Churches & Affiliates

Religious Groups Approx. No. Churches No. of Affiliates

Roman Catholic 6000           12,900,000


Mainline Protestants 8800 5,892,000

United Church 3800 2,839,000

Anglican 3000 2,036,000

Lutheran 1000   607,000

Presbyterian 1000   410,000


Conservative Protestants 9800 2,776,000

Alliance   380     66,000

Baptists 2000   729,000

Evangel Missionary   300     67,000

Free Methodist   130     14,000

Mennonite   550   191,000

Nazarene   170     14,000

Pentecostal 2000   369,000

Reformed   270   116,000

Salvation Army                         380     88,000

Wesleyan     80     12,000

Other 1500   330,000

Non-denominational 2000   780,000

(Source: Yearbook of American and Canadian Statistics, Statistics Canada 2001 Census)


There are some basic observations we can make. There is a rise in the independent Christian movement in this country. There is also a rise in teens and adults going to church. In 1980, 16% of Protestant teens went to church and in 2000, 26% attended. 55% of Canadians expressed that they are receptive to being more involved in a church; 45% in British Columbia, 62% in the Prairies and an astonishing 59% of 18-34 year olds. (Source: Bibby Project Canada 2000).

What a time to be alive as a Christian in Canada. I’m not going to belabour these numbers today. I would however like to mention some things in brief.

I want to ask some open ended questions about some of these stats. If over 720,000 people call themselves Baptists why do only 268,000 (give or take a few) attend church? If more folk are attending church are we one of the churches they are seeking out God in? Are we removing extraneous barriers to people finding Jesus or is our church culture more important to us than the incarnation? When we love our own culture more than those in our community we realize how challenging the incarnation (God with us; Emmanuel) must have been for God.

This is a reflective time, not a “numbers game”. What has God called each of us to in the years ahead? Whatever God has called us to we live in exciting times and, if we are open, He will do much in us (reflective/spiritual formation) and through us (active/proclaimative).


Continuing in a fruitful Advent Season,


In Christ,

Jeremy Bell