Before we weigh in on the wonderful week that was our Banff Conference let’s deal with some of the backwash of the American election. The big news from down south was not who won or lost but the discussion about what role faith played in it. There are particular comments on the role of Evangelicals. Americans consider themselves a religious nation where reportedly over 40% go to church on a given Sunday… That would mean almost 120 million people… Trouble with that statement is that it is not true. The truth is probably closer to 17-18% of Americans go to church which doesn’t tell you a lot except that they are a nation that self-describe as particularly pious but like the rest of us don’t quite make the mark. In May 2015, Christianity Today reported on a Pew research on Christianity in America comparing 2007 to 2014. The 2 surprising things about the report (there are a lot more than 2) were firstly that 50% of American Christians reported themselves as Evangelical (up from 44%, and Pew describes, sort of, what Evangelical means). Secondly, a lot of mainline Catholic and Orthodox folk consider themselves Evangelicals as well. You need to read the whole article to get the drift but it is fascinating. The reason why we bother to talk about religion in American is that American Christianity unfortunately dominates the religious narrative to a far greater extent than it should (or deserves). Second and third world Christians feel the necessity to individuate from American faith as well.
Now to Banff… We had an excellent time with over 220 present and an outstanding gathering of leaders and presenters. We began on Monday night with an incredible time of storytelling and music with Cheryl Bear. Cheryl was introduced by her friend Mark Buchanan. Our Tuesday and Wednesday Bible Studies were led by Iain Provan, New Testament Professor from Regent College, taking our theme verses of Genesis 1:31 and John 3:16. I taught the Thursday study seeking to encourage us to live by the Fruit of the Spirit as not simply an antidote for the age we live in but a repudiation of so much of its crude values. Don Hutchinson spoke to us about Canadian Christians in the legal challenges of our times. Matt Wilkinson from CBOQ led us into strategic and new horizons in youth and family ministries nationwide. Anna Robbins challenged us about the role and engagement of Christ’s Church in culture, and in particular our tendency to respond with fear or complacency to those cultural challenges. Lastly, Sam Breakey engaged us to critically and open-heartedly reflect on the renewal of Christ’s Church both across the West and in our own community.
This was an unusually rich experience which included 10 sessions most of which will be available in audio files on our website in the weeks ahead. We were prompted to reflect on our indigenous sisters and brothers; We were challenged by the God who loves humanity and the world he has created; We were provoked to come out of hiding as the invisible church; We were asked to recognize the true framework and opportunities of Christian freedom in this country and elsewhere; and we were invited with Matt on a journey with children and families. I am thankful for all this.