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The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 815-817

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Christianity in Canada: Historical Essays. By John S. Moir. Edited by Paul Laverdure. (Yorkton, Saskatchewan: Redeemer's Voice Press. 2002. Pp. xix, 187. $14.95 paperback.) [End Page 815]

The seminal ideas of well-known Canadian historian John S. Moir are brought together in one volume by two of his former students. Paul Laverdure, the author of Redemption and Renewal: The Redemptorists of English Canada, 1834-1994, has edited Professor Moir's principal essays and speeches from his productive academic career spanning forty years. And Mark G. McGowan, author of the Waning of the Green: Catholics, the Irish, and Identity in Toronto, 1887-1922, has summarized in the foreword the importance of Moir's work in Canadian religious historiography. The essays of John S. Moir offer a rewarding reflection on the genesis of professionalization in Canadian religious history.

Christianity in Canada examines the major Protestant denominations which are found to be in the vanguard of Canadian indigenization and the formation of national churches. The Catholic tradition is recognized to be a stalwart historical force stabilizing the Canadian establishment.

In the first essays Moir isolates what he considers to be the main determinants in the search for a Christian Canada: the centrality of churches in the making of Canada, the sense of mission among both Protestants and Catholics, the gradual indigenization of Canadian churches, the general solidarity of the major denominations, and the social activism of both Catholics and Protestants. These determinants are immensely beneficial, but it would have been helpful if Moir had further explored the methodological implications of the Catholic Church as an international religion and the Protestant churches as national religions.

Moir singles out the importance of Canadianization for Protestam denominations. After Confederation in 1867, it became imperative that various congregations leave their parochialism behind to embody the vision of a national church. The Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists were more easily moved toward the goal of national churches than the smaller denominations of the Congregationalists, Lutherans, Mennonites, and Tunkers.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, Canadian anti-revolutionary ideology of the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Catholics minimized the influence of American reformers. Yet American religions did influence Canadian denominations toward the reforms of voluntarism and temperance. For instance, Upper Canadian Egerton Ryerson steered the Christian Guardian between Tory conservatism and liberal republicanism and advocated North American voluntarism and equality for all Christians. American revolutionary influences are seen today north of the border as Canadians go about secularizing their schools and churches.

A Canadian model which was very beneficial for North America, Moir points out, was the public funding of religious schools in Ontario and Quebec. The negotiations by Protestant and Catholic legislators during the period leading up to Canadian Confederation provided funding for religious schools. Ontario provided separate schools for Catholics, and Quebec provided religious instruction in schools for Protestants. Separate schools in Ontario and Protestant schools in Quebec became the Canadian symbol of twentieth-century co-operation between [End Page 816] church and state in the period of secularism stemming from the French Revolution.

Dealing with the complexity of many ecclesial histories, Moir's essay on the historiography of Canadian churches is wonderfully synthetic and an excellent overview. It could have been updated to include such new volumes as Lucien Campeau's edition of the Jesuit Relations, Neil Semple's The Lord's Dominion: The History of Canadian Methodism, and other significant volumes published since 1991. An index would have been helpful. Paul Laverdure is to be commended for making these core essays on Canadian church history available at an excellent price. Students and interested readers can easily afford to have their own copy.


Terence J. Fay, S.J.
St. Augustine's Seminary
Toronto School of Theology
University of Toronto



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