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Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Presbyterian Church in Canada is the Canadian Presbyterian church. Its roots can be traced back to Scottish settlers and French Huguenots and the first presbyterian churches formed in the early 1600s. In 1925, many Canadian Presbyterians joined the United Church of Canada; the name "Continuing Presbyterians" was used until legal rights to the name were permitted in 1939.
Background and roots
In 1759, when Great Britain gained full control of the French colony of New France, at the Plains of Abraham outside of the walled Citadel of Quebec, there was a Scottish Battalion, the 78th Fraser Highlanders , complete with a Presbyterian chaplain, Reverend Robert MacPherson. This group eventually became the roots of St. Andrew's Church in Quebec City.
In the colony of Nova Scotia the Presbyterians were initially Reformed settlers of Germanic roots, who started St. Andrew 's in Lunenburg in 1753 (joined Church of Scotland Nova Scotia Synod in 1837). In Truro, First United Church (Presbyterian until 1925) was founded in 1760 by Scottish settlers. St. James Presbyterian Church was formed in 1925 by the minority that did not join the United Church. In Halifax, St. Matthew's, dates back to 1749 as a "Dissenting Protestant Worship House", and adhered to Presbyterian polity at a later date; The Presbyterian Church of St. David is another 1925 "Minority Group" from within downtown Halifax congregations including St Matthew's, and celebrates its 80th Anniversary in 2005, meeting in the former Grafton Street Methodist (1869) building, acquired in their early days.
After the departure of the Thirteen American Colonies from British North America, there was an increase in population within the Canadas, divided in 1791 into Upper Canada (now called Ontario) and Lower Canada (now called Quebec), including most of the previously populated areas of the New France colony, and within the Maritimes, including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
Early Clergy represented many strands of reformed theology, and were educated in Scotland, Ireland, and the United States. Initial attempts at forming native Presbyteries were futile. American influences in the Canadas, came first from Dutch Reformed missionaries from New York State, and later American Presbyterians from many different Presbyterian groupings.
Congregations were evenutally formed in many communities (initially townships over towns), and usually after a lengthy periods without any supply from Clergy (in the Red River Settlement in Manitoba, it took thirty years); in many cases, family worship consisted of devotions and catechisms.
Two events led to the departure of American support of Canadian Churches; The War of 1812 (1812-14), and the 1837 Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada; the latter resulted in political reform, and responsible government; Upper Canada became Canada West, Lower Canada into Canada East in 1841, until 1867.
In the Maritimes (now the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), the original Scots Presbyterians were from two parts of the Seccesionist United Presbyterian Church branch, and prior to their union in 1817 that created the Synod of Nova Scotia, there was the Associate Presbytery of Truro, erected in 1786, and the Presbytery of Pictou, erected in 1795. There were still Church of Scotland congregations and Ministers that remained outside this group, before its erection in Nova Scotia in 1825.
In 1811, Rev. Thomas McCulloch formed the Pictou Academy, which was the first educational school that aided in the training of Ministers. Some of the graduates travelled back to Scotland to continue their training. This led McCulloch to Halifax to teach, where Dalhousie University was eventually formed; Presbyterian College (Halifax), and later Pine Hill Seminary (United Church), that since 1971, is now part of the Atlantic School of Theology.
In 1818, The United Presbytery of the Canadas was formed, as a looser arrangement of Clergy supported by other groups. By 1839, this United Synod (at one time there were three Presbyteries) was absorbed by The Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connection with the Established Church of Scotland, erected into a Synod by the parent Church in 1831, bolstered with Missionaries supplied from The Glasgow Missionary Society. In 1834, This group began to receive a number of United Synod clergy and congregations, which led to the eventual union with the Auld Kirk in 1840.
In 1831, the United Associate Synod in Scotland (after 1847, the United Presbyterian Church) agreed to send Missionaries to the Canadas; three were appointed and arrived in 1832. On Christmas Day 1834, a Canadian Synod was erected, which also included congregations and Clergy from the aforementioned United Synod of the Canadas. A Theological College was started in London, Canada West in 1844, and this group merged with the Free Church (see below) in 1861.
In Toronto, the United Synod of Canada congregation (formed in 1820 and Rev. James Harris withdrew, and remained independent until 1844, when they joined with Free Church dissenters from the Church of Scotland's St Andrew's Toronto (formed in 1830, 175th Anniversary celebrated in March 2005) to form Knox Presbyterian Church, Toronto. The United Presbyterian Church started their own Toronto congregation in 1838.
The unity in the Church of Scotland Canada Synod following the United Synod merger was short-lived, but provided the oppertunity to establish a Theological College, Queen's College, in Kingston, Canada West in 1841 ; Queen's Theological College is now part of Queen's University, a Seminary of The United Church of Canada.
In June 1844, the Synod's meeting in Kingston, followed the situation that had affected the Scottish Assembly in 1843, as a group withdrew into forming a Free Church of Scotland Canadian Synod. By the following September, most of the Theological Students at Queen's had joined the Free Church, and and proceeded to Toronto and began Knox College, celebrating their 160th Anniversary in 2004-2005, on the grounds of the University of Toronto; they had merged with the United Presbyterian Church college in 1861, that had moved to Toronto from London in 1853.
In June 1861, the Canada Presbyterian Church was formed with the merger of the Canadian Synods of the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church . This became the dominant Presbyterian grouping in the Canadas, growing in cities, towns, villages, and even into The United States, including Illinois (Chicago, a French Community at St. Anne, and a Gaelic-speaking congregation in Elmira) and border cities in Michigan, and New York State, as well as into the Canadian Northwest Territories with Rev. John Black to the Red River Settlement at Kildonan, and Rev. James Nisbet to Prince Albert. Robert Jamieson was sent by the inagural Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church from the York Mills and Fisherville charge near Toronto (The latter Church is now located in Toronto's Black Creek Pioneer Village, adjacent to a Manse from the oldest 1817 Toronto area congregation located in Richmond Hill) to the British Columbia colony, where he started congregations in New Westminster, Nanaimo, and in the Fraser Valley. After 1875, he joined with the Church of Scotland, until the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Burrard's Inlet (later Vancouver) in 1885, they rejoined (along with other congregations) the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
The Canadian Presbyterian Church started a second Theological College, The Presbyterian College, Montreal in 1867 (Charter granted 1865). Both Knox College and The Presbyterian College, Montreal remained with the Presbyterian Church in Canada after Church Union in 1925.
In the Maritime Provinces, colonies were set up in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, [Prince Edward Island]], and on Cape Breton Island. As in both Upper Canada and Lower Canada, there were various groups organizing congregations. The effects of the 1843 disruption in the Church of Scotland was felt in Nova Scotia; the colonial ministers were either invited back to Scotland, or they sided with the Free Church in Nova Scotia. The formal structure of the Church of Scotland was affected for a number of years.
In 1860, a year before a union occurred in the Canadas, The Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces, was created by the nerger of Free Church and United Presbyterian Church congregations in Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island, and in 1866, they were joined by their compatriots in New Brunswick.
In 1869, the Canada Presbyterian Church added another level to its growing Church structure--their Annual Synod became a General Assembly, and four smaller, regional Synods were formed; Montreal, serving both Quebec and Eastern Ontario, Toronto, Hamilton, and London, with congregations in the USA.
In 1875, the latter two Synods were merged into one, although those congregations that went into the United Church of Canada in 1925, found themselves once again in separate Hamilton and London Conferences (a Methodist name}. The first Moderator of the General Assembly of the Canada Presbyterian Church, Rev. William Ormiston, then of MacNab Street Church in Hamilton, Ontario, sent out letters at the end of his term, and as he was moving to serve a Dutch Reformed Church in New York City, for these groups to hold a conference of all strands of Presbyterianism in Canada. This conference was held in Montreal in September 1870, and led these four groups to a basis of Union, which in June 1874 saw the Canada Presbyterian Church General Assembly and Church of Scotland Canada Synod meet in Ottawa, where the proceedings were in the nearby Knox CPC and St. Andrew's Church of Scotland congregations.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada 1875-1925
+The Canada Presbyterian Church, (June 1861),
+The Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connection with the Established Church of Scotland, (1831),
+The Synod of the Presbyterian Church of the Maritme Provinces of British North America , (1867), and
+The Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces, (1866),
representing many of the parallel events and controversies within the Church of Scotland joined together to form; The Presbyterian Church in Canada, in Montreal's Victoria Hall; Ice Hockey enthusiasts will be interested to note that the first Stanley Cup was awarded in this very building in 1893.
Although there were a number of Church of Scotland congregations in the Martimes, as well as St. Andrew's Montreal, and a few others in Glengarry County Ontario, that resisted this union; many of these eventually entered the PCC into the early 20th Century; In 1918, The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal was created with the merger of this prime congregation, still affiliated with the Church of Scotland; In 1932, they moved onto Sherbroke Street, and celebrated their bicentennary in 2002,
As a united group, the PCC grew across Canada in the established areas, and expanded into newly settled parts. Manitoba, established as a Province in 1870, had been settled in The Red River-Selkirk Settlement, and had established a congregation in Kildonan in 1818; they waited 30 years for a Minister, John Black, supplied from the Free Church in Canada, after he served as a Missionary to the French in Canada East near Montreal. He was later joined by Rev. James Nisbet formerly of Oakville and Trafalgar Township, Canada West, who then established a territorial outpost in Prince Albert now Saskatchewan) Northwest Territories. James Robertson, a minister from Oxford County, Ontario was first called (1873) to a congregation in Winnipeg, and in 1881 was appointed as Missions Superintendent, where he provided leadership and growth to new settlers, Student Ministers, Ordained Missionaries, and congregations. Manitoba College started in Kildonan in 1871, received support from both Canadian churches prior to 1875, and at the 1883 General Assembly, their Moderator Rev. Dr. John Mark King (from St. James Square Church Toronto, now called St. James-Bond United Church) was called to become their Principal. With the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada, development and settlement of the Western Canada began, from Manitoba, and by 1905, the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were formed. Separate Synods were also erected from Manitoba and the Northwest for Saskatchewan, and Alberta (and the Northwest) was divided by the British Columbia Synod (part of Manitoba and the Northwest until 1890s).
With the deaths of King (1899) and Robertson (1901), their respective successors led in the cause of Church Union with other Protestant bodies, including Anglicans and Baptists, that culminated in the formation of the United Church of Canada with an almost unamimous grouping of the Methodist and Congregationalist Churches in Canada, on June 10 1925.
On June 9, 1925, the group consisting of those Presbyterian congregations, and a number of Minority Groups which did not concur with Church Union into the United Church of Canada, met for Prayer just before Midnight in Toronto's Knox Presbyterian Church; not too far from College Street Presbyterian (now United) Church, where the final sederunt of the 1925 General Assembly had concluded earlier in the day. 79 dissenting Commissioners, and others, had come to resume the "continuing" Presbyterian Church. They were led by Rev. Dr. David George MacQueen, a former Moderator (1912) and longtime minister (1887-1930) of First Church (1881) in Edmonton, Alberta, who constituted the group into the "continuing" General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. After adjourning early in the hours of June 10, they reconvened as the General Assembly, but also into a Congress at St Andrew's Church Toronto; these two named congregations provided much of the input and support to the Presbyterian Church Association, in the fight against Church Union.
The "continuing Presbyterians" title remained until 1939. About 30% of the former Presbyterians remained separate from the United Church at the time of the divide, although debate still continues over the actual vote!
In Western Canada, the losses also included Theological Colleges:
In Winnipeg, Manitoba College, started in 1871 in Kildonan, and moved to Winnipeg in 1874, began their theological studies with the aformentioned appointment of Dr. King in 1883. It merged with Wesley Collge in 1938 to become United College, and is now part of the University of Winnipeg.
In Vancouver, Westminster Hall (1908), was merged in 1927 with Ryerson College (Methodist) and the Congregational College of British Columbia to create United College, now part of Vancouver School of Theology (1971), located on the University of British Columbia campus St Andrew's Hall, part of the PCC's prescence at the University of British Columbia since 1956 joined with VST in the 1980s,
In Edmonton, Alberta, Robertson College 1912, and named after the aforenentioned Missions Superintendent, merged with Alberta (Methodist) College to become St Stephen's College after 1925. It is located on the University of Alberta campus. In Saskatoon, the Presbyterian College, Saskatoon (1914), became St Andrew's College in 1925. It is located on the University of Saskatchewan campus. In 2000, these latter colleges merged administrativly, while remaining in both Saskatoon and Edmonton respectively, and become known as The College of St. Andrew's and St. Stephen's
After 1925, the "rebuilding" was slowed in the 1930s by the Great Depression, and the Second World War. Following 1945, there was a time for expansion, with urban growth, and immigration, especially from Presbyterian strongholds as Scotland and Ireland, as well as Presbyterian and Reformed Church members from the Netherlands, Hungary, and more recently, Korea, where two "Han Ca" Korean Presbyteries have been erected.
Missions and International Partnerships
The Presbyterian Church in Canada has also had a international prescence; as well as with congregations in Newfoundland, before their entry into Canadian Confederation in 1949, St Andrew's in Hamilton, Bermuda was affiliated with the Maritime churches from 1842 to 1963, when it's Presbyterial oversight was transferred to the West Toronto Presbytery, and many congregations have people from many other nations and cultures that have come to Canada.
Foreign Missionaries, or more recently, International Partners, share the Witness around the world. Before 1875, Atlantic Canada sent John Geddie and the Gordon Brothers (George N. and James D., both martyred) from Prince Edward Island to the New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu in the South Pacific, John Morton to Trinidad, and later, partners into neighbouring Demerara, part of present-day Guyana.
In 1871, The Canada Presbyterian Church sent George Leslie MacKay of Zorra Township , Oxford County, Ontario, to Formosa, which has been maintained to this date in connection with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Fellow Oxford County native Jonathan Goforth initially went to Honan China, Dr. John Buchannan into India, James Scarth Gale went to Korea (sponsored by the YMCA), Japan saw Caroline Macdonald, "The White Angel of Tokyo" (YWCA), and after 1927, when Luther Lisgar Young and others partnered with The Korean Christian Church of Japan. Some changes were made after Church Union, as Goforth left Honan, to conclude his Asian Ministry in Manchuria, the aforementioned L.L. Young went from Korea to Japan. The later Pacific occupation by Japan, followed by Mao's "cultural revolution" in China, forced temporary and permanent departures from some Asian fields, including Taiwan, Japan, and Manchuria.
Since 1954, Nigeria, where Mary Slessor had pioneered a generation before with a Scottish Church, and whose story was well known in many Canadian congregations, opened the door for PCC service in Africa. Richard Fee, Moderator of the 130th General Assembly, held in Oshawa Ontario in June 2004, spent his early ministry in Nigeria, before assuming his Canadian role (1992-2005), first with Presbyterian World Service and Development, and now as the nominee for the role of General Secretary, Life and Mission Agency. Malawi, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Cameroon, Lesotho, and the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius are other African nations that have also been partnered with the PCC, which also serves in Central America (Guyana is also included here, having been an offshoot of the Mission to Trinidad started by Nova Scotian Rev. John Morton in 1865), and more recently, in Eastern Europe, since the 1990s.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada has also been involved with relations between other Christian Churches. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches was formed in 1875 (then known as the Alliance of the Reformed Churches holding the Presbyterian System), and was well represented by Canadians, who hosted the Fifth General Council in Toronto in 1892, as well as in Montreal in 1937, and Ottawa, Ontario in 1982. The Canadian Council of Churches , as well as The World Council of Churches, saw the PCC join as a Charter Member in 1944 and 1948 respectivily. The World Council of Churches held their Sixth Assembly in Vancouver, BC, in August 1983.
At present there are about 1000 congregations across the country. As a result of early settlement, as well as post WW II urbanization, and resistance to the 1925 church union, Southern Ontario has a great number of Congregations, Presbyteries and Synods.
The General Assembly, held yearly since 1875 around the first week of June, has recently been held in a number of centres in Southern Ontario and Quebec. The number of delegates or Commissioners to the General Assembly is determined by one-sixth of the Ministers of the Ministers on the Presbytery roll and an equal number of Elders being Commissioned, in rotation from every congregation or Pastoral Charge. Every decade, there is an attempt to hold the General Assembly in other parts of the Country: On June 5, 2005, First Church in Edmonton, Alberta, will be the location of the Opening of the 131st General Assembly; the Reverend Jean Morris, of Calgary, Alberta is the Moderator Elect; her father, the Rev. Dr. J.J. Harrold Morris was moderator in 1989, and grew up in the First Congregation. In 1996, Charlottetown,PEI, were the hosts, as was Vancouver, BC in both 1957 and 1989, and Halifax in 1971.
There are Congregations, Missions, and Preaching Points in each Canadian Province, as well as the aforementioned St Andrew's Church in Hamilton, Bermuda.
Communication has been an important role in the Presbyterian Church. Before 1875, every group had some sort of journal for communication, as well as active contributions in the mainstream press. In January 1876, the Presbyterian Record, a merger of the Church of Scotland's Presbyterian (since 1848), and the Canada Presbyterian Church's Record (and predecessors in the United Presbyterian and Free Church), began operations that continue monthly (except August) to the present time. There is also Glad Tidings, the publication of the Womens Missionary Society (formerly WMS Western Division) pulishing since 1925, and the Presbyterian Message, from the Atlantic Missionary Society (formerly W.M.S. Eastern Division); along with Channels, a regular publication since 1983, from the Renewal Fellowship Within the Presbyterian Church in Canada; and Presbyterian History; Newsletter of the Committee of History, published since 1957.
For a more accurate description please visit Presbyterian Church in Canada's overview.
Presbyterian churches in Canada
Synod Websites (functioning)
Presbytery Websites (functioning)
have functioning Presbytery websites.
Sources: In 2004, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada declared that "Enduring Witness (Third Edition) by John S. Moir (2004) be recognized as the official history of the denomination" (The Acts and Proceedings, page 24, motion, page 308). This book has been VERY helpful for this ONGOING review, and is available from the PCC Bookroom (Link available from PCC homepage).
Other sources and links will also be provided; the availability of such resources might be harder to find.
- Moir, John S. Enduring Witness. Ist Edition 1975 2nd Edition, 1987.
- Bailey, T. Melville, The Covenant in Canada, 1975.
- Bailey, T. Melville, Wee Kirks and Stately Steeples, History of the Presbytery of Hamilton, Ontario, 1990.
- Bailey, T. Melville, and Palmer, William K., Schissler, J. Phillip, and Campbell C. Glenn, The Presbytery of Hamilton, 1837-1967.
- Clifford, N. Keith, The Resistance to Church Union, 1982.
- Congram, John D., This Presbyterian Church of Ours, 1995.
- Fraser, Brian J., Church, college, and clergy; a history of theological education at Knox College 1844-1994, 1995.
- Gregg, William, History of the Presbyterian Church in the Dominion of Canada, from the earliest days until 1834, 1885.
- Gregg, William, Short History of the Presbyterian Church in the Dominion of Canada, 1892.
- Klempa, William J (ed)., The Burning Bush and a Few Acres of Snow; The Presbyterian Contribution to Canadian Life and Culture, 1994.
- Markell, H. Keith, The History of Presbyterian College, Montreal 1865-1986, 1986.
- MacBeth, R. G. The Burning Bush in Canada, 1927.
- MacKinnon, Archibald. History of the Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, 1975.
- MacMillan, Donald N. The Kirk in Glengarry. A History of the Presbytery of Glengarry, 1787-1984.
- McNab, John, They Went Forth. 1933, revised 1955.
- McNab, John, and MacKenzie, F. Scott, Our Heritage and Our Faith, 1950. (McNab, Our Priceless Heritage, MacKenzie, The Essence of Our Faith--75th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
- McNeill, John T. The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1925.
- Moir, John S., Early Presbyterianism in Canada, essays by John S. Moir, edited by Paul Laverdure, 2003.
- Scott, Ephraim, Church Union and the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1928.
- Smith, Neil G., Farris, Allen L., Markell, H. Keith (editors)., A Short History of the Presbyterian Church in Canada; Centennial Committee (Canada's), Committee on Church History, 1967.
- Twentieth Century Fund, Historic Sketches of the Pioneer Work and the Missionary, Educational and Benevolent Agencies of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1903.
- The Presbyterian Record (inc) Periodical. Specific Sources--Rev. Stephen Hayes, Article, October 2004, pp 27. Barry Cahill, letter, December 2004. pp 6.
- Canadian Society of Presbyterian History, various papers 1975-2004.
- Called to Witness, biographical sketches in four volumes 1977, 1980, (Edited by W Stanford Reid) 1991, 1999. (Edited by John S. Moir).
- Enkindled by the Word, Essays on Presbyterianism in Canada (Centennial Committee of the PCC), 1966.
- Gifts and Graces, Profiles of Presbyterian Women, 1999, 2002. (Edited by John S. Moir)
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