In the spotlight today is the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies, and we’re talking with Dr. Gordon Heath, who serves as a Director along with Dr. Lee Beach and Dr. Steven Studebaker.
Why does MDC have a centre for post-Christendom studies?
This is the air we breathe. Pastors today are in a new world that has shifted significantly since their seminary days. In the landscape of Canadian culture, Christianity no longer enjoys the privilege and access to power that it once did and has instead been relegated to the margins of society. At MDC, we desire to find ways to help pastors and ministry leaders chart a way forward for effective and relevant ministry.
What is “Post-Christendom?”
Post-Christendom refers to places, both now and in the past, where Christianity was once the predominant religion. Sometimes “Christendom” refers to the official link between church and state. The term “post-Christendom” is often associated with the rise of secularization, religious pluralism, and multiculturalism in western countries over the past sixty years. Our use of the term is broader than that however. Egypt for example can be considered a post-Christendom context. It was once a leading center of Christianity, with the majority of citizens identifying as Christians. In that sense, the church’s experience in Egypt is an experience of post-Christendom—it is a shift from a cultural context in which Christians have more or less freedom to exercise their faith to one where they are persecuted and/or marginalized for doing so.
What is the scope of this phenomenon, is it unique to Canada?
This isn’t just a trend in Canada, but the Canadian context has unique influences which make it important for us to look at, in contrast with how it has unfolded elsewhere in the world. Globally, there are some areas where Christianity is experiencing incredible growth and influence–but the church in the West has over time become marginalized to the point where our views can be offensive to others around us. Our interest is understanding and responding to what’s happening in Canada, and our resources are intended to be of practical use for the church in Canada in particular, and the western world in general.
So in your opinion, is the church in Canada experiencing persecution?
No, not persecuted–there are many Christians in the world that face real persecution. We face a shift in power and public perception, not persecution. The shift presents new opportunities for the church not to rely on the privileges we once enjoyed. Instead of going head to head against these forces to somehow win back our privilege, churches can instead find innovative ways to engage with people in our current situation.
Ultimately, our goal is to help ministry leaders answer the question, “How do I do ministry now?”
Are these resources free, and where can people go to find more information?
The Centre maintains a blog at pcs.mcmasterdivinity.ca and each year we compile the peer-reviewed Post-Christendom Studies Journal that is free to view online or can be ordered in hard copy. For more information, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org