Our Historical Roots … Baptists & The Baptist General Conference in Canada
In the late 1500’s and early 1600’s Christianity experienced a vital and dynamic movement that swept across England known as the Puritan movement. Out of this awakening, which attempted to bring revival to the Church of England (Anglican Church), the fledgling Baptist movement emerged. Baptist pioneers such as John Bunyan (1628-1688) led in the birth of the Baptist Church. After a time of theological and evangelical struggle, great men of the faith such as Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), William Carrey (the father of the modern missionary movement), Johnathan Edwards (1703-1758), and Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) championed the Baptist convictions of:
1. The supreme authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and lifestyle.
2. Salvation by grace alone through faith.
3. Immersion as an act of faith by a born-again Christian (believer’s baptism).
4. Separation from those who promote and follow serious doctrinal error.
5. Individual freedom to choose Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (rather than forcing people to ‘believe’ through political, physical, or religious coercion).
6. Holiness in lifestyle and daily surrender as a requirement of authentic Christianity (more than a mere agreement with theological ideas).
The Baptist movement reached Canadian soil in 1778 when the first Canadian Baptist Church was formed in Horton, Nova Scotia. The Baptist General Conference churches in Canada had their beginning in the Swedish immigration movement to Canada in the early 1800’s. Grant Memorial Baptist Church in Winnipeg is our oldest surviving pioneer church. It began in 1894 and was responsible for starting five daughter churches in’- Manitoba and western Ontario. These five churches formed the Central Canada Baptist Conference, a district of the Baptist General Conference of Canada (BGC).
The BGC moved into British Columbia in the early 1920’s when the First Baptist Church of Matsqui was planted. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, many of the BGC churches began to hold their services in English rather than Swedish, and some of the smaller rural churches were amalgamated with others as roads and transportation improved.
A new vision for missions and church planting was born in the BGC in 1944, completing the ethnically Swedish era and launching the Conference into a period of tremendous growth. Dr. Donald McGavran, the founder of the modern church growth movement once said that the Baptist General Conference is one of the few groups coming from an ethnic background which has shown significant growth.
In retrospect, there are three primary reasons why the Baptist General Conference of Canada was born. The first and initial motivation was the desire for fellowship across the nation. A second issue, entirely external, was the new regulation on the part of Revenue Canada requiring Canadian charities to organize and control their funds. Above and beyond both these issues arose a third, far more important issue perhaps though not so clearly understood initially. It had to do with our responsibility to Canada as a nation. None of us really addressed that issue because we all focused only on our particular districts. We were primarily provincial in our outlook. Few of us at the time had a national view or a national dream. We didn’t even know the true spiritual state of our nation.
We needed a new vision for Canada. That vision was born in 1981. The vision has been growing ever since. By God’s grace, the BGC wants to be a part of seeing this great nation reclaimed for the Lord. Our vision for the future is to plant vibrant growing reproducing churches that reach this nation with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ.