2018 Conference – Thriving in Babylon

More than 100 Presbyterians and friends from coast to coast filled a sanctuary at Vaughan Community Church, Thornhill, Ontario, on April 20-21 for Thriving in Babylon, two days of encouragement and challenge for the Christ-centred, Bible-believing church.

Conference Participants

Note: PowerPoint slides of the presentations, several accompanied by audio recordings to be listened to in conjunction with the slides, may be found within the text below.

When the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they found themselves spiritually and morally challenged in a land in rebellion against God and His truth. Similarly, Christians in this uncertain period of a post-truth Canada feel increasingly isolated from culture and their community. Hence the name of the event: Thriving in Babylon. The purpose was to explore the opportunities evangelical Canadian Christians have in our present-day context and how we can thrive within it.

This spring conference took place on Friday and Saturday, April 20-21, 2018, at Vaughan Community Church, Thornhill, Ontario. It was held in co-operation with PSALT Ministries. It was a celebration of the evangelical church in Canada, with speakers, discussion, sharing, and fellowship. This event was open to people from all churches and denominations.

Conference Speakers

The theme on Friday, April 20, was Christian Living in a Secular World

  • Bruce Clemenger – President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada – Freedom and Faith in Canada – the challenges of freedom of religion in the Canadian context and the benefits of networking as evangelicals. PowerPoint slides
  • Rev. Dr. Warwick Cooper – Peoples’s Church – Evangelicals and the LGBTQ Relationship – insights into the improving relationships between evangelicals and the LGBTQ community. PowerPoint slidesResource List
  • Lee Beach, McMaster Divinity College professor and author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom, set the scene, directing us toward hope.
  • Gary Stagg, Open Doors Canada executive director, spoke about what we can learn about the experience of Christian oppression in other parts of the world. PowerPoint slides with presentation notes
  • Carmen Laberge, radio host, author, and president of the Presbyterian Laymen (PCUSA) spoke on how we can bring God back into the conversation within the mainline church.
  • Dr. William Webb – Christian professor and author of Christian Ethics and Canada Today – insight into the ethical challenges facing Christians in Canada today. PowerPoint slides
  • Rev. Wes Chang – Chair, Toronto Chinese Evangelical Ministerial Fellowship – The Experience of New Canadians in Babylon – the largest segment of growth in the Canadian Church in a secular Canada. PowerPoint slides

The theme on Saturday, April 21, was Good News for These Times. The audio recordings are best listened to with headphones or good speakers.

John G. Stackhouse Jr.
John G. Stackhouse Jr.

John G. Stackhouse Jr. of Crandall University, is noted for his studies of church and culture and spoke on the future of evangelicalism in general. His most recent book “Why you’re here: ethics for the real world” was released in December.

On the way we operate as churches: “Our Christianity, my friends, is thin. It’s not false. It’s not even necessarily badly orientated. But boy, it is emaciated. This is the kind of Christianity we put out against the tropical storm that is building in our culture.”

On the steps required to counter this storm: “We need thick churches… anthropologically, sociologically and theologically.

On the four ways to thicken up: “Substantial, broad and adequate teaching… and adequate adult education. Worship needs to be more than happy and moody… . Worship should correct us and not just bless us… . Fellowship needs to be a real sharing of life… . Finally, investment: imagination and attention and money and time on task — enough to make the necessary difference.”

View the PowerPoint slides while you listen to the audio recording:


John Stackhouse – Q & A

David Haskell
David Haskell

David Haskell of Wilfrid Laurier University, is lead author of the groundbreaking study, Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy, which found conservative theology is a driver for growth, and liberal theology leads to church decline.

On theology and growth: “Conservative theological positioning of clergy and attendees is a significant predictor of church growth… . We also found that contemporary worship was also a significant predictor of growth… . When we asked them why they did innovative contemporary worship and youth programs, they said, ‘Because we want them to know Jesus.’ It all tied back to conservative theology.”

On commitment to a cause: “Human beings are never more passionate or motivated than when they believe an issue is a matter of life and death. . . . Conservatives lead the charge.”

On pastors as part of the solution: “It’s no longer a high-status job. . . . And with relatively low pay, you’re not going to get the best candidate.

View the PowerPoint slides while you listen to the audio recording:


Peter Bush
Peter Bush

Peter Bush, moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, spoke on the possible future directions of the denomination.

On being reminded of past glory: “If we want to thrive in this context, we have got to get rid of nostalgia. . . Because it will not allow us to celebrate what God’s doing in this place right now; and God is at work.”

On Jeremiah 29: “This is a promise to my grandchildren and my greatgrandchildren . . . The question is ‘How do we live now . . . So that [they] will have faith and will want to go back home?’ ”

On idolatry: “The church is called to be different from a culture which worships at the altar of consumerism.”

On dealing with issues that threaten to divide the PCC: “How we have this conversation, the way we address each other in this conversation, is in fact more important than the answer.”

Audio recording: