Thinking Out Loud

November 4, 2012

Church Shopping in Canada’s Largest City

Units in industrial malls like this one (or trade parks, as they call them in England) could be used for warehousing or light manufacturing; or equally they could house places of worship. Bylaw changes in Toronto would eliminate the latter possibility.

As we toured Michigan and New York this summer we were ever mindful that in the U.S., there is literally a church on every corner.

In Canada, much more religiously diverse, there is a house of worship on every corner, but it won’t necessarily be a church, and you might need to redefine the word ‘corner.’

From a Toronto Star story (10/22) we learn:

  • There are 1,260 churches in the city of Toronto; this does not represent the Greater Toronto Area, or GTA, sometimes called “The 905;” this is just in the metropolitan city limits.
  • Church planting — or its equivalent in other faith circles — is alive and well with a third of all those 1,260 opening since 1995.  This is especially significant when you consider the historical churches in Toronto’s core.
  • As of 2008, a whopping 22% of the churches/worship-spaces are located in industrial areas. I’m sure that’s gone higher in the last few years.
  • The city, originally made up of six boroughs until 1998, is continually re-drafting consolidated zoning legislation, and the current proposal would put an end to faith groups operating in industrial areas.

Do you see the trend? Schools are increasingly cost-prohibitive, not available on long weekends, or just not leasing to churches at all. And now industrial/commercial complexes are under threat. What exactly does that leave?

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May 12, 2011

Focus on the Family Canada Opens $9.4M Facility

According to a report in Christian Week, they paid $1.4M (CDN) for the land and $8M in constructing their own home, after paying rent for 27 years.  The Canadian branch of Focus on the Family, the organization founded by James Dobson, now has its own physical operations base in Langley, B.C.

But not everyone is excited.  The anonymous author of the popular Canadian Christian news and opinion site, Bene Diction Blogs On writes,

I really wish this organization would leave the country. But no, they’ve just completed an 8 million dollar building project, debt-free. Anything this group does should be wide open to public scrutiny and I wish Christians in Canada would wake up. FotF is no more committed to ‘the family’ than founder James Dobson is. The US extremist toxic religious right group has 65 Canadian employees. While the Canadian arm says it is independent of the US group, US leaders are on the Canadian board and start up costs of 1.6 million were given to the Canadian operation from the US. The Canadian group is fundamentalist, authoritarian, theocratic and lobbies against the same things the US group does, using language friendly to unsuspecting believers.

Here at T.O.L., thoughts are somewhat mixed.  On the one hand, it’s hard not to appreciate the work Focus did recently in developing The Truth Project, a comprehensive crash course in developing a Christian worldview on subjects like Philosophy, History, Science, Politics, Education, and the video series’ key question, ‘What is truth?’  Or its earlier contribution to parents on long road trips with its Adventures In Odyssey audio/video series.

But on the other hand, Canadians get skittish when Christian organizations wander too deeply into everything from politics to parenting.  Any elevation of Focus’ profile under a majority Conservative government is more conservatism than some people are comfortable with.

And it’s easy for Christians to second-guess any kind of capital spending project at a time when so much of the Church’s energies are being focused on the needs of the poor.  Adding an elevator to your church to give the handicapped greater access?  Be prepared for a firestorm over the costs.  Putting up a nearly $10M building for what some see as an outmoded media outreach, using something as quaint as radio?  Get ready to meet the critics.

Perhaps the facility is a bargain at $9.4M.  One would have to attend the June 18th Grand Opening to make that call.  And Focus, like so many other radio ministries, is probably active in online delivery.  So what is it about Focus that makes some of us a little nervous?

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