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A World Mission

Canadian Protestantism and the Quest for a New International Order, 1918-1939

by (author) Robert Wright

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1991
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 1991
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Wright examines these churches' historical connections with the outside world and their newly cultivated interest in international politics. He argues that the clerical and missionary élite's vision of "a new internationalism" was burdened by essentially "Victorian" ideas of the inherent superiority of Protestant Christianity, political democracy, and Anglo-Saxon "race characteristics." Tensions between its traditional world view and the new realities of international and inter-racial relations eventually made this vision untenable. According to Wright, the Canadian churches of mainline Protestantism tried to find a middle ground. They relaxed the link between conversion and westernization and came to accept the legitimacy of indigenous churches in Asia and Africa. Although they ultimately stuck to their theme of Christian brotherhood and service, they confronted the theological challenges of reconciling Christianity with other belief systems and the intellectual revolution in the West. And, although they paid ritual respect to the League of Nations and collective security and accepted war in 1939 as necessary, they showed keen interest in disarmament. While the ambivalence of this middle ground had some tragic consequences, such as the incapacity of the Canadian Protestant leadership to lobby forcefully on behalf of either European Jewish refugees in the 1930s or Japanese- Canadians interred during World War II, there were successes in humanitarian, relief, and educational work abroad. The churches' activities also helped shape the international role of the Christian community and their eventual acceptance of both ethnic diversity and the developing nations' right to self-determination laid much of the groundwork for Canada's post-war approach to foreign aid and development.

About the author

Robert Wright, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Trent University, specializing in foreign policy. He is the author of the national bestseller Three Nights In Havana, which won the 2008 Canadian Authors’ Association’s Lela Common Award for Canadian History and is currently being made into a feature documentary. He resides in Toronto with his wife and children. Visit him at

Robert Wright's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Exciting ... Wright's documentation ... is thorough in an exemplary way ... the quality of the scholarship is of a high order." Ernest Best, Victoria College, University of Toronto. "A perceptive work ... written in a lucid style and well- constructed ... A very scholarly and solid study." Goldwin French, Victoria University, University of Toronto.

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