Richard Lougheed, Menno’s Descendants in Quebec: The Mission Activity of Four Anabaptist Groups 1956–2021, Pandora, Kitchener, Ontario, 2021. 255 pp. $28.00. ISBN: 978-1-926599-72-4.
Richard Lougheed, Menno au Québec: Une histoire de la mission francophone de quatre groupes anaba1ptistes 1956–2021, Société d’histoire du protestantisme franco-québécois, Montreal, Quebec, 2022. 253 pp. ISBN: 978-2-9819967-0-1.
Menno’s Descendants in Quebec provides Anglophone readers in Canada and the United States with a solid outline of the complex history of Mennonite mission within the largest French enclave in North America. The simultaneous release of Menno au Québec presents this same story in the language of the mission enterprise itself. 1 Readers learn of the challenges, and the successes, of four Anabaptist groups: (1) the Mennonite Mission Board of Ontario, now Mennonite Church Canada (Église Mennonite du Canada), (2) the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Frères Mennonites), (3) the Church of God in Christ (Mennonite) (Holdeman) (Église de Dieu en Christ), and (4) the Brethren in Christ (In Canada, Be in Christ) (Frères en Christ), all of whom have established their presence in Quebec within the past sixty-five years.
Lougheed’s personal faith history—that includes training at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, Indiana) and an academic background specializing in the history of French Protestants in Quebec—has prepared him to teach and to write, in both French and English. He comes with a lifetime of expressing his heart for mission in service to the church in Quebec in a variety of ways. These diverse experiences have provided a rich context for writing a comprehensive history of Anabaptist mission in Quebec.2
With his expertise, Lougheed has situated this story skillfully in a broad framework that places the Anabaptist past within the history of evangelical mission in Quebec. Equally significant were the increased awareness of societal inequities created by the church’s power and the English business monopoly over ordinary citizens. This understanding began a movement that came to replace theology with the social sciences. The so-called Quiet Revolution (La Révolution Tranquille) of the 1960s thus forever changed the religious, political, and social structures that had been in place in Quebec for two hundred years. This context Lougheed articulates well, with particular attention to how it affected Anabaptist mission, given that all four denominations had established their particular approach during these tumultuous times. Finally, Lougheed’s discussion of parallel developments in France—the nation whose experience of the shift from the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church to becoming a secular society most closely parallels that of Quebec—provides a valuable point of reference.
Living and ministering in Quebec is complicated, and I have been wrestling with the rapid changes in Quebec from my vantage point of working largely on the English side of the “two solitudes” for the past twenty-one years.3 I chose to read the French version of the book Menno au Québec in the hope that this immersion in Francophone Anabaptist mission would shed light on a world that my Anglo background makes it difficult to fully understand. As I read the stories of the first Mennonite missionaries immersing themselves in French, I am encouraged in my own ongoing, slow accessing of enough of the language to communicate.
Language is essential for mission activity, not just to communicate but also to begin to enter into the culture of the other. Lougheed’s discussion of how Mennonite Brethren (MB) mission—with its evangelistic methods—benefited from the Réveil (the revival that merged in 1970 and lasted for the next dozen years) gives readers some insight into the rapid change occurring in the province. Our understandings of this era, where massive conversions led to dramatic growth in evangelical circles, benefits from Lougheed’s years of study, much of it published elsewhere. He also addresses the ensuing stagnation and decline in the context of cultural changes.4
Lougheed identifies conflicts and struggles of Quebecois Mennonites as they attempted to adapt to a new faith, one that was wrapped up in a culture vastly different from their own. He credits, for example, the late Eric Wingender, an MB pastor and director of the MB theological school École de théologie évangélique du Québec (ETEQ), with “a prophetic understanding of the stagnation of French mission.” Wingender spoke and wrote with passion, raising provocative questions about the Anabaptist practice of separation and the evangelical pietism of the mission workers. As Lougheed put it, “Eric Wingender croyait qu’un manque de contextualisation du message et de la pratique adaptés au Québec avait permis au piétisme européen du 19e siècle et à l›évangélism américain du 20e siècle de se conjuguer pour mener les Églises du Québec dans un cul-de-sac” (Menno au Québec, 136). To put it in English, Wingender critiqued the early mission movement for producing “Christian enclaves, separated from the context of the world, where converts could not mention lapses or doubts and lived a pessimistic pietism disconnected from those outside” (Menno’s Descendants, 136).
Although Lougheed claims no direct answers to questions raised by Wingender and others, his thoughtful outline and comparative discussion (culminating in a helpful “Assessment” [Menno’s Descendants, 199–209]), provides a basis for theological discussion and a launching place for the kind of conversation necessary if Anabaptist mission is to continue providing a voice in both the French and the English mission in Quebec.
Many Mennonites in English North America will relate to Lougheed’s helpful discussion of “Offshoots of French mission” and “Anabaptists Outside the Church Walls” (Menno’s Descendants, 155–98). In these last two chapters, he includes Mennonite Central Committee, the English churches, La Maison de l’amitié (House of Friendship), immigrant congregations, and multi-ethnic congregations and periodicals, rounding out the narrative to give a full picture of Anabaptist work and presence in Quebec.
I commend my friend and colleague for this careful and thorough study of Anabaptist mission and presence in Quebec. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to discuss his ideas with him and our colleague Zacharie Leclair in meetings of La Société d’histoire mennonite du Québec. Our discussions, and now reading the French version of the book, have grounded me more deeply in the broad scope of Anabaptist mission and presence here in the province. Finally, I was pleased to see that Lougheed included a postscript identifying the significant role that women have played in this mission. My hope is that even as we embrace the “two solitudes” characteristic of mission in Quebec, our understandings will also grow to more fully integrate gender in our conceptualizing of the history of our Anabaptist forebears in this context.
Lucille Marr is a historian and an ordained Mennonite minister. She serves currently as Chaplain and Academic Dean at The Presbyterian College, Montreal, and is Adjunct Professor at McGill University’s School of Religious Studies.
The publishers of both versions request that it be ordered from Amazon.
In a recent interview with the author, I explored with him some of his background and motivation for writing his book. See Lucille Marr, “Menno’s descendants in Quebec: The Mission Activity of Four Anabaptist Groups, 1956-2021; A Conversation with Author Richard Lougheed,” April 6, 2022, https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2022/04/06/mennos-descendants-in-quebec-the-mission-activity-of-four-anabaptist-groups-1956-2021-a-conversation-with-author-richard-lougheed/.
The phrase “two solitudes” has come to be used to describe the lack of communication between French and English Canadians.
See, for instance, Richard Lougheed, “Clashes in World View: French Protestants and Catholics in the 19th Century,” French-Speaking Protestants in Canada: Historical Essays, ed. Jason Zuidema (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 99–118.