Pentecostalism, mainline Protestantism, and the A.C. Valdez Jr. healing campaign in Winnipeg, 1952
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The purpose of this study is to explore an aspect of Canadian religious history that has been largely neglected by historians, namely the relationship between conservative Protestant Christianity and mainline Protestantism from the early twentieth century to the 1960s, and address critical questions related to the continued presence of conservative Protestant Christianity in Canadian society. Through its focus on relations between conservative and mainline Protestants in Winnipeg, it will examine whether the abandonment of evangelicalism in mainline Protestant churches contributed to the growth of groups like the Pentecostal movement throughout the first half of the twentieth century. It will investigate whether Pentecostals and other evangelical groups filled the void vacated by the liberalizing mainline denominations. And finally, it will consider whether the continued growth in membership of conservative Protestant churches in the middle decades of the twentieth century was indeed influenced by conflict between liberal and conservative Protestants. My dissertation addresses the place of conservative Protestant Christianity by examining a specific event. The A.C. Valdez Pentecostal healing campaign in Winnipeg in 1952, and the murder of a seven-year old girl by her parents, long-time members of the United Church unhinged by the Valdez claim that the end of the world was imminent, sparked vigorous public debate and exposed long standing tensions within the Protestant world of Winnipeg and elsewhere. I argue that the campaign and the murder were watershed moments in the religious history of Winnipeg and provide many insights into the larger Canadian context. An analysis of these events shows both the mass public appeal of Pentecostal evangelism and the liberal Protestant response revealing deep-seated theological divisions among evangelical and non-evangelical Protestants in the city. The event was a turning point in the religious history of the city that marked the beginning of a new era that saw Pentecostalism emerge as one of the centres of aggressive evangelism as mainline Protestantism retreated to a modernist theology that increasingly abandoned the evangelical beliefs of its past.