The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada-Eastern and Central Canadian District
- Corporate body
- 1 January 1981-1995
The Eastern and Central Canadian Districts of the Christian and Missionary Alliance came into existence in 1925 as two distinct entities. Prior to this date, the whole of Canada (with the exception of British Columbia) was considered and managed as one district. The newly created Central District would run from Fort William (Thunder Bay), Ontario to the Quebec – New Brunswick border. The Eastern District would comprise the Maritime Provinces. However, only a month after the new districts were formed, it was decided by the Home Department that the current missionary offerings from the Maritimes was not sufficient to justify the appointment of a separate superintendent for that area, and thus the work in the Maritimes would have to be carried out by the Central District. Therefore, the combined effort came to be known as the Eastern and Central District, and included the vast and diverse region of the whole of Canada east of Fort William, Ontario.
Home Secretary E. J. Richards became titular superintendent of the new district from New York, with Lionel Watson acting as resident assistant superintendent and administrator from Toronto. A year later, in May of 1926, O. J. Smith became superintendent of the combined districts only to resign eight months later. Three months following Smith’s resignation, the annual district conference elected Lionel Watson to the position. Watson served as superintendent for one year, after which he was followed in 1928 by the highly qualified and experienced J. D. Williams. After serving diligently for nearly six years (the last of those years as acting superintendent of the Western Canadian District as well), Williams was appointed superintendent of the Pacific Northwest District in May, 1934. James F. Brabazon, a long time missionary to India, was appointed temporary superintendent in his stead. A year later, Brabazon returned to India, and David Mason, a veteran missionary and co-secretary of the Foreign Department, was assigned to the vacant position. During Mason’s eleven-year superintendency, the Eastern and Central District remained essentially stagnant both numerically and financially. In 1946, Nathan Bailey took the reigns of the district. During his fourteen years at the helm, the Eastern and Central District experienced its highest ever growth rate over a fourteen-year period. In 1960, Bailey was elected president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In his place, William J. Newell, associate pastor of Avenue Road Church, was selected. Newell provided leadership for the district until 1973 when he stepped down in order to become executive director of World Vision International of Canada. Long time Alliance pastor Melvin P. Sylvester was elected at the 1973 district conference to become the next superintendent. During Sylvester’s seven year term as district superintendent, he provided much of the leadership in the movement towards Canadian autonomy. In June of 1980, he resigned from the position in order to become the first president of the newly autonomous Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. Robert Gould, previously superintendent of the Canadian Midwest District, took Sylvester’s place beginning in March of 1981.
In May of 1983, a long standing dream among many became a reality when the Alliance community in Quebec broke off from the Eastern and Central District in order to form the St. Lawrence District. The newly created district would be headquartered Ste. Foy, Quebec, and Jesse D. Jespersen was elected as its first district superintendent.
In 1995, The Eastern District, first conceived of in 1925, finally separated from the Central District to became its own district. The Eastern District would include all of the Maritimes, and that part of Ontario which is east of Hwy 427/27 north from Lake Ontario to Hwy 89, east to Lake Simcoe, then along the southern shore of the lake to the 79th meridian, then north to the Quebec border. Douglas Wiebe was named superintendent of the new district, and remains so to this day (2006). The same year, David Lewis replaced Robert Gould as district superintendent for the Central District, and Yvan Fournier replaced Jespersen for the St. Lawrence District.
As of 2006, Fournier remains the superintendent of the St. Lawrence District, while Dr. Ron Bonar has replaced Lewis as the superintendent of the Central District. As of 2005, The Central District had 56 churches within its boundaries, the Eastern District included 72 churches, and the St. Lawrence District had 30.