Oil, lumber, autos, hockey players, comedians: all well-known Canadian exports to the U.S. But preachers? From Catholic missionaries to evangelical pastors, Canada has supplied American Christianity with many notable figures.
1. Aimee Semple McPherson (1890 to 1944): A Pentecostal founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Los Angeles, pioneer in the religious exploitation of mass media (especially radio) and media celebrity in the 1920s and ’30s, she was born on a farm near Salford, Ont. McPherson’s month-long disappearance in 1926, the same year in which the equally famous Agatha Christie later disappeared for 11 days, sparked the same press frenzy in both cases. (McPherson claimed to have been kidnapped, but the evidence points to a love affair.) The church she founded still claims 8.7 million adherents worldwide.
2. Francis Patrick Duffy (1871 to 1932): A distinguished theologian and the most decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army—including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre—Duffy was a Catholic priest born in Cobourg, Ont. As chaplain to the 69th New York regiment, drawn mainly from first- and second-generation Irish immigrants, Duffy constantly accompanied stretcher-bearers during Great War battles, and was usually in the thick of the action. Duffy Square, the northern half of Times Square, is named after him; Pat O’Brien played him in a 1940 biopic.
3. Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843 to 1919): A prolific hymn-writer and founder of the influential New York-based Christian and Missionary Alliance, he was born in Cavendish, P.E.I. Many of the 120 hymns he authored remain in frequent use, and Christian schools from California to the Philippines are named after him.
4. Erwin Lutzer (1941- ): A senior pastor at the historic, 3,740-seat Moody Church in Chicago and a nationally broadcast radio evangelist, Lutzer was born in Regina.
5. Leighton Ford (1930- ): Married to Billy Graham’s sister Jean, and a senior member of Graham’s evangelistic organization for 31 years before founding the North Carolina-based Leighton Ford Ministries, he was born in Toronto and raised in Chatham, Ont. Ford has been among the most prominent American preachers active in such issues as world hunger, poverty and racism.
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