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Author Peter Schuurman, adjunct professor at Redeemer University College and executive director of Global Scholars Canada, built on his doctoral work in religious studies to bring readers this compelling window on “a church for people not into church.” In 2011, Schuurman began to study both Bruxy Cavey, leader of the Meeting House, and the church itself. The Anabaptist megachurch is in Oakville, Ont., Canada, and has 19 regional sites in rented movie theaters throughout southern Ontario.

Schuurman argues that “Cavey’s ironic style embodies a powerful charisma that attracts thousands of conservative middle-class Christians because it offers them a way out of the identity crisis generated by the tainting of their faith in North American dominant culture.”

The Subversive Evangelical is more than a study of Cavey and the Meeting House. According to Schuurman, the Meeting House “provides a microcosm for understanding the charismatic leadership that fuels the megachurch phenomenon and in this case, specifically, the ironic charisma of a new evangelicalism for mostly white, evangelical Christians who are weary of being caricatured as legalistic, judgmental, and politically motivated.”

To his credit, Schuurman is no armchair critic of megachurches in general and the Meeting House in particular. From 2011-2014, he entered “the warp and woof” of the Meeting House by attending Sunday services, joining small group meetings, visiting with attendees in their homes, and interviewing staff, including Cavey himself. Still, in spite of all his research, Schuurman admits his book “remains a snapshot.”

Anyone interested in learning more about trends in the North American church and about megachurches, in particular, will find in The Subversive Evangelical a detailed, scholarly, well-researched work, peppered with interesting anecdotes offering insights into the positive and negative experiences of the Meeting House members and what Schuurman hopes will be taken as “a constructively critical engagement with their way of ‘doing life together.’”

(McGill-Queen's University Press)

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