Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 193–212 | Cite as

Canadian Covenanter in crisis: Anna Ross and modernism

  • Peter BushEmail author


Anna Ross (1848–1933), an heir of the Covenanters, used her pen and Bible teaching to promote Convenanter sensibilities in Canada. The rise of biblical higher criticism changed the theological landscape Anna Ross’ defence of the Covenanter heritage revolved around the Bible as the Word of God. Faced with this new challenge Ross reformed the Covenanter tradition to speak to a new time and set of issues. While in continuity with the holy heritage Ross consciously enlarged its call. This expansion allowed her to find in the Covenanter heritage answers to the challenges of natural disasters and the proper treatment of immigrants, making her a covenanting incarnation of the Presbyterian Every-woman.


Anna Ross (1848–1933) Convenanter biblical criticism biblical criticism immigration 


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    The spelling of the town’s name was rather imprecise at the time, options were Strassburg, Strasbourg and Strasburg. This paper will use Strasbourg, but will not change the spelling in quotations. Three of Ross’ daughters made the move from Ottawa. Elizabeth, the eldest child, had, in 1901, married the Rev. Archibald Grace who was committed to serving as a missionary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in India. The Rev. Grace died in India in 1908, and Elizabeth and her two children returned to Canada joining the Ross family in Saskatchewan. The Ross family settled into rural prairie life. The Rosses remained part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada until the 1950s, despite the presence of a few Reformed Presbyterian congregations on the Canadian Prairies (See Ellen and Duncan Ross and Anne Elkink, ‘The David/Elizabeth Rosses; Mrs. Anna Ross’, in Between Long Land and Last Mountain: Bulyea, Duval, Strasbourg, vol. 2 (Strasbourg, SK: Strasbourg, Bulyea, Duval History Book Committee; 1982), 933–5 andGoogle Scholar
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    Much has been written about the Union of 1925. Two of the most helpful secondary sources exploring the Presbyterian side of the story are Allan Farris, ‘The Fathers of 1925’, in Enkindled by the Word: Essays of Presbyterianism in Canada, ed. Centennial Committee, The Presbyterian Church in Canada (Toronto: Presbyterian Publications, 1966), 59–82; andGoogle Scholar
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    John Ross’ criticism of the 1875 union was joined 70 years later. The 1942 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada was asked by the Presbytery of Paris in Ontario to address the gap left by the 1875 Basis of Union regarding the relationship of church and the state. The gap had become glaringly obvious as Canadian Presbyterians struggled to find theological grounds for addressing the rise of tyrannical governments in Europe and other parts of the world. Influenced by statements like the Barman Declaration, over the next 15 years the church developed the ‘Declaration of Faith Concerning Church and Nation’ which sought to fill the gap (See ‘Declaration of Faith Concerning Church and Nation’, Appendix E, The Book of Forms (Toronto: The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 2007), available online at:, accessed July 31, 2011). The Declaration in part affirms: ‘We worship and obey Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings, Judge and Governor among the nations. He is both Head of the Church and Head of the Civil State’. The family of John and Anna Ross regarded this discussion as vindication of their parents’ struggle (Elizabeth Grace (?), ‘Presbyterianism: 1845–1875’, Ross Papers, PCCA, 1998–5004-Box 1, File 21).
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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Westwood Presbyterian ChurchWinnipegCanada

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