Wednesday, May 7, 2014

global christianity



Philip Jenkins, the author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2011), writes about the stunning multiplication Christian churches in the global south, primarily in Africa and South America.  Jenkins is Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.   Here are a few highlights... 

In 1900, 83 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America. In 2050, 72 percent of Christians will live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and a sizable share of the remainder will have roots in one or more of those continents.
Over the last century the center of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably away from Europe, southward, to Africa and Latin America, and eastward, toward Asia. Today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in those regions. If we want to visualize a “typical” contemporary Christian, we should think of a woman living in a village in Nigeria, or in a Brazilian favela. 

As to belief and practice these Christians are more conservative than the mainstream churches of North America and Europe...

Making all allowances for generalization, then, global South Christians retain a strong supernatural orientation and are by and large far more interested in personal salvation than in radical politics. 
The believer’s life in this world is transformed through conversion, and the change echoes through every aspect of their lives, from ethics of work and thrift to family and gender relations.
Generally, we can say that many global South Christians are more conservative in terms of both beliefs and moral teaching than are the mainstream churches of the global North; this is especially true of African churches. 
For the foreseeable future, though, the dominant theological tone of emerging world Christianity is traditionalist, orthodox, and supernatural. 

Jenkins also notes that in some regions Christianity is not seen as a new or novel addition...

In many cases, as in India, China, and large parts of Africa, Christian missionaries were not so much breaking new ground as reopening ancient and quite familiar mines. In the 1880s missionaries in the Congo met with mass enthusiasm that would be difficult to explain if we did not realize that the people were rediscovering what had been the national religion only a century or so earlier. The response of those peoples was not “Thank you for bringing us this startling new message” but rather “Welcome back.” White Christians were treading where African and Asian believers had been before, and where they had left deep marks in local cultures. Their ghosts still walked.

Add to this the amazing growth of the church in China: "By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world..."  See "China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years."


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