Global Church Today - Gerald WheatonPresentation Transcript
Who are they and how can we help them?
Center for Global Christianity (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
New Faces of Global Christianity , and, The Next Christendom , Philip Jenkins
Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West , Lamin Saneh
Jesus in Beijing , David Aikman
From North and West
to South and East
In 1900, 80% of Church in West .
In 2000, 40% !!
Two trends at work :
decline and growth
20 th century: from 10 mil > 360 mil (10% > 46% of pop)
Cf. Islam: from 34 mil > 310 mil
Dramatic jump every decade, 1960-2000:
1900 – 10 million Christians
1962 – 60 million Christians
1970 – 120 million Christians
1998 – 330 million Christians
2000 – 360 million Christians
2025 – 600 million Christians?
During 1970’s - 1980’s, Church in Africa and in America/Europe showed opposite growth trends :
~ 6 mil/yr converted in Africa
~ 1.5 mil/yr leaving in Europe and America
76.7% of the 2001 U.S. adult population of 208 million is Christian (includes Protestants (49.8%), Catholics (24.5%)); 14.1% no religion, 1.4% Jews, and 0.5% Muslims .
Protestant population dropping since 1974: decreased nearly 14% between ’74-‘04 (from 64.3% to 50.4%)
RC has remained largely stagnant
Data from Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life : Religious Demographic Profile, United States
1.1 billion RCs (~ 17% of world population)
33% N. America and Europe
66% S. America, Africa and Asia ( 75% by 2025 )
40% of cardinals eligible to vote for next pope come from Third World
Region % Increase in Believers % Increase in Priests Africa 16.7 19.4 Asia 9.5 15.4 Latin America 6.5 7.5 North America 6 - 8.2 Europe 0 - 4.1
“ Christian adherence is waning in the North, and it is rising in the South and East. In Great Britain , for example, only about 1 million of the 26 million members of the Church of England attend on Sundays. In Nigeria , there are 17.5 million Anglicans, and their churches are packed on Sunday. Half of the world’s Anglicans now live in Africa .”
Joel Carpenter, “The Christian Scholar in an Age of Global Christianity”, p. 2
1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, Africans and Asians were in the majority .
Result: agenda set by southern Christians rather than northern Christians:
instead of continuing preparations for ordaining homosexuals, they focused on the need for evangelism, fighting poverty and political oppression.
The Holy Spirit is ‘living and active’…
The Church has thrived and boomed even in poverty and persecution…
The Church is faithful to God’s Word!
Who are these Christians who constitute the majority of the church, today?
What do they believe? Beliefs? Convictions?
How do they worship? Songs? Liturgy? Preaching?
How do they read the Bible? Books? Interpretation?
Break : >> Guess that book!
View of Bible
Youthfulness of Church
Poverty and Suffering
Different Origins, and Pluralistic Cultural Setting
The Conservative South
Great majority of Global South Christians have very high view of Scripture (inspiried, inerrant, final authority).
Ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop in NH, 2003
Bishop Robinson: “Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the Church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong.”
Nigerian pastor Peter Akinola: “I did not write the Bible. It is part of our Christian heritage. It tells us what to do. If the Word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it.”
Dispute b/w two Anglican bishops: “If you don’t believe the Scripture, why did you bring it to us in the first place?”
Stats and Implications
Half the people in the world are under 24.
90% of youth live in global south .
This demographic reality has massive implications for the Church since it means that young people comprise an enormous proportion of the southern church .
Jenkins reflects on characteristics of youth and how they bear upon religion:
energy and fire; need for certainty; force of conviction;
rejection of careful thought, of subtlety, of compromise;
rejection of the experience of age;
rejection of hierarchy;
“ the quest for immediate experience and direct access to the divine”
Each has far-reaching implications for shape of church.
And consider this: youthfulness will continue to be most prominent feature of global church for next 50 yrs or more!
Socio-economic setting of the global church and its bearing on belief and practice
In Sub-Saharan Africa (where church has boomed):
41% of pop lives on less than one USD/day
Life expectancy b/w 35-47 yrs (U.K. = 79)
20% of children die before age 5 (U.K. = 0.6%)
1/22 women die during pregnancy or childbirth (U.K. = 1/3,800)
Only HALF of pop has access to clean water
Source: Britain’s Dep’t for International Development (June 2008)
Two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Asia
800 million Asian people live on less than a dollar a day
E.g., Sub-saharan Africa : more than 20 million people have died of AIDS in Sub-saharan Africa since the early 1980s
With as many as 30 million currently infected and 2.5 million dying yearly , the societal impact of the disease will play out over the next 15 years .
Population: 12 million ( half are Christians)
Over 3,200 people die/week from AIDS related illnesses ( which also account for 75% of all hospital admissions ).
~ 1.8 million live with HIV/AIDS
~ 1.3 million orphans
Largely due to AIDS, life expectancy < 35 years
Implications for the Church…?
Source: Britain’s Dep’t for International Development (June 2008)
Prominence of Lament
Lament genre very popular in Asia, Africa.
Western loss of Lament tradition, little use for genre in Bible,
Southern church need for giving expression to pain and sorrow so ubiquitous in church and society.
One commentary referring to the popularity of Lamentations in Africa says, “ Lamentations can be considered as a prayer book for Africans. ” Think about that!
Popularity of Ruth
One African scholar writes, “The book of Ruth is loved because it has something for everyone in Africa. Africans read this book in a context in which famine, refugee status, tribal or ethnic loyalties, levirate marriages and polygamy are not ancient biblical practices but the normal realities of today. ”
Vastly different historical context from Western church
African Church has not been formed and defined around specific doctrinal disputes arising from Pauline epistles,
It has not been shaped by struggles to define one’s tradition over against another’s tradition.
E.g. sacramental theology
RC and Protestantism defined doctrine with great precision in context of battles during Reformation, etc.
Orthodox Christians of northeastern Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia) faced no such competition and so never needed to define their understanding with such precision on those matters.
Cultural of West
Skepticism, hostility toward religion
Cultural of South/East
Multiplicity of religions with their differing claims of faith
As a small minority in Asia, Christians must wrestle with relation to non-Christian religions in a way we do not.
Broadly, two key issues are:
Narrowness of Salvation
Question of truth in indigenous religions
When barely 1 in 10 Asians are Christians, many Asian Christians ask…
Must so many really go to hell?
One Japanese theologian: “ The Japanese Christian cannot blind himself to the fate of the 99.2% of his people who die without Christ. Can the good fortune of the Christian 0.8% of the population occupy 100% of the concerns of Yellow Theology? ”
Is Christianity necessarily exclusive?
Jenkins himself querries, “ Should all rival faiths be seen in terms of the prophets of Baal? Should any? ”
Especially common in RC in many parts of Asia.
Is strong condemnation the best approach?
In most Asian contexts, such an approach routinely leads to near total isolation within the culture
Cf. Japan (Emi)!
Africans and Asians wrestle a great deal with this ( Self-Identity , not just apologetics).
Three main lines of questioning:
... points of contact for evangelism?
...some aspects of traditional religions can be presereved by new Christians? Does one’s ‘old’ faith need to be abandoned at all?
...other religions have things to teach Christianity about God and salvation? (especially popular in Asia where some theologians incorporate Buddhism and Confucianism into their theology )
Resources: material/economic and educational
You tell me!
Surif from Indonesia…
For ministering to physical/material needs
For preparing pastors (the church cannot keep up with explosive growth; desperately needs churches…pastors…seminaries to prepare ministers for the calling and demands of ministry)
Which more pressing? ?
Sierra Leone, Indonesia...
For health of ‘Southern’ Church
Cf. Eliza Griswold, Atlantic Monthly, March 2008, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/nigeria
For purity of missionary message!
Rising Wave of Latin American Missions
1982 – 92 organizations... 1,120 missionaries
1988 – 150 organizations... 3,026 missionaries
1997 – 284 organizations... 3,921 missionaries
Tens of millions of Chinese Christians burdened for and pray for the muslim world
Vast numbers, training in Arabic and Bible so they can bring Gospel to Muslims (great video on website).
Movement has extraordinary promise
vastness of Chinese church, vibrancy and earnestness of Chinese Christianity (born and continues under persecution), familiar with lower standards of living, lack of cultural baggage that burdens western missionaries in muslim worlds.
AND YET ... church so young, does not have solid understanding of Scripture, or rich missional history from which to learn (mistakes of contextualization, etc.)