From East-West to North-South . . .

. . . in 1000 short years.  Please be sure to read the transcript of Philip Jenkins et al. on Global Schism for the Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics, and public life.  A taste:

There are lots of indicators pointing to different schisms, but let me look at a number of factors that haven’t got as much attention as they might have done in the media coverage. One is, it’s very hard to talk about a straight North/South division. The North is in the South in the forms of media, soft power, culture, education; the South is in the North in the form of people, through immigration. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.

It’s been interesting over the last few years as I walk around big American cities to see how many Episcopal churches have taken down their signs saying “Episcopal” and put instead “Episcopal (Anglican.)” Why? Because you have all these African and Caribbean people wandering around looking for a home church. “Episcopal, what’s that? Oh, Anglican, that’s home.”

That is even more true in Europe where the case can be made that African and Asian churches are laying a new foundation for Christianity. There is all sorts of evidence of that. The four largest mega-churches in Britain are pastored by Africans. You also have a lot of evangelical “low and lazy” folks in the Anglican Church in the U.K. who are white English people, but who are inspired entirely by ideas they picked up from Africa, from Latin America, from the Chilean pentecostal movement, and so on. So North and South is not a neat divide.

Here’s one other big issue: just suppose for the sake of argument the churches do split over the issue of homosexuality. What happens next? People [from the Global South] who are conservative on sexual issues and gender and family issues are not necessarily conservative on other stuff. A lot of conservative [Northern] Anglicans and evangelicals are making the discovery right now that they’re dealing with [Southern] people who are rock solid on morality issues, homosexuality issues, but who are way to the left of the Democratic Party on economic issues.

Here’s another interesting thought: if you look at the growing centers of global Christianity, most of them lie between the Tropics. They are close to the equator. Why does that matter? If global warming is going to happen as rapidly as [is being predicted,] the closer you are to the equator, the more dramatically and the more rapidly you’re going to be affected and the more of a vested interest you have in United Nations action and liberal socialist interventions. In some ways, global Christianity stands an interesting chance of being at the forefront of a clamor for globalized United Nations action. The religion which is most directly affected in the short term by global climate change is Christianity.

The global Christian churches that are very conservative on morality could be alarmingly left wing on some other issues, including economic issues. If you hang out in the office of an African bishop, it’s very hard to tell the difference between them as spiritual figures and them as the local minister of development because they deal with all these economic issues in a very statist, interventionist way.

Maybe this summer I can find the time to read a bit of Jenkins.  But his publishing rate is so fast paced, what book to choose:  his latest, God’s Continent (Europe), or The New Faces of Christianity (Global South), or The Next Christendom?


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