Tags: Christianity | Thrives | | 'Black | Thing'

Christianity Thrives – as a 'Black Thing'

Friday, 10 May 2002 12:00 AM

"By the year 2050, 3 billion Christians will inhabit the globe, but of those only one in six will be a non-Hispanic Caucasian," Jenkins told United Press International in a telephone interview Thursday. As Europeans have slowed in their birth rate, Jenkins explained, "Christianity will become much more of a black and brown religion."

Jenkins, a Welshman who teaches at Pennsylvania State University, vigorously challenged the common assumption that Christianity is dying, especially in the Third World, where Islam is the rising religion.

"According to my own demographic projections, there will still be three Christians for every two Muslims in 40 to 50 years' time, and in the foreseeable future."

Jenkins, a professor at Penn State's University Park campus, has just published his findings in a remarkable study titled "Next Christendom: The Coming of Globalized Christianity" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 288 pages, $28).

It contains stunning statistics:

This last figure points at one of the most amazing reversals in recent history: The descendants of those who were evangelized by Europeans are now bringing the Europeans back to the faith of their ancestors, not just in England but in other parts of the Old World as well.

"In London, where by now half of all churchgoers are of African descent, black churches are doing mission among whites, using missionary impulses of years gone by. They are trying to enculturate Christianity to make it acceptable to white people," Jenkins explained.

"Ironically, whites in the United Kingdom are seeing Christianity as a 'black thing,' while groups such as the huge Kingsway International Christian Centre of Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo want it to be seen as a 'God thing.'"

Jenkins said ministers from the Southern Hemisphere working among Europeans and North Americans were theological conservatives, regardless of their denomination.

"This applies to Anglican missionaries from Africa operating in Europe just as much as to Roman Catholics. If the Roman Catholic Church seems so conservative, this does not so much reflect individual foibles of John Paul II but a much greater sense of global realities."

One example of how the Southern Cone's conservative Christians are making their weight felt in the North is the creation of the Anglican Mission in America, whose bishops were consecrated by an African and an Asian archbishop.

The AMiA presents itself as an alternative to the Episcopal Church, whose liberal drift has disaffected many traditional worshipers.

Jenkins told UPI he rejected the suggestion that Third World Christianity had undue syncretistic leanings, meaning that it was vulnerable to the temptation of mixing religions, an anathema to Catholics and traditional Protestants.

Harvard University theologian Harvey Cox has promoted this theory, suggesting that healing services in one large congregation in Seoul seemed to reveal links to ancient Asian forms of shamanism.

But Jenkins countered that healing as part of worship services had solid roots in the New Testament. "Whatever appears as syncretism is more biblically grounded than it is given credit for," Jenkins said.

"You might also call European Christianity highly syncretistic, just a millennium older. If you enter a Gothic church, you enter a holy place based on the idea of an ancient European oak wood."

While radiating north, the growing churches of Africa, Latin America and Asia are increasingly networking with each other. At the same time, Jenkins stressed the phenomenon, and potential danger, of parallels between Muslim and Christian communities.

"In 2050, 20 of the 25 most populous states [nations] will be either mainly Christian or mainly Muslim. Or they will be one of the above with sizable minorities of the other," he said. "And frequently the Christian and Muslim communities experiencing the fastest growth will be neighbors."

Wryly, Jenkins observed, "Due to God's sense of humor, these places are in areas rich with oil."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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By the year 2050, 3 billion Christians will inhabit the globe, but of those only one in six will be a non-Hispanic Caucasian, Jenkins told United Press International in a telephone interview Thursday. As Europeans have slowed in their birth rate, Jenkins explained, ...
Christianity,Thrives,–,'Black,Thing'
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2002-00-10
Friday, 10 May 2002 12:00 AM
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