World Christianity

In the popular imagination, Christianity is often thought of as a “western” religion legitimized through its adoption by the Roman Empire, later metastasizing from its European heartland to impose itself on other cultures through missionary efforts that were thin veneers to justify European ambitions for empire. In the popular imagination, Christianity is now in decline, vividly illustrated by statistics from its European heartland: the Church of England claims 25 million members, but less than 1.2 million (5%) attend church services; only 5% of the French, and 15% of Italians go to Church regularly.

This picture of the popular imagination is more myth than truth. The epicenter of early Christianity was not in Rome, but in Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Over its first few centuries, it spread through northern Africa (Nubia, Ethiopia, Roman Africa = roughly Tunisia), east to India, and west into the European continent. Today, as Christianity seems to decline in Europe, it is booming in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. If we wish to picture a typical practicing Anglican in 2003, we should think of a woman in Nigeria. By 2025, half of all Christians will live in Africa and Latin America; the largest concentration of Christians in the world will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this boom, we are seeing, according to Ghanian scholar Kwame Bediako, “the renewal of a non-Western religion.”

What should all this mean to American Episcopalians? What implications does it hold for the future of Christianity? From November 2 through December 14, 2003, we explored these and other questions in a series on World Christianity. Our primary reference was The Next Christendom. The Coming of Global Christianity, by Philip Jenkins. Presentations were by David Monyak

Downloads: Presentations

1. The Christian Revolution. The Changing Demographics of Christianity

2. Disciples of All Nations. History of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East, Part 1

3. Missionaries and Prophets. History of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East, Part 2

4. Standing Alone. Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East Today

References

Primary

The Next Christendom. The Coming of Global Christianity. Philip Jenkins. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN 0-19-514616-6

Secondary

A History of Christianity in Africa. From Antiquity to the Present. Elizabeth Isichei. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, and Africa World Press, Lawrenceville NJ, 1995. ISBN 0-8028-0843-3

A World History of Christianity. Edited by Adrian Hastings. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapid MI, 1999. ISBN 0-8028-4875-3

African Religions and Philosophy, Second Edition. John S. Mbiti. Heinemann, Oxford, 1989. ISBN 0-435-89591-5

African Religions. Symbol, Ritual, and Community. Second Edition. Benjamin C. Ray. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. ISBN 0-13-082842-4

Christianity. A Global History. David Chidester. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2000. ISBN 0-06-251770-8

Christianity in Africa. The Renewal of a Non-Western Religion. Kwame Bediako. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, and Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1995. ISBN1-57075-048-3

"The Next Christianity," Philip Jenkins, in The Atlantic Monthly, October 2002

Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West. Lamin Sanneh. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003. ISBN 0-8028-2164-2