June 19, 2005

TIN-ROOFED FUTURE (via Robert Schwartz):

In Africa, a thriving church: CHRISTIANITY’S mainstream changes course (Joshua Benton, June 17, 2005, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS)

When the Rev. Humphrey Ani walks out on the poured concrete floor of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, he sees the future of Christianity stretched before him.

The pews are packed, even though the slowly turning fans do little to disperse the Sunday-morning heat. More than 2,000 worshippers are sitting under the church’s tin roof, and hundreds more gather outside in the dirt courtyard, eager to hear the four-hour service.

The women are all dressed in conservative, ankle-length dresses and ornate headscarves. The men look a bit scrappier; this is a poor town, but they show up for church.

For centuries, Christianity has been primarily a white, European and North American religion. But the explosive growth of Africa and Asia, combined with the success of evangelization there, will change that forever.

By 2050, it’s expected that only one in five Christians worldwide will be white. And places like St. Joseph’s — a regular parish in an unremarkable Nigerian town — will be the Christian mainstream.

‘‘I’m sure it will be an adjustment for Americans — they are used to being in charge," Ani said during a brief break between services, scarfing down bread before facing thousands more parishioners. ‘‘But I hope we can all realize we are one brotherhood before God."

There is, of course, a rich history of missionary efforts in Africa and Asia, and those efforts have been overwhelmingly successful. But even if missionaries had no further success — if not another soul were converted to Christianity — the high birth rates in the developing world would produce some startling numbers:

• In 1900, 82 percent of the world’s Christians were in Europe or North America. By 2025, that will drop below 30 percent.

• Nigeria had 50 million Christians in 2000; by 2050, it’s projected to have 123 million — more than Germany and France combined. The Congo’s Christian community is expected to more than triple, to 121 million. There will be more Christians in Ethiopia than England, more in India than Italy.

‘‘There is this very strong idea that Christianity is a Western religion that has been on loan to other parts of the world," said Philip Jenkins, a Penn State professor whose book, The Next Christendom, is the central text of those projecting the faith’s demographic future. ‘‘Of course, it’s a Near Eastern and North African religion that has been traveling for the last 2,000 years."

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 19, 2005 12:44 PM

For centuries, Christianity has been primarily a white, European and North American religion.

Aren't they forgetting about Central and South America?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 20, 2005 10:09 AM


Posted by: oj at June 20, 2005 11:11 AM