April 15, 2005


In Latin America, a Religious Turf War (Henry Chu, April 15, 2005, LA Times)

Latecomers have to hunt for a seat at the First Baptist Church of Copacabana. By 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, the pews are full, the drummers and guitarists warmed up, and the faithful are ready to meet God.

"Thanks be to your name," the pastor prays earnestly, his brow furrowed. "Be among us."

A chorus of amens bursts from the congregation. Some members have their hands raised. Onstage, young men and women in T-shirts and jeans launch into a ballad-like hymn of devotion, kicking off an hour and a half of often joyous, sometimes contemplative worship.

So begins one of thousands of weekly services in Protestant churches across Brazil. Although this largely tropical nation has more Roman Catholics than any other country in the world, it is witnessing a boom in evangelical Protestantism that could dramatically alter the religious landscape in the next 20 years.

Across Latin America, home to nearly half the world's Catholics, believers are increasingly abandoning the Vatican's brand of Christianity in favor of the evangelical variety, a trend that will pose one of the biggest challenges for the next pope.

"The Reformation finally arrived in Latin America, four centuries after starting in Europe," said Dean Brackley, a professor of theology at the Jesuit-run Central American University in San Salvador.

For Catholicism to stay relevant, analysts say, cardinals now gathered in Rome to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II must pick someone ready to grapple with the concerns of folks like Carlos Eduardo Valente de Abreu, half a world away.

"I didn't feel very welcome in the Catholic Church," said Valente, 31, an information technology consultant in Rio de Janeiro. "I couldn't agree with what they preached — the images of Christ suffering. Also, I didn't feel much sincerity."

What he found at First Baptist in Copacabana was a strong sense of community in a disorienting world. Experts say that is a major draw of evangelical churches, especially among migrants.

And in four centuries they'll be drifting back to the Church--you'd think we could cut to the chase this time though.

African Catholic Church Growing Rapidly (TERRY LEONARD, 4/15/05, Associated Press)

Mass is so crowded at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church that the parishioners spill out into the courtyard, where they huddle close to the doors to hear and be heard.

Worship here is participatory and joyous, not a staid moral duty performed amid pomp and ritual beneath the stained glass of one of Europe's cavernous and magnificent cathedrals.

The Catholic Church seems young, active and relevant, growing at a rate so explosive — with nearly 140 million Roman Catholics in Africa — that it's a vital part of today's Christian expansion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2005 7:44 AM

Competition is good. The quality of ideas in Latin America is low -- both inside and outside the Catholic Church -- but competition will improve it.

Posted by: pj at April 15, 2005 11:03 AM

Ancient connections. Spirit over dogma. Anima.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 15, 2005 12:22 PM

The Protestant missionaries working most successfully in Central America are, overwhelmingly, the cults that do not believe that Catholics are Christians.

The notion that they are going to merge is fantasy.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 17, 2005 5:18 PM


Ah, I see, you think you've fallen into the trap of thinking your lifetime matters again. If only the world were as subjective as you wish it were...

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2005 5:46 PM