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Trends in Global Christianity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 06 May 2009 11:08
On the plane trips home from Orlando, I finished the book, "The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles," edited by Fr. Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin. One of the last essays was written by Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University. In it, Dr. Jenkins wrote of the sea change taking place in Christianity - including Catholicism - that Sherry has written about in other posts. Basically, the white, Eurocentric church will soon be a thing of the past.

Jenkins points out In the world today, there are around about 2.1 billion Christians distributed as follows:
531 million live in Europe
511 million live in Latin America
389 million live in Africa
226 million live in North America
By 2050, Christianity will be the religion of Africa and the African diaspora. By then, there will be about 3 billion Christians in the world. Of those, the proportion of those who will be white and who will not be Latino will be only somewhere between one-fifth and one-sixth of the total. Looking at projections for the year 2050 regarding the Christian population of the world, the United States will be at the head of the list of individual countries, followed by such countries as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, the Congo, Ethiopia, and China. However, many of the Christians in the United States at that time will be of Hispanic, Asian, or African origin. In fact, by the year 2050, one-third of all Americans will have Latino or Asian roots - roots that will be overwhelmingly Christian. This does not include those Americans of African origin, people who are either African Americans or of more recent African stock. In a sense, the notion of 'Western Christianity' that we still speak of today will be a memory of the past.
In the U.S. we have no real notion of how much Christianity has grown in Africa, even though African priests in our parishes are becoming more and more common. In 1900 Africa had 1.9 million Catholics, but by 2000, the number had grown to 130 million, a gross increase of 6,708%, and part of the largest shift in religious affiliation that has ever occurred. That figure is projected to grow to 230 million by 2025 (only sixteen years away - less than a generation), at which time African Catholics will represent one-sixth of all members of the Catholic Church worldwide. The Church is shifting to the south, and becoming browner. In fact, the projected change in Catholic population between now and 2050 looks like this
Africa 146% increase
Asia 63% increase
Latin America and the Caribbean 42% increase
North America 38% increase
Europe 6% decrease!

Jenkins points out we have to remember that the history of the spread of Christianity is not the story we usually think of: origins in Palestine, spread across the Mediterranean into Europe, then crossing the Atlantic to America. "By the time Christianity reached Anglo-Saxon England in the seventh century, there were Christians in Ethiopia who were in their tenth generation. Around the year 1000, there were considerably more Christians in Asia than in Europe."

And the expression of faith in the global south looks very different from most Westerner's. It looks more like the Acts of the Apostles, in fact. But that's worth it's own post, and I've run out of time... More later, so stay tuned!
 

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