Monday, 9 July 2007

Thoughts on the Global South

I finally got around to reading a piece in my "Read & Review" file. It comes from something called the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life which took place in May. Some leading US journalists spoke to Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University. As the event transcript states, he is
one of the first scholars to call attention to the rising demographic power of Christians in the southern hemisphere, analyzed the ongoing schism in the worldwide Anglican church. While the dispute concerns attitudes toward homosexuality, Jenkins argues the core of the conflict lies in how biblical authority is defined.
A couple of things Jenkins says caught my eye:
back in 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians representing 10 percent of the population; by 2000, that was up 360 million, to 46 percent of the population. That is the largest quantitative change that has ever occurred in the history of religion. A rising tide lifts all boats, and all denominations have been booming. The Anglicans have done very well, and the Anglican Church is going to be overwhelmingly an African body in the near future.
Everything I say here is going to happen in Canada before it happens in the U.S. If a church is going to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion, it'll be Canada on a Tuesday and the U.S. on a Wednesday. That's almost the stage Akinola's moved to. It's been surprising how many moderately conservative folks have gone along with that idea. There's a British bishop called Nazir-Ali, interesting story in his own right: the son of a Shiite family. Bishop Nazir-Ali has said, "Of course the Communion's going to split; if you have two different religions within the same church, the situation can't go on forever." Saying that ECUSA represents a different religion is pretty tough talk.