Today brings a fascinating contrast in two news reports from a meeting of the World Council of Churches. Brian Murphy, religion writer for The Associated Press, is virtually alone in covering the story, so his byline appears in all the major dailies. Murphy reports on the council's realization that the Global South is crucial to the future of Christian faith:
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches -- the organizers of the weeklong conference -- also noted the "demographic center" of Christianity is shifting into the southern hemisphere, led by explosive growth in African and Asian congregations and rising populations in Latin America.
The Rev. Samuel Kobia [pictured] encouraged churches to seek new ideas to make Christianity meaningful to cultures unfamiliar with European traditions and to avoid "insensitive" methods that undermine local languages and customs.
"Christianity's center of gravity . . . continues to migrate southward," said Kobia, a Kenyan. "Our vision must undergo a corresponding conversion."
So far so good. Then comes this:
Failure of the established Christian denominations to respond could further open the door to charismatic preachers and evangelical enterprises such as the Rev. Billy Graham's movement or the German pastor Reinhard Bonnke, who promotes himself as one of the fastest-growing Christian missionaries in Africa. The World Council of Churches conference did not include representatives of the evangelical powerhouses.
Kobia warned that charismatic movements could "likely cause conflict in the 21st century" because of their often dismissive views on other faiths.
Here's how Stephen Brown of Ecumenical News International summarized the same section of Kobia's speech:
Africa is one of Christianity's fastest growing regions and researchers have predicted that by 2100, the vast majority of Christians -- almost 80 per cent -- will live in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.
Kobia noted the rapid growth throughout the world in Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality.
He asked, "Are we open to mission from directions we have not anticipated, borne by brothers and sisters who have received gifts of the Spirit that were never monopolized by European or American missionaries?"
Please do wait for the translation, Mr. Ambassador.