I was particularly struck by Philip Jenkins’ concerns, in the address that I heard him give on Monday, by the rising opposition in the West to the Christianity of the global South. I have in mind the hate crimes issue in Canada that I mentioned yesterday. Recently Brazil has actually begun to go down the same road and Britain is already moving that way at rapid speed. The United States is not far behind. Congressman Barney Frank (D.-MA) has been working in this area of legislation for some time, which is no real surprise. Friends in New England assure me that at the local level there is already some serious movement to create such a legal atmosphere there as gay rights issues are moving more and more into the arena of "hate-crimes" ideology.
In Great Britain, African churches are being accused of sacrificing their children and they are called "witch churches" because of their aggressive spiritual warfare orientation. Laws against prophetic churches that practice exorcism are particular targets of this reaction, with the media painting an ugly picture of abuse. There can be no doubt that ecclessial abuse can be a problem in some ethnic movements from Asia and Africa but the general tenor of Western progressive law is not friendly toward any church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and church discipline. One major "wild card" Jenkins sees is the corresponding passage of blasphemy laws in the West, laws that would have to apply to Christians as well as Muslims, thus laws which might actually prove to be of some benefit and protection. This whole legal direction should be watched with caution and prayerful concern.
In the global South Jenkins told us that the terms "evangelical-Catholic-charismatic" are virtually one and the same in a number of ways. This seems to be a broad and sweeping conclusion, and one I honestly have reasons to doubt, but nonetheless it provides some further perspective on how ecumenism is actually progressing on the ground, not in the corridors of power.
Finally, there is an interesting biblical development in mission in this shift. The Congolese, as one example, are producing mega-churches across Europe while traditional European churches are still in decline. One amazing example of mission and reproduction has come from Ghana. Christians from Ghana have taken the gospel to Germany, planted healthy churches, and now Germans from Ghana are taking the gospel back to their own land, completing the mission circle. And one of the most rapidly developing movements among Roman Catholics is in the Philippines, where the El Shaddai movement is now 6 million strong.
Clearly, the global economy is changing the world in profound ways. Just as clearly the global church is changing the world in even more profound ways. We would be wise to note these important developments with more than passing interest if we truly love the cause of Christ and long to see his kingdom come, as we pray in our Lord’s Prayer each day. We must avoid eschatological triumphalism and date-setting, a huge mistake of the 19th and 20th centuries. And we must also avoid the various ideologies that see the kingdom in mostly political or idiosyncratic terms. What will the church look like in 2050? This is what Philip Jenkins has given his life to helping us better understand. Even if he is wrong, and surely he will be about some things since God will be God, he provides for thinking Christians a massively important set of insights into how we ought to be thinking and planning for the future of the church in the West and beyond. Let faithful Christians take heed and learn as they both watch and pray.