The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
Oxford University Press
304 pages. $28.00
In the summer of 1998, the Lambeth Conference of the world's Anglican bishops met to consider a resolution on homosexuality and Christian ministry. The English bishops, along with their colleagues in the Anglo-Saxon diaspora, had been ordaining active homosexuals to the priesthood for years, and they took a predictably progressive stance on the matter. But when it came to a vote, the conference ignored their proposals and passed a resolution condemning homosexuality and declaring it incompatible with Christian ministry. The international voting body of the "Church of England," it turned out, was now dominated by conservative bishops from Africa and East Asia.
The story of the Lambeth fracas is one of the better anecdotes adorning Philip Jenkins's admirable and timely new book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. At a moment when public attention is focused on the conflict between militant Islam and a largely post-Christian West, Jenkins reminds us that over the past century Christianity has expanded, quietly but dramatically, all across the Third World, becoming a truly global religion. This expansion, joined to the gradual withering of the faith in its traditional European enclaves, means that the long-term association of Christianity with "the West" is drawing to a close. In the future, Christianity may be better understood as the dominant religion of the global South.
Read the entire book review on The Policy Review website.