Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Whither the Church?

Following the death of the Pope there has been serious reflections amongst theologians and commentators on the direction that the Catholic Church may take. In the secular, dechristianised circles amongst which I move, there is little knowledge of religion or its growth. Yet, some of their numbers view Catholicism as stronger now than for many years and predict the demise of Protestantism.

Meanwhile, Protestantism seems spiritually and morally almost finished, according to Peter Jensen, the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia.
"Mainline... denominations are slowly dying. Let them die a natural death," the New Oxford Review, a conservative Catholic journal, recently proposed.
Is this true? Will only Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam survive the current crisis of faith, as a senior religious affairs adviser to the European Commission predicted some years ago?

This is palpable nonsense given the growth of Pentecostalist denominations. However, the article moves on to explain the stresses and strains accompanying this explosion in Christian belief.

Pointing to Pentecostalism, the fastest-growing Christian movement, he said a "lively religious interest is bursting out in all sorts of forms. This surge in religious fervor poses a structural challenge to Roman Catholicism and mainline Protestantism."
Especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Pentecostalism, which emphasizes the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, has already influenced countless Catholic as well as Protestant congregations.
Rorem called it an "uncontrollable movement."

Crisis of faith or opportunity? What happens if this third-world movement begins to make inroads into Europe and the Middle East, directly challenging the bastions of secularism and Islam? Would the fragile institutions of Euromed survive a moral onslaught of unforeseen and fervent Christians providing new challenges via immigration and globalisation?


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