The Global South

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The transformation of Protestantism in the twentieth century was the outcome of many forces, social and cultural as much as theological, that combined to give a new lease of life and sense of identity to a movement that seemed to some to be about to run into the enfolding sands of history in the aftermath of the First World War.

The shaping of Protestantism in the later twentieth century was dominated by the United States, which became the intellectual and entrepreneurial powerhouse of the movement after the Second World War. Yet the recent history of Protestant America is only part (although a very important part) of the greater story of the movement as a whole. For one of the most intriguing aspects of the transformation of Protestantism as the twentieth century proceeded was that America—and indeed, the entire Western homeland of Protestantism—began to lose its preeminence as other regions began to rise. Three factors combined to bring about this development.

First, the numerical center of Christianity, including Protestantism, shifted decisively away from the West between 1900 and 2000.1 Christianity is now predominantly a religion of the global South. Population growth in these areas, when set alongside the evangelistic and missionary

Mount Cavalry, 1944, by William H. Johnson (1901—70).

Mount Cavalry, 1944, by William H. Johnson (1901—70).

successes of the twentieth century, has ensured that an increasing proportion of increasingly large populations are now Christian. For example, in 1900 the population of Africa was 10 million people, of whom 9 percent were Christian; in 2005 the population was more than 400 million, of whom 46 percent were Christian.

Second, the styles of Christianity developing in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are noticeably different from those found in the United States, and even more different from those found in western Europe. The Protestantism of the global South tends to be more charismatic or Pentecostal, to maintain traditional moral values, and to have little time for the modernist modes of reading the Bible that have dominated the West until recently. As a result, the Protestant denominations of the global South tend to have more in common with each other than with their counterparts in America or Europe. African Lutherans tend to have more in common with African Methodists than with American

Lutherans, despite the denominational link. This is especially evident in the case of Anglicanism: the totally different social mores and theological presuppositions of African and American Anglicans are causing serious, possibly irreconcilable, tensions within that denomination.

Finally, a new form of Christianity has emerged in the twentieth century, and it has now surged ahead in terms of its popular appeal, social impact, and, increasingly, its theological acumen. As noted in the previous chapter, Pentecostalism's capacity to engage the urban poor and make Christianity accessible to the illiterate has led to the demo-graphical transformation of Protestantism in many parts of the global South. Although the movement grew slowly until the late 1950s, it experienced sustained and spectacular growth thereafter, possibly unparalleled in the history of religion.

It is impossible in the scope of a single chapter to provide anything more than a sketch of the diversity, fecundity, and vitality of Protestant Christianity in the emerging world. In what follows, we highlight some of the most interesting developments and assess their implications both for an understanding of Protestant identity and for its future prospects and shape.

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