For much of the Christian period the heart of Christianity has been in Western Europe. In the last seventy years or so it may well have shifted to other parts of the world. Gonzalez examines the way Christianity is expressed in some of these different regions.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 37, “Vitality at the Periphery” Loc. 7713-8200.
Gonzalez notes that in the second half of the 20th century Christianity was on the decline in the Western world but was thriving elsewhere (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7726). India saw striking revivals, especially in the charismatic movement (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7748). There were also notable moves to encourage unity among diverse groups of Christians (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7763). In China after World War II missionary activity and much training of leaders stopped (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7778). By the 1960s there was widespread persecution. As the persecution lifted the Church emerged, larger and stronger than before the Cultural Revolution (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7793). The climate in China was difficult to analyze due to a division between governmentally approved and disapproved churches. Japan saw growth, especially among Pentecostal groups, during this time period (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7815). In Korea, both before and after the division into North and South Korea, Christianity grew rapidly, especially in the lower classes (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7830). Korea was also active in sending missionaries overseas in the 20th century (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7837).
In Africa, home of some of the earliest Christians, the 20th century saw direct attacks in both World Wars as well as a strong Islamic influence (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7853). The Ethiopian Church engaged in missionary activity by emigration. Roman Catholicism grew even as colonialism waned and nations affirmed their own sovereignty (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7860). Among Protestants there was “explosive” growth (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7867). In the conflicts against Islam as well as those against a colonial past, Christianity was a source of peace and justice. The Pentecostal movement especially reached out effectively to Africa (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7882). Gonzalez notes that locally developed church bodies have membership of 80-90 million and send missionaries to all parts of the world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7896).
Latin America continued its trend of broad tolerance but governmental authority over some affairs of the Church (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7911). There were moves on the part of the Church to assert itself as the champion of the poor (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7942). The Pentecostal movement saw the most notable numeric growth, through emotional revivals (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7950). Much of the shift in Latin America seems to be from a form of nominal Catholicism to an enthusiastic Protestantism (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7972). Gonzalez notes that there was not a strong ecumenical movement in Latin America. He suggests that fear of Catholic influence may have discouraged cooperation (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 7995).
Around the world, churches tended to band together in the 20th century. Gonzalez does not see this as a pursuit of unity in doctrine but that “all Christians, whatever their race or nationality, would engage in a common search for the meaning of obedience to Christ in the modern world” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8011). Organizations tended to gather diverse groups so as to ask questions together. They would share ideas rather than direct policy (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8018). An emphasis on mutual agreement rather than specific doctrinal truth governed many of the ecumenical meetings (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8039). The World Council of Churches, which formed after World War II, was a natural outcome of these movements (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8069). The declarations of the World Council tend to focus on widely held ideas of peace and justice (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8090). Toward the end of the 20th century the Council took a greater interest in matters such as ecology (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8097). Gonzalez observes that regional and national ecumenical organizations also flourished during the 20th century (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8105).
In the world of theology, Gonzalez considers the very important phenomenon of “contextual” theologies (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8127). Most of these consider the gospel as “a message of liberation for those in their own particular context” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8142). There have been a variety, often called liberation theologies. Gonzalez considers feminist theology to belong to this group as well (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8142). These theologies typically use a Marxist model of revolution. After seeing a problem, the theology judges its nature, then takes action to overcome it (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8158). Gonzalez traces these theologies briefly to many parts of the world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8166).
Gonzalez concludes this chapter by observing that missions have often had a goal of “three selves: self-government, self-support, and self-propagation” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8181). In recent years, younger church bodies have raised questions which challenge traditional theology. These questions are often accompanied by missionary activity in which post-Christian regions are influenced (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 8188). The work continues as new church bodies are prepared to expand to a variety of regions.
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