The experience of Post-Christendom

Ekklesia is a British organization and website that comes from a more English-Evangelical (Anabaptist) perspective, but with a more cerebral bent and with a desire to engage. On their website splash page they describe themselves as, “…a think-tank that promotes transformative theological ideas in public life.” They also detail their purpose:

“Ekklesia promotes post-Christendom approaches to social policy, nonviolence and conflict transformation, environmental action, the politics of forgiveness, economic sharing, support for migrants and displaced people, freedom of expression, restorative justice, a positive (relational) approach to sexuality, non-compulsion in religion and belief, the engagement of theology with science and culture, respectful engagement with those of other faith and non-religious convictions, and church as alternative community.” (source)

I agree with her that much has been written about the shift of Christianity from Northern and Western countries/societies to the Global South. This all started with Philip Jenken’s book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
Anyway, in their recent e-mail update they present a paper by Savi Hensman entitled, “Lambeth Facing West and South.” A native Sri Lankan, “She is also a respected writer on Christianity and social justice. An Ekklesia associate, Savi is author of Re-writing history, a research paper on the Episcopal Church.”
I want to move to England (Scotland or Wales, which is the origin of my name). Of course, Ireland is perfectly good as well… I’ll stop right there.
I agree with her that much has been written about the shift of Christianity from Northern and Western countries/societies to the Global South. This all started with Philip Jenken’s book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. She takes a bit of a different direction, however, and presents the idea of “boundry lines” from a different perspective. Here are a few paragraphs of her observations of the Communion and the divides that afflict us. She is quoting Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

Numerical growth among Anglicans ‘has been almost entirely in the South’, and ‘Today it is a truism to say that the average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDs, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday.
Canon Cameron claims that ‘the dark side to the life of the Anglican Communion is that too often the theological graduates of the seminaries of the NATO alliance unconsciously adopt an air of educational superiority, while American church leaders assume ‘implicit obligations… on the recipients of their largesse.’
So, according to Canon Cameron, it is not surprising that ‘a growing impatience with the cultural and financial dominance of the NATO aspects of Communion life, and with it, a growing critique of the Churches of the West. Not only are we in the West shrinking in numbers unlike the growing Churches of the South; for many critics, the Churches of the West are losing a sense of their identity as they get lulled into the liberalism and relativism which are presumed to be the hallmarks of the modern Western society… Increasingly, the Churches of the South have asserted their identity in the Anglican Communion, and this is an identity which is uncompromising in its commitment to the supreme authority of the scriptures as God’s Word written; which is content to see the Thirty-Nine Articles as the benchmark of contemporary Anglican life; and which sees itself contending for the salvation of souls in the face of a lively Pentecostalism and a militant Islam.’ The ‘proclamation of traditional doctrinal and moral positions’ would also help Anglicans to deepen unity with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Canon Cameron does advocate some degree of mutual respect for ‘boundary markers’. Supposedly ‘For conservatives, the boundary stones which mark out the territory set out in scripture for those who seek to be faithful to God are being dislodged. Central elements of Christian obedience, the authority of Scripture and even the divinity of Christ, are being casually moved to the fringes of Anglican identity… Equally, those who might be labelled liberals are becoming increasingly distressed because they see vital boundary stones about Anglican attitudes towards diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, patient debate and discernment being replaced by the narrow strait jacket of a particular view of orthodoxy; worse it appears that the traditional autonomy of the different Churches in Anglicanism is being replaced by a grab for power and the attempt to impose centralisation’.