I was struck by a quote from Ugley Vicar (who seems to be a handsome enough chap, from his photos) today. Talking about the way that Anglicans in the UK view the worldwide Anglican communion, he said:
The Anglican Communion is, to most of them, what Europe used to be to most Englishmen. When the Channel was foggy, it was Europe that was ‘cut off’.
My only disagreement with this comment would be to ask why it should be limited to Anglicans? As far as I can tell, many British Christians don’t seem to be aware of the wider world Church and the way in which God is at work in extraordinary ways around the world. Christian bloggers in the UK, seem to be particularly parochial in the way they view things. One could read many prominent British Church blogs and never be aware that there is a world beyond Dover or Heathrow (apart from crazy American fundamentalists – who seem to be worthy of mention).
A few years back I wrote an essay on the situation of the World Church, which included the following quote:
Southern Churches are slowly but surely increasing their influence in World Christianity. However, it is still true that the most influential Churches and individuals tend to be based in the West. This is partly due to historic reasons but also due to the fact that though the Western Churches may be declining, they are still rooted in the richest and generally the most powerful societies in the world. This gives the Western Churches a degree of economic power and influence within the Christian communion which is out of all proportion to their true size.
From this discussion we can confidently assert that in demographic terms there has been a massive Southward movement of the Christian Church in recent history. The majority of the World’s Christians now live in the Southern continents. That being said, the Western Church still retains many of the trappings of leadership and influence which historically belonged to it. So, while it is true that there has been a shift in the centre of gravity of the Church to the South, this shift is not yet fully complete. However, it does seem clear that the future of the Church lies in the South, rather than in the West. The Southern Church is the Church of the future as well as the future of the Church .
The world is changing – in fact it has already changed – it’s time for we in the West to recognise that fact.