World Christianity is a discourse about Christianity as a worldwide reality. It is not merely about the growing numbers of the faithful ‘out there’, juxtaposed against the falling numbers in the West. Part of the demographic changes of Christianity include the migration of peoples from the majority world to my world, next door. In a recent Ph.D. thesis on Christianity in Glasgow, where 126 Church of Scotland churches operate within the presbytery, 110 new churches were established between 2000 and 2016; of those new churches, 65 per cent primarily work with minority populations of African or Asian origins. Scholars may be quick to discuss the implications of the secularisation thesis or the so-called post-secular. But for those Christian communities on the ground, they may be more readily concerned with addressing practical needs related to migration, ‘integration’ into the dominant society, and negotiation of identities. From the first century until today, Christians have been a people on the move. However, another part of the picture is that changes in a given locale often happen irrespective of the Christians who have come or gone. As the four main articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity demonstrate, such migratory and demographic patterns demonstrate how societies are rarely homogenous, but, in actuality, quite pluralistic.
Multiple identities are a standard feature of human culture and society. Everyone possesses what French sociologist Bernard Lahire has called an internal plurality (2011). As Lahire sees it, individuals are ‘the bearer[s] of heterogeneous habits, schemes, or dispositions which may be contrary or even contradictory to one another’ (2003: 344). Relatedly, in their comprehensive work on identity theory, Peter J. Burke and Jan E. Stets have argued that, ‘We take on many identities over the course of a lifetime, and at any point in time we have many identities that could be activated’ (2009: 131). In other words, everyone’s internal plurality includes multiple identities that can be activated for diverse purposes. (Continue reading the introduction here.)
The Middle East’s Christian communities frequently make headlines as they emigrate rapidly from from ancient homelands to Europe and the Americas. The Centre for the Study of World Christianity and the Christian-Muslim Studies Network co-sponsored a discussion that explored the fate of those whose emigration led them to the United Kingdom.
Dr Fiona McCallum, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, presented findings from the Humanities in the European Research Area project, ‘Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe’.
Dr McCallum’s work found an audience of particular interest at the Centre for World Christianity at New College, where two PhD students have launched research in the fledgling field of Arab Christianity.Continue reading →
Biblical and Non-Biblical Sources of Popular Religiosity in World Christianity
Christianity, as our first contributor to this issue of Studies in World Christianity reminds us, is supremely a religion of the Book. The narratives, symbols and doctrinal content of the biblical writings supply the constituent texture of the religion. Nevertheless, as the same contributor, Ole Jakob Løland, points out, for much of Christian history the great majority of Christian believers did not have direct access to the text of the bible: its teaching was mediated and refracted through their participation in, or observation of, a non-vernacular liturgy, and through religious art, music, drama and the communal observance of pilgrimages and festivals in honour of the saints. Continue reading →