- The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 9: World Christianities c. 1914-2000
Surveys of Christianity in the Modern Era are difficult to write and seldom attempted. This volume in The Cambridge History of Christianity series offers a superb overview of major movements, events, and challenges that impacted Christian churches in the twentieth century. The editor, Hugh McLeod, professor of church history at the University of Birmingham, has assembled an outstanding group of scholars who address specific eras, denominations, or ecclesiastical issues in creative and insightful ways. McLeod's introduction suggests that two "central themes" of the book focus on the fact that Christianity developed a worldwide presence during the twentieth century even as its European base experienced multiple crises politically and religiously. He notes that by century's end, the churches' power bases continued to be in the West (though shifting), and in spite of declines in Western secular societies, churches still exerted extensive influence. Essays explore these dynamics with particular attention to war, interfaith relationships, liberation movements, and changes in technology. Of particular importance are the chapters that explore the development of Christianity outside the West, materials often not found in a single volume.
Part I explores "Institutions and Movements" including the papacy, ecumenism, colonialism/missions, Pentecostal/Charismatic movements and the growth of large independent Christian groups in Africa and Asia. The latter chapter, written by Allan Anderson and Edmond Tang, offers important distinctions between groups, noting, for example, that Chinese "house churches" are no monolithic movement, but reflect varying theological and liturgical differences. Part II surveys "Narratives of Change" that include chapters on the impact of the wars, the development of Christianity inside and outside the [End Page 120] West, and the rise of postcolonial identities in "mission" churches. Chapters on Christianity in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia are particularly helpful in distinguishing varying expressions of Christian belief and practice in specific regions. Part III details various issues related to "Social and Cultural Impact" that include liturgical developments Catholic and Protestant, relations between Christians and Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, along with debates related to sexuality, gender, economics, science, film, and the arts. Pirro Markkola, research fellow at the University of Tampere, Finland, provides two particularly insightful chapters dealing with "Patriarchy and Women's Emancipation" and "The Church as Women's Space." She rightfully observes that in spite of some more positive response to women in ministry, "the willingness of Protestant churches to recruit female clergy should not be exaggerated" (p. 560), a sobering reality as the twentieth-first century moves along.
The chapter on "African Christianity: From the World Wars to Decolonization," written by Ogbu U. Kalu, is a particularly significant contribution to the volume, detailing the "ambiguities" of the missionary movements and certain endeavors that extended colonialism implicitly and explicitly. Kalu writes that after World War I "bush schools" became a "means of evangelization, rivalry, civilization, legitimization of colonial industrial policy, expansion into rural areas and domestication of Christian values" (p. 204). The essay examines the confrontation of cultures as missionary and indigenous churches responded to the African world. Kulu notes that there were only sixty-one African bishops out of 2500 at Vatican Council II. More recent appointments have extended that number significantly.
Roswith Gerloff's chapter on the "African Diaspora in the Caribbean and Europe" is likewise insightful in part because this region of the world is often overlooked in survey texts and because of the materials it presents. As a Baptist, I was particularly grateful for the attention given to the black missionary George Liele and the work of the anti-slavery British Baptist missionary William Knibb, a pioneer in the efforts to stop the British slave trade. Gerloff's description of the Pentecostal Apostolic movement in the islands is also intriguing.
In a chapter on Christianity's crisis in the West, Hugh McLeod suggests that "there are reasons for doubting" that Europe is a post-Christian region, and he offers a variety of sound reasons for his assertion...