Christianity a Lossing lie

35 Million Move In and Out of the Christian faith in 2008? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry- http://www.siena.org/December-2007/35-million-move-in-and-out-of-the-christian-faith-in-2008
Sunday, 30 December 2007 13:27
Some fascinating realities to contemplate on the verge of a New Year:First of all, religious identity is remarkably fluid: for good or ill. This is contrary to what most Catholics have assumed and has helped fuel our “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture. As I wrote in part 10 of my series “The Challenge of Independent Christianity”“We tend to regard the three basic “types” of Christianity – Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy – as essentially stable and fixed. Given the long histories and long memories of these faiths, it is only natural to think of religious affiliation as a deeply-rooted identity that changes only with difficulty and very slowly. We don’t expect to wake up tomorrow and find that Protestants have decided en masse that the Reformation was not a good idea or that the Orthodox have jettisoned their icons in favor of store-front missions. Our ecumenical dialogue is founded upon this presumed stability.

David Barrett, however, has a fascinating sidebar in his World Christian Encyclopedia indicating that a surprising amount of religious change is, in fact, the norm. As Barrett puts it, “Every year, millions of people are changing their religious profession or their Christian affiliation. Mass defections are occurring from stagnant majority religions to newer religions” (World Christian Encyclopedia, p. 5). It is imperative for us to understand that a significant part of this change is the result of personal choices, and not just natural birth and death. Evangelicals have a saying: “God has no grandchildren”.

(You can read the whole 10,000 word article on Independent Christianity beginning here)

This has been especially so in times and places where certain factors converge :ready access to new religious ideas (sometimes through evangelizers who come to you and sometimes through locals who are exposed to new ideas elsewhere and bring them home like the lay scholars who brought Christianity to Korea from China in the last 18th century) and circumstances that have prepared local people to be open.

We live in one of those times. The advent of the internet and globalization combined with the world-wide spread of new, intensely evangelizing forms of Christianity and post-modern ideas and assumptions has rendered clear, this-not-that, “steady state” religious identity a thing of the past-especially in the west but increasingly in large parts of the developing world as well. There has been some discussion around St. Blog’s in the past year about the idea that a first generation, personally “chosen” faith is not as culturally rich as an inherited, historic faith that one simply absorbs from one’s serenely homogenous, practicing family and community.

No doubt but that isn’t the choice before us. Not in 2008.

Every serious Anglo Catholic (on the left or right) that I’ve ever met in this country has a sense of going against the flow of the culture – and often against the feelings of significant parts of his/her family and friends as well. The situation is not as grave among recent immigrants from strongly Catholic backgrounds but it will be for their children.

Our situation both demands and is tailor-made for the New Evangelization. Spend a few minutes at this year’s end contemplating the following global statistics in light of our Lord’s call to make disciples of all nations and the recent CDF Note on evangelization:

19 million people convert to Christianity every year around the world. (Conversions to all other faiths combined: about 2.5 million/year)

122,000 new Christians are baptized every 24 hours around the world.

37,000 new Catholics are added to the Church every 24 hours around the world.

This fluidity of belief and practice cuts both ways:

16.5 million Christians leave the faith every year.

In the historically Christian west, we naturally been acutely aware of those leaving.

Christianity has experienced massive losses in the Western world over the last 60 years…every year, some 2,7655,100 church attenders in Europe and North America cease to be practicing Christians within the 12-month period, an average loss of 7,500 every day.

But the global result is still a gain:

David Barrett, in his World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates a yearly global “net gain” of 2.5 million Christians or 69,000 new Christians per day.

If (as is most unlikely) 19 million non-Christians became Christian and a entirely different 16.5 million Christians left the faith in the new year, it would mean that over 35 million people moved in and out of the Christian faith in 2008 (more than the entire population of Canada!) Whatever the actual numbers are, this is clearly anything but “steady state”, if-it-was-good-enough-for-mama, it’s-good-enough-for-me faith.

At the beginning of the 21st century and at the end of 2007, huge numbers of people on this planet are searching, are open to something new, are spiritually hungry. Not a few exceptional souls but tens of millions.

And a few of them are living or working or hanging out around you and me.

In 2008, how can we reach out and present Christ in the midst of his Church to those who are seeking him – perhaps without knowing it, without the words to articulate what they are seeking – around us?

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8 Responses to Christianity a Lossing lie

  1. A group blog devoted to the baptismal call, spirituality, gifts, vocations, ministry, work, history, theology, evangelization, formation, bad jokes, and pastoral support of lay Christians seeking to live their faith in the 21st century.
    Sponsored by the Catherine of Siena Institute — http://www.siena.org.

    Incredibly Blessed or In a Time of Crisis?
    Written by Sherry
    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 20:55
    So far, no culture shock at the missions congress I’m attending. The majority of people came from outside the country and its a sea of black heads. But one thing I and my friend agree on: the tremendous different in tone. This is a gathering of highly committed evangelical/Pentecostal missions types and many major leaders that I’ve heard of for years are here.

    And they repeatedly say things …like “God is doing amazing things, stupendous things over the past 10 years. Things only dreamed of before in the 2,000 year history of Christianity. We are an incredibly blessed generation to be living to see this.”

    They live in the same world that Catholics do. But they see if with totally different eyes. As they see the 50 years since 1960 with different eyes. they are focused on the incredible growth of Christianity in the global south while we are fixated on the decline of the last remnants of Christendom in the west.

    And the flying car is there with its creator Steve Saint. It can fly for 3 hours and drive 450 miles.

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    Entering the World of Evangelical Missions Again
    Written by Sherry
    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 13:53
    I’m off in the morning to Los Angeles. Only this time to attend a conference that I signed up for last January – back when I thought that I never had any commitments right after Thanksgiving! It is a large, high level evangelical Congress on global evangelism called Call2All that is being held at the Long Beach convention center. I haven’t spent time in this sort of environment since I became Catholic so I expect to be challenged and experience a bit of culture shock. I’m going with a friend and collaborator who is also bi-cultural (former Baptist). Even with the book looming over me, this should be fun and a real learning experience.

    For instance, they have a whole track about something that Catholics NEVER talk about: Orality. What they mean by that is that 70% of the world population learns primarily through oral means rather than written means – even if they are literate. In fact, they have a category called “secondary orality” by which they mean literate westerners – even college grads – who are still oral learners in their hearts and never read a book again willingly once they have finished school. As they point out, these people need to be evangelized and discipled differently but almost all the methods used by evangelists currently are those of people who learn through written materials. So solar powered audio Bibles, anyone? Creative story-telling, etc. Very interesting. I’ll post more as the week goes on.

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    Gratitude is Happiness Doubled by Wonder
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 24 November 2011 11:55
    I am profoundly grateful to God and to many people, including all who read this blog and are collaborators with us this Thanksgiving. So I thought I’d share some inspiring gratitude thoughts:

    “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

    “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G. K. Chesterton

    “Thou that has given so much to me,
    Give one thing more–a grateful heart;
    Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
    As if thy blessings had spare days;
    But such a heart, whose pulse may be
    Thy praise.”

    – George Herbert

    “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

    “Gratitude brought me into the church and that gratitude grows, and the first word my heart will utter when I face my God is ‘Thanks’.” – Dorothy Day

    ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.’
    I Chronicles 16:34
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    Everything You Wanted to Know . . . About The Pilgrim Thanksgiving
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 24 November 2011 08:51
    Here’s a cool Thanksgiving link for children or anyone interested in what really happened at the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving (which was not the very first Christian Thanksgiving in the New World). From the living history museum at Plimoth Plantation.
    http://www.plimoth.org/media/olc/intro.html
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    Thanksgiving in New York
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 24 November 2011 08:43
    The Catholic Charities Thanksgiving Meal Distribution from Catholic Charities New York on Vimeo.
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    Fact Checking the Vatican Insider
    Written by Sherry
    Monday, 21 November 2011 17:12
    Here’s the English headline in today’s The Vatican Insider: 34 Thousand Catholics More Each Day.
    The numbers are designed to get your attention. The only problem is that 1) the numbers are wrong and 2) in any case, the numbers don’t mean what VI apparently thinks they mean. Because there are tens of thousands more Catholics every day but it still isn’t good news.
    Ah globalization. VI identified a mysterious source, Analisis Digirtal (!), as the source of the report. Analisis Digital turns out to be an online news source from Uruguay. But the Status of Global Mission is in fact, published in English by the evangelical Protestant Center for Global Christianity headquartered at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the US. This report has been issued annually for at least 20 years. At least that is how long I’ve been consulting it.
    So apparently, the 2011 SGM was translated from English into Spanish, picked up by Analisis Digital and then VI, translated into Italian and then back into somewhat quixotic English and a few things got lost in translation. Since there’s nothing like going directly to the source, here’s the link to the original.
    Now for the Errata:
    As you can see, the number of Catholics added to our rank every day is estimated to be 31,000, not 34 thousand as reported by VI. Just to be clear, the overwhelming majority of this group of new Catholics has joined us through natural biological growth, not conversion.
    Here’s the information you need to grasp the significance of these numbers.
    The SGM estimates that 234,000 additional human beings are added to our planet every 24 hours. The Catholic contribution of 31,000 is just 13.25% of the total which is significantly lower than our 16.5% “cut” of the human population. In other words, our slice of the global human pie is shrinking, not growing.

    83,000 additional Christians are added every 24 hours. Catholics make up almost exactly half of the Christians on this planet in 2011 but our portion of the growth is only 37.3% – far below what it would need to be to sustain us at 50%. 56.6% of all Christian growth comes from the heirs of the Reformation. Our share of the global Christian pie is shrinking, not growing.

    The Atlas of Global Christianity (produced by the same group that maintains the Status of Global Mission) estimates that the global Catholic population will only make up 45.5% of all Christians by 2050.

    Catholic per annum growth is only 0.98% while that of historic Protestant groups is 1.68% and that of Independent Christians is 2.33%. Independent Christians have the fastest growth of any religious group on earth and are the only religious group growing faster than Islam. The majority of Independent growth is through conversion rather than birth.

    As you can see from my comment below, Independent Christians are wildly diverse. We have got to get over our easy assumptions that they are all stupid and venial (while patting ourselves on the back about how smart and noble we are to have the good taste to be born Catholic or to have converted.) Some of these people are very impressive by any standards. Take a look at this post which I did last Easter about one of the impressive ones.

  2. 34 thousand Catholics more each day

    MARCO TOSATTI
    ROME

    According to the annual “Status of global mission” report produced ​​in 2011, the Catholic Church has one billion and 160 million faithful around the world, with 34,000 new people joining every day. The figures from the study, released by the agency Analisis Digirtal, say that there are two billion people in the world today, out of a total of approximately seven billion, who have never received the Gospel’s message. Another two billion and 680 million listen to it sometimes, or are vaguely aware of it, but they are not Christians.

    “Despite the fact that Jesus Christ only founded one Church, and shortly before his death he prayed ‘that all would be one’ today there are many separate Christian denominations: at the beginning of the Twentieth century there were 1600; in 2011 there are 42,000,” according to the study. The number of charismatic Protestants reaches 612 million. There are 426 million “classic” Protestants and this number is growing at a rate of 20,000 a day.

    The Orthodox Churches count 271 million baptized believers and are joined by an additional five thousand a day. Anglicans, concentrated mainly in Africa and Asia, amount to 87 million, with three thousand more joining each day. Those which the study defines as “marginal Christians” (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, those who do not recognize the divinity of Jesus or the Trinity) amount to 35 million and are growing at a rate of two thousand a day.

    “The most common form of growth is to have many children and make them adhere to their religious tradition. Conversion is more uncommon, however there are millions of cases of this every year. The most common example, is one spouse converting to the faith of the other.” In 2011, Christians of all denominations will have spread more than 71 million Bibles around the world (there are already one billion and 741 million, some of which are clandestine). Each year, 409 thousand Christians set off to evangelize a country that is not their own, organized in 4800 different missionary organizations.

  3. Evangelicals Ten Times More Likely Than Catholics to Name Faith as their Highest Priority?
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 30 June 2011 15:11
    From Barna research:
    “Fewer adults said faith is their top priority in the 2010 study (12%) compared to 2006 (16%), although this is a slightly better proportion than 2008 (when just 9% of adults described faith as their top objective in life). Despite the fact that more than three-quarters of adults identify themselves as Christians and nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, matters of “faith” are surprisingly rare when Americans choose their highest priority in life. The types of responses categorized as “faith” include connecting with God, living consistent with their faith principles, and being at peace with God.
    David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, commented on the relatively small proportion of Americans who place top emphasis on faith: “The gap is vast between self-described affiliation with Christianity and ascribing highest priority to that faith. When it comes to why so much of American religion seems merely skin-deep, this gap between what people call themselves and what they prioritize is perhaps most telling.”
    Kinnaman indicated that even among some of the most actively involved faith groups, relatively small proportions of adults identify faith as their peak priority. Among Protestants (18%), churchgoers (18%), and non-evangelical born again Christians (16%) less than one-fifth identified faith as their top objective in life. The only exception seems to be evangelicals, among whom two out of every five mention that faith is their highest priority (39%). Among Catholics, just 4% mentioned faith, which is only slightly higher than the levels generated among unchurched adults (2%).”
    So nearly 10 times as many evangelicals will name faith as their highest priority (39%) as Catholics (4%)?
    Do you think that is true and why?

  4. Global Reality Check: San Diego vs. Lira, Uganda
    Written by Sherry
    Monday, 23 May 2011 10:13
    Think your diocese has problems? Worried about a priest shortage in your region? It helps me regain perspective to occasionally compare the realities of two dioceses of similar size. One in the US like San Diego. One in the global south like Lira, Uganda.
    San Diego: Great weather, nice beach.
    Lira: Had the Lord’s Resistance Army. Just emerging from 20 year civil war. Really bad roads. No beach.
    Let’s run the numbers:
    San Diego: Catholic population is just under 1 million distributed over 8,852 square miles
    99 parishes, 14 missions
    200 diocesan and religious priests
    114 deacons
    246 sisters, 20 brothers
    2 Catholic universities

    Lira: Catholic population is just over 1 million distributed over 4,646 square miles
    18 parishes divided into 1,000 “chapels”
    64 diocesan and religious priests
    270 sisters
    1,200 lay catechists who care for the 1,000 “chapels”

    Why all the lay catechists? From a 2008 article on the Church in Need website:
    “Throughout Uganda catechists play a crucial role. In almost every parish of the country and at almost any time of day you can see a group of the faithful gathered around a catechist – one group might be praying together, another sitting in the shade, discussing a phrase from the Holy Scriptures; elsewhere perhaps a group of married couples, including many mothers carrying little babies in their arms, all learning together how to make a success of raising a Christian family and giving their children a Catholic education.
    There are 14,000 catechists in Uganda today, 1,000 of them in the Diocese of Lira. The Tabernacle in the chapel of the catechists’ formation house is made in the shape of a traditional African grain store, for Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. While only the priest can bring Christ to the faithful in the Blessed Eucharist, the catechist can still nourish the people with the Word of God, and there are countless people in the Diocese of Lira who are waiting for this bread.
    Of course, the catechists in Lira need to have a deep formation in order to be able to serve fruitfully. The long and bloody conflict, from 1988 to 2008, between the rebels of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, and the Ugandan army have left deep scars in this diocese, as in others. Many people were unable to attend school during this time, and, as a result, many men and women today have barely enough basic education to be able to take part in the necessary training courses.
    The participants themselves are asked to make a modest contribution, for example by contributing a few cupfuls of cornmeal, beans and a little firewood. They must also bring their own plate, a blanket, a ballpoint pen, an exercise book, a Bible, a prayer book and a rosary. Everything else the diocese has to provide.”

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    A group blog devoted to the baptismal call, spirituality, gifts, vocations, ministry, work, history, theology, evangelization, formation, bad jokes, and pastoral support of lay Christians seeking to live their faith in the 21st century.
    Sponsored by the Catherine of Siena Institute — http://www.siena.org.

    John Paul II and the 800 Lepers
    Written by Sherry
    Saturday, 30 April 2011 09:10
    Here’s a very moving story about Pope John Paul II from the layman who accompanied and photographed him in some of his most intimate moments for 27 years. A story that I’d never heard before, a perfect read just hours before his beatification.
    “It was May 4, 1984 and Pope John Paul II was visiting Sorok Island off South Korea, a one-time leper colony where several hundred people with the disfiguring disease were receiving care.”
    Snip.
    “The protocol that day in 1984 called for John Paul to enter the Sarok pavilion where the patients were gathered, give a brief speech on the meaning of suffering, then leave. But after surveying the scene, John Paul brushed aside a cardinal who tried to speed him along, and set to work.
    He touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one,” Mari said. “Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one!”
    For me he was a man of God,” the 71-year-old Mari said in an interview this week inside his apartment just steps from the Vatican.
    I can guarantee you he was a living saint, because everything I could see with my eyes, hear with my ears, you cannot believe that this man could do so much.”

    Sherry’s note – the picture above shows Pope John Paul II with lepers – not in South Korea but in Africa
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    “If God Does Not Show Up, We’re Dead”
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 28 April 2011 09:59
    In the spirit of the season, I have a book on order about 100 Catholics saints who raised the dead.
    I know. It is really out there. Jesus rising from the dead – OK. Even the idea of saints doing it spooks us a bit. And as for just plain Christians experiencing God raising the dead? Yeah, right.
    It came as a surprise to me to discover that it has always been a rare but real part of the Christian experience. The ultimate experience of resurrection life.
    My first real life exposure was years ago when I was doing gifts interviews in Washington DC and a woman came in who had had an extraordinary healing ministry for 30 years. When I asked her to tell me a story, she told me about praying for a man who rose from the dead. We hear hundreds of amazing and inspiring stories in the Called & Gifted process but this was one of those jaw-dropping moments. I tried to appear calm and pretend that I had heard stories like this before although I was inwardly skeptical. Darn. She really wanted to talk about other things so I never did hear exactly what happened.
    (I had a similar experience not too long ago when I finally heard someone tell of having an experience of bi-location. As she pointed out, I do joke in workshops about my desire to hear bi-location stories, but I never expected anyone to take me up on it. 65,000+ have gone through the Called & Gifted process and I finally stumbled across someone who seems to have experienced bi-location. That percentage seems about right.)
    And then there was the time in Rome, when Fr. Michael Sweeney and I and our OP host were standing jammed upright in a Roman bus famous for its crowds and its pick-pockets. I had my purse firmly clapsed under my arm and my arms rigidly down at my side when our guide casually nodded his head toward a church that we were passing and said “Oh, and that’s where St. Dominic raised the boy from the dead.” “Wait!” I squealed inwardly as I desperately tried to turn my wedged body so that I could see what he was referring to but we had passed the spot by before I managed to extract myself.
    Another tantalizing almost-brush with resurrection.
    Bl Jordan of Saxony, who followed St. Dominic as Master of the Order, wrote a very sober account of the miracle which was witnessed by a number of intelligent Dominicans.
    “It happened that, once while he was in Rome, a young man, related to the Lord Cardinal Stephen of Fossa Nuova, was riding recklessly down a steep hill and thrown from his horse. While he was being carried away, it was hard to tell whether he was still alive or dead. As the crowd which had gathered was displaying its grief with wails and lamentations, Master Dominic happened along with Brother Tancred, a good, fervant man and one prior in Rome; in fact, it was he who told me of this incident. Brother Tancred said to him, “Why do you hesitate? Why don’t you call on the Lord? Where is your pity for your neighbor, your confidence in God?”
    Stirred by these words and inflamed by the fire of his own ardent compassion, he ordered that the young man be brought to a nearby house. There he restored him to life by his prayers and personally led him out of the house in the sight of those who had gathered.”
    He had expired. That is what I heard from his parents, who lived in the Roman Campagna.)
    Wow. A Dominican whose instinctive response to a fatal injury was “Why do you hesitate to pray for life? Where is your pity for your neighbor, your confidence in God?”
    Suddenly, it doesn’t all seem so freaky.
    And then I started to hear confirmed stories from sober people that Christians were starting to see people raised from the dead in significant numbers around the world.
    And then I heard about Heidi and Rolland Baker, missionaries to Mozambique. Watch this short 2008 CBN interview with Heidi about the extraordinary things that she and her co-workers are seeing in northern Mozambique. Mother of over 7,000 abandoned and impoverished children, faced daily with a level of suffering and chaos that is almost indescribable, Heidi puts it bluntly “If God does not show up, we’re dead.”
    And she talks very simply about how hard it is for western Christians to be open to the miraculous. To be desperate enough, hungry enough, humble enough to pursue God instead of depending upon our own considerable resources.
    It was said of St. Dominic that he spent his days talking to people about God and his nights talking with God about people. It was his passionate longing for and pursuit of God that made it seem perfectly sane to his closest companions that he could and should pray for God to raise a young man who had died in a tragic accident.
    But the question that haunts me is am I that open to God’s manifest presence as St. Dominic and his early companions or as Heidi Baker is? Or am I just fine doing the conventional, educated, middle class western thing: depending entirely on my own resources? What more would God give the world through his Church if we were that desperate, that humble, that open?

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    Divine Mercy Is On Display in Chicago
    Written by Sherry
    Thursday, 28 April 2011 09:50
    Here’s a creative Easter Week outreach – the Divine Mercy Project in Chicago is attracting a lot of attention.
    A ten foot tall icon of the Divine Mercy, next to an empty wooden cross, in the public square of Daley Plaza (Washington & Dearborn St.), in Chicago, IL for nine days beginning on Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday.
    24 hrs/ 9 day round the clock prayer vigil to
    1) “bring souls to the fountain of My mercy,”
    2) to intercede by asking the Heavenly Father to “have mercy on us and one the whole world,” and
    3) to ask Jesus at the 3 o’clock hour for the conversion of Chicago, America and the Whole World as He said, “In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.” (Diary, 1572)
    To promote personal deeds of mercy because Jesus said, “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36) and “I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must no shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it. . . Even the strongest faith is of no avail without works .. . If a soul does not exercise mercy in some way, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgement.” (Diary, 742, 1317)
    Daley Plaza is a cross-roads for thousands and the huge numbers of Chicago inhabitants have a Catholic background. If you are in the Chicago area, check it out!
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    Bishop Interrogated for “Baptizing” in Vietnam
    Written by Sherry
    Wednesday, 27 April 2011 21:33
    Here’s a story that began circulating yesterday:
    In central Vietnam, there have been so many Catholic baptisms over the past two years – 50,000 – that communist authorities are reacting in strange ways. After Easter Mass, Bishop Duc Oanh was detained and interrogated for hours, charged with baptizing people. The Bishop protested that he had only been hearing confessions for which there was a long line.
    It helps to have a bit of background. Rapid Christian growth is nothing new in Vietnam. For instance, there were about 233,000 new Vietnamese Christians in 2010 and roughly 40% of these new Christians were converts.
    Christianity is nearly as old in Vietnam as it is in America. Catholicism began to take root 400 years ago in the early 17th century when Jesuit missionary Alexander Rhodes and company arrived. Rhodes wrote the first Vietnamese Catechism and he published the first Portuguese-Latin-Vietnamese dictionary. This dictionary was later used widely by many Vietnamese scholars to create the new Vietnamese writing system – largely using the Roman alphabet – still used today. By 1802 there were 320,000 Vietnamese Catholics and 176 priests in three dioceses.
    Vietnamese Catholicism was already 300 years old when Protestantism reached Vietnam in 1911. Today about 9% of Vietnam’s people are Christian (54% are syncretistic Buddhists and there is a growing number who claim no faith at all) but three quarters of those Christians are Catholic.
    While Catholics are the historic Christian majority, Protestantism is the fastest growing faith by far, increasing by 600% over the past decade. More than half of Vietnamese Protestants belong to house churches. In 2009, one evangelical group held a public Christmas gathering of 40,000 in Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon).
    Over the centuries, the links of many Catholic bishops and priests to France and the west meant that they often become involved in local conflicts where Vietnamese leaders tried to ally themselves with western powers. Tolerance of Catholicism could be easily replaced by persecution if the wrong local prince lost.
    The links of the educated Catholic minority with the French and then the Americans (including Cardinal Francis Spellman) led directly to US involvement in the Vietnam war. 60% of Vietnamese Catholics in North Vietnam moved south during the 50’s as a result of a US supported rumor campaign begun to strengthen the political base of devout Catholic president Diem. Di?m used slogans such as “Christ has gone south” and “the Virgin Mary had departed from the North” to convince northern Catholics to immigrate to the south.
    It is no surprise then, that the Vietnamese diaspora community in the US, which fled the communist take-over of the south in 1975, has a much higher percentage of Christians (23%) than the community in Vietnam.
    Or that Vietnamese are being ordained as US priests in remarkable numbers. From the US Catholic Bishops website comes this note about the ordination class of 2010.
    “Notable is that while Asian/Pacific islanders constitute four percent of U.S. Catholics, they make up ten percent of ordinands who responded to the survey. Joseph Minh Nguyen of the Divine Word Missionaries in Chicago, escaped from Vietnam by boat and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia, before becoming a Divine Word Missionary. Anthony Bui of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, also escaped from Vietnam by boat to a refugee camp in Indonesia. Dominic Phan, a member of the Dominican order, was one of the boat people who left Vietnam in 1989 for a refugee camp in Malaysia.”

  6. Easter in China: 150,000 Newly Baptized Catholics Each Year?
    Written by Sherry
    Sunday, 24 April 2011 10:28
    From CNN comes the story of a very different Easter experience:
    “The site of a planned outdoor Easter service at one of China’s largest independent “house” churches was eerily silent Sunday as police blocked more than 500 worshippers from leaving their homes and detained more than 36 for attempting to attend religious services in Beijing, church officials said.
    The gathering place for worshippers was empty as church-like bells sounded in northwest Beijing. Hundreds of uniformed and plain-clothed police officers swarmed the site of Shouwang Church and prevented CNN journalists from accessing the area.
    Authorities confiscated credentials from CNN crew members and detained them for half an hour.”
    Christianity is growing faster in China than anywhere else on the planet – at more than 4 times the national population growth rate. In 2010, there were 4 million additional Christians in China, two thirds of which are converts. During the hundred years between 1910 and 2010, Christians have grown from 1.7 million to 115 million. Most of the growth has happened during the last 40 years.
    81% of these first, second, and third generation Christians are Independent Christians and 17.4% are Catholic. Independent Christian leaders have been planning to challenge the state’s rejection of public worship for months.
    Asia News is covers the complexity of Catholic life in China but ended today’s article with this exciting news:
    “Even in these difficulties and divisions, each community has confirmed to AsiaNews that on the night of the Easter Vigil, there will be dozens of baptisms in each parish or group. A parish in the north will see 40 baptisms. An important fact is the age of the newly baptized (mostly adults between 30 and 40 years) and the reasons that led them to become Catholic. “In a society where there is a lot of lies, they are driven to seek the truth and to find answers to important questions of life, that materialism is unable to meet.”
    Some estimates state there are at least 150 thousand newly baptized each year in China.”
    To put this into perspective, if this estimate is correct, China would see twice as many adult baptisms during the past year as the US Catholic Church will see this Easter. But the Catholic numbers would still represents only about 5.6% of all converts to Christianity in 2010.

  7. Glimpsing Dawn in Bhutan
    Written by Sherry
    Tuesday, 29 March 2011 10:29
    A friend just sent me a link to a fascinating article about the emergence of the Christian community in reclusive Bhutan. Numbering maybe 10,000 in an overall population of 700,000 (about 1.4% of the population), Christians are slowly becoming visible although they are still careful to maintain a low profile. Christianity is technically legal in Bhutan but Christians continue to pay lesser penalties for publically acknowledging their faith. (For instance, a student who lists his or her faith as “Christian” may not be allowed access to higher studies.)
    (The French Internet site “Aide à l’Eglise en détresse” puts the figure of Christians in Bhutan at 12,255, with only 1,000 Roman Catholics, i.e. 0.5% of the population as against 74% Buddhists, 20.5% Hindus, 3.8% Animists and 1.2% uncategorized. Catholicism was the first form of Christianity to reach Bhutan via Jesuit missionaries in 1627.
    UCA’s article begins with the journey of an Indian Archbishop and three members of the Jesus Youth movement across Bhutan. In places like Nepal and Bhutan, it was lay Indian evangelists who were the catalyst of the much wider emergence of Christianity in the 20th century.
    I wasn’t suprised to discover that Jesus Youth is an international charismatic movement that arose in Kerala in the 1970’s and has organically spread across India and now to 24 other countries. The lion’s share of serious Catholic evangelization around the world, and especially in the global south, over the past 40 years has arisen from within various groups affected by the charismatic renewal.

  8. The 15 Million New Catholics Thought Experiment
    Written by Sherry
    Sunday, 20 February 2011 12:49
    I’m in Houston caring for my sister, Becci, who is a cancer patient there. Hence, little blogging.
    But I did notice the new 2009 figures for Catholic growth came out of the Vatican yesterday. The estimate:
    15 million new Catholics as of the end of 2009. Which is actually a drop from the 19 million new Catholics in 2008. In two years, 2008 – 2009, we’ve seen 34 million additional Catholics join the Church. But such are the numbers we deal with.
    A total of 1.181 billion Catholics on the planet as of 14 months ago. At that rate, our numbers are almost certainly closing in on 1.2 billion as I write this post.
    Last year, I posted this little thought experiment which is worth repeating. Take a moment to contemplate:

    15 million additional Catholics entered the Church in 2009:
    Most are baptized infants. But perhaps a million could be older children or adult converts.

    If brought together in one place, these new Catholics would produce a Catholic Cairo, Egypt:

    That means 41,095 additional Catholics or a new Edmonds, Washingon every day.

    That means 1,712 additional Catholics every hour.

    29 additional Catholics every minute.

    15 million immortals
    15 million people created by God
    15 million people redeemed by Jesus Christ
    15 million members of the Body of Christ
    15 million people who need to encounter Christ personally and respond to his call to follow him
    15 million people anointed by Christ himself for a vocation, to play a unique part in his redemption of the world
    15 million people given charisms for the sake of others (and most people are given more than one!)

    15 million people who need to be loved, prayed for, fed, housed, clothed, educated, evangelized, catechized, to receive the sacraments, have a place to attend Mass regularly, receive help in discerning and answering God’s call, and to be encouraged along the journey.

    At the current 0.0348% percentage of priests (just under 3.5/100ths of 1%) in the Catholic Church
    those 15 million would include roughly 5,215 priestly vocations.

    Can we take this in? What is God doing? What are we called to do? What implications do you see?

    It’s worth thinking about. Cause we are going to find that another 15 million or more will have joined us in 2010.

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