What are Global Evangelical Protestant leaders thinking? How compatible is it with Catholicism?
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a survey of participants in the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization. The Cape Town 2010 gathering sought to bring together a geographically representative group of evangelical leaders that would reflect the demographic, cultural, theological and ecclesiastical diversity of evangelicals. Of the 2,196 respondents, 43% were from the Global North, 57% from Global South. Other geographic breakdowns: 20% Europe, 19% North America, 26% Sub-Sahara Africa, 21% Asia and the Pacific, 10% Central and South America.
Here is a summary of some interesting findings as a beginning for discussion.
The big news appears to be the Global South’s optimism in comparison to the Global North’s pessimism. Global South Evangelical leaders (71%) expect that in five years things will be better for evangelicalism in their country, while Global North leaders expect things will be the same (21%) or worsen (33%). U.S. Evangelical leaders are particularly pessimistic (48%). Global South leaders (58%) say they are gaining influence, while Global North leaders (66%) say they are losing influence.
Most of these leaders had a born again experience (93%) at an average age of 17. Some identify themselves as Pentecostal (25%) and/or charismatic Christians (31%) for a total of 40% renewalists. Younger leaders are more likely to be Pentecostal (31%) and/or charismatic (35%) and those in the Global South are more likely to be Pentecostal (33%).
Only half of these Evangelicals were raised Evangelical as children, 17% were raised as other Protestant, and 13% as Catholic. The remainder was from miscellaneous groups, each under 3%.
Following the teachings of Christ in one’s personal and family life (97%), leading others to Christ (94%) and working to help the poor and needy (73%) are regarded as essential.
They see the major threats to Evangelical Christianity as being the influence of secularism (71%), too much consumerism (67%), and sex and violence in pop culture (59%). While 47% see the influence of Islam as a threat, only 10% see the influence of Catholicism as a threat.
They see Christianity as the one, true faith (96%), and believe that abortion is usually or always wrong (96%) and that society should discourage homosexuality (84%).
They believe that men have the duty to be the religious leaders in marriage and the family; however, 79% say women should be allowed as pastors.
They disagree among themselves. Only 50% say the Bible should be taken literally, but 52% believe drinking alcohol is incompatible with being a good evangelical. Fully 49% believe that it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.
They see Jews (75%) and other Christians favorably: Catholics(76%), Orthodox (74%). Generally they see other religious traditions unfavorably Muslims (67%), Hindus (65%), Buddhists (65%).
Their top priority for evangelization is the non-religious (73%), followed by Muslims (59%), Buddhists (39%), Hindus (39%), Jews (27%), Non-evangelical Christians (26%) and finally Catholics (20%). Generally they give the biggest priority to large groups in their particular country.
There seems to be much in these findings that are compatible with Pope Benedict’s global agenda for Catholicism: 1) an emphasis upon the threat of secularism; 2) a clear contrast of Christianity over other religious traditions; 3) an emphasis on following the teaching of Christ personally, 4) seeking to lead others to Christ, and 5) working to help the poor and needy. All of this seems to be accompanied by little hostility to Catholicism as an evil or a threat.
Jack Rakosky has an interdisciplinary doctorate in psychology and sociology, and spent twenty years in applied research and program evaluation in the public mental health system. His current interests are spirituality and voluntarism, especially among highly educated people at retirement age.