The New Faces of Christianity: believing the Bible in the Global South
Philip Jenkins, Oxford University Press, 2006, 252 pp, £16.99 ISBN 0195300653
Philip Jenkins is writing prolifically at the moment and writing well. Gathering the footnotes at the end of this book allows one to read his lucid prose with ease and follow up the references later. And what references; across continents, the Southern nations, denominations, including men and women, lay and ordained, Jenkins seems to have a kaleidoscope of examples to illustrate his chapters. He quotes books, sermons and events. The material is so well organised it does not overwhelm the reader.
Those familiar with Jenkins award winning ‘The Next Christendom’ will find less analysis in this book. He portrays and reveals the way many Global South Christians find the Old Testament particularly speaks relevantly to them, with an immediacy lacking in the Global North. This is an exceptionally wide ranging portrait, not a controversial scrutiny. This is descriptive writing of a high order from a trusted guide. He suggests why they may think, believe and behave as they do.
Early in the book (p14) he suggests the danger of future mutual incomprehensibility between the dominant forms of Global North and South Christianity. This may be especially helpful reading for Anglicans at the moment in regard to human sexuality.
I enjoyed this book immensely and was made more aware of the commitments and reading of scripture that global South Christians make. Jenkins is to be welcomed for his presentation without judgement, leaving that to us. One is aware at the end how differently texts can be treated and with what immediacy and relevance some read them and why. I can think of no fuller or more impartial picture of Global South Christianity in print.
The productions standards are as high as ever with Oxford University Press, with good scripture, name and topic indexes completing the book.
Reviewer: The Revd Ian Smith, Priest in Charge of St Paul Wordsworth Avenue, Sheffield and Diocesan Mission Coordinator
metconnexion, Autumn 2008, p.27