Christianity in the 20th century

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Christianity in the 20th century was characterized by an accelerating secularization of Western society, which had begun in the 19th century, and by the spread of Christianity to non-Western regions of the world.

Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious values and secular institutions. The secularization thesis refers to the belief that as societies progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance. The term secularization is also used in the context of the lifting of the monastic restrictions from a member of the clergy.

Characteristic of Christianity in the 19th century were Evangelical revivals in some largely Protestant countries and later the effects of modern Biblical scholarship on the churches. Liberal or modernist theology was one consequence of this. In Europe, the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed liberalism and culture wars launched in Germany, Italy, Belgium and France. It strongly emphasized personal piety. In Europe there was a general move away from religious observance and belief in Christian teachings and a move towards secularism. In Protestantism, pietistic revivals were common.


Christian ecumenism grew in importance, beginning at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910, and accelerated after the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, The Liturgical Movement became significant in both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, especially in Anglicanism.

Second Vatican Council Roman Catholic ecumenical council held in Vatican City from 1962 to 1965

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1965.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

The Liturgical Movement began as a 19th-century movement of scholarship for the reform of worship within the Roman Catholic Church. It has developed over the last century and a half and has affected many other Christian churches, including the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion, and some Protestant churches. A similar reform in the Church of England and Anglican Communion, known as the Oxford Movement, began to change theology and liturgy in the United Kingdom and United States in the mid-nineteenth century. The Liturgical Movement has been one of the major influences on the process of the Ecumenical Movement, in favor of reversing the divisions which began at the Reformation.

At the same time, state-promoted atheism in communist Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union brought persecution to many Eastern Orthodox and other Christians. Many Orthodox came to Western Europe and the Americas, leading to greatly increased contact between Western and Eastern Christianity. Nevertheless, church attendance declined more in Western Europe than it did in the East. The Roman Catholic Church instituted many reforms in order to modernize. Catholic and Protestant missionaries also made inroads in East Asia, increasing their presence and activity in Korea, mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan.

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.

Role under authoritarianism

Russian Orthodoxy under the Soviet Union

Since the 18th century, the Russian Orthodox Church had been run by the Most Holy Synod of bishops and lay bureaucrats, appointed by the tsar. With the Russian Civil War came a brief re-establishment of an independent patriarchate in 1917. The Russian Orthodox Church collaborated with the White Army in the civil war after the October Revolution. This may have further strengthened the Bolshevik animus against the church. According to Vladimir Lenin, a communist regime cannot remain neutral on the question of religion but must take action against it. He argued that a classless society would not contain religion. Lenin quashed the Church just a few years after the re-establishment, imprisoning or killing many clergy and faithful. Part of the clergy escaped the Soviet persecutions by fleeing abroad, where they founded an independent church in exile.

Russian Orthodox Church autocephalous Orthodox Christian church, headquartered in Moscow, Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church, alternatively legally known as the Moscow Patriarchate, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'. The ROC, as well as its primate, officially ranks fifth in the Orthodox order of precedence, immediately below the four ancient patriarchates of the Greek Orthodox Church; the Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Since 15 October 2018, the ROC is not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, having unilaterally severed ties in reaction to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was finalised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 5 January 2019.

Most Holy Synod highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church starting in 1721; abolished in 1918 when the Patriarchate was reinstated

The Most Holy Governing Synod was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some partly secular matters.

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled csar, or tzar or czar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

After the October Revolution, there was a movement within the Soviet Union to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule. This included the Eastern Bloc as well as the Balkan states. Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the peoples and their church where targeted by the Soviets. [1] [2] Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes lead to imprisonment. [3]

Communist International International political organization

The Communist International (Comintern), known also as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state". The Comintern had been preceded by the 1916 dissolution of the Second International.

Eastern Bloc 20th-century group of socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe

The Eastern Bloc was the group of communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, and Southeast Asia under the hegemony of the Soviet Union (USSR) during the Cold War (1947–1991) in opposition to the capitalist Western Bloc. Generally, in Western Europe the term Eastern Bloc referred to the USSR and its East European satellite states in the Comecon ; in Asia, the Soviet Bloc comprised the Mongolian People's Republic, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the People's Republic of Kampuchea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China. In the Americas, the Communist Bloc included the Caribbean Republic of Cuba, since 1961.

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The BalkansBAWL-kənz, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range, Bulgaria.

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by state interests, and most organised religions were never outlawed. Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers along with execution included torture being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals. [4] [5] The result of this state atheism was to transform the Church into a persecuted and martyred Church. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed. [6] This included people like the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna who was a monastic. Along with her murder was Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov; the Princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Fyodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess Elizabeth's convent. They were herded into the forest, pushed into an abandoned mineshaft, and grenades were then hurled into the mineshaft. Her remains were buried in Jerusalem, in the Church of Maria Magdalene.

An Experimental Design Bureau, commonly known as a sharashka was an informal name for secret research and development laboratories operating from 1930 to the 1950s within the Soviet Gulag labor-camp system. Etymologically, the word sharashka derives from a Russian slang expression sharashkina kontora, an ironic, derogatory term to denote a poorly-organized, impromptu, or bluffing organization.

Psikhushka is a Russian ironic diminutive for psychiatric hospital. In Russia, the word entered everyday vocabulary. This word has been occasionally used in English, since the Soviet dissident movement and diaspora community the West used the term. In the Soviet Union, psychiatric hospitals were often used by the authorities as prisons, in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally. As such, psikhushkas were considered a form of torture. The official explanation was that no sane person would be against socialism.

State atheism Official promotion of atheism by a government

State atheism is the incorporation of positive atheism or non-theism into political regimes. It may also refer to large-scale secularization attempts by governments. It is a form of Religion-State relationship that is usually ideologically linked to irreligion and the promotion of irreligion to some extent. State atheism may refer to a government's promotion of anti-clericalism, which opposes religious institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen. In some instances, religious symbols and public practices that were once held by religion were replaced with secularized versions. State atheism can also exist in a politically neutral fashion, in which case it is considered as non-secular.

Christ the Saviour Cathedral Moscow after reconstruction Russia-Moscow-Cathedral of Christ the Saviour-3.jpg
Christ the Saviour Cathedral Moscow after reconstruction

Catholics and Protestants under the Third Reich

The relationship between Nazism and Protestantism, especially the German Lutheran Church, was complex. Though the majority of Protestant church leaders in Germany supported the Nazis' growing anti-Jewish activities, some such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a Lutheran pastor) were strongly opposed to the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was later found guilty in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and was executed.

In the 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge , drafted by the future Pope Pius XII, [7] Pius XI warned Catholics that antisemitism is incompatible with Christianity. [8] Read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it described Hitler as an insane and arrogant prophet and was the first official denunciation of Nazism made by any major organization. [9] Nazi persecution of the Church in Germany then began by "outright repression" and "staged prosecutions of monks for homosexuality, with the maximum of publicity". [10] When Dutch bishops protested against deportation of Jews in the Netherlands, the Nazis responded with even more severe measures. [9]

Neo-orthodoxy is a branch of Protestant thought which arose in the early 20th century in the context of the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and the accompanying political and ecclesiastical destabilization of Europe in the years before and during World War II. Neo-orthodoxy's highly contextual, dialectical modes of argument and reasoning often rendered its main premises incomprehensible to American thinkers and clergy, and it was frequently either dismissed out of hand as unrealistic or cast into the reigning left- or right-wing molds of theologizing. Karl Barth, a Swiss Reformed pastor and professor, brought this movement into being by drawing upon earlier criticisms of established (largely modernist) Protestant thought made by the likes of Søren Kierkegaard and Franz Overbeck. Bonhoeffer adhered to this school of thought; his classic The Cost of Discipleship is likely the best-known and accessible statement of the neo-orthodox philosophy.

In Poland, the Nazis murdered over 2,500 monks and priests while even more were sent to concentration camps. [10] The Priester-Block (priests barracks) in Dachau concentration camp lists 2,600 Roman Catholic priests. [11] Joseph Stalin staged an even more severe persecution at almost the same time. [10]

After World War II historians such as David Kertzer accused the Church of encouraging centuries of antisemitism, and they accused Pope Pius XII of not doing enough to stop Nazi atrocities. [12] Prominent members of the Jewish community, including Golda Meir, Albert Einstein, Moshe Sharett and Rabbi Isaac Herzog contradicted the criticisms and spoke highly of Pius' efforts to protect Jews, while others such as rabbi David G. Dalin noted that "hundreds of thousands" of Jews were saved by the Church. [13] Regarding the matter, historian Derek Holmes wrote, "There is no doubt that the Catholic districts, resisted the lure of National Socialism Nazism far better than the Protestant ones." [14] Pope Pius XI declared - Mit brennender Sorge - that fascist governments had hidden "pagan intentions" and expressed the irreconcilability of the Catholic position and Totalitarian Fascist State Worship, which placed the nation above God and fundamental human rights and dignity. His declaration that "Spiritually, [Christians] are all Semites" prompted the Nazis to give him the title "Chief Rabbi of the Christian World". [15]

Many Catholic laypeople and clergy played notable roles in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust. The head rabbi of Rome became a Catholic in 1945, and in honour of the actions the pope had undertaken to save Jewish lives, the rabbi took the name Eugenio (the pope's first name). [16] A former Israeli consul in Italy claimed: "The Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the war than all the other churches, religious institutions, and rescue organisations put together." [17]

Spread of secularism

In Europe there has been a general move away from religious observance and belief in Christian teachings and a move towards secularism. The "secularization of society", attributed to the time of the Enlightenment and its following years, is largely responsible for the spread of secularism. For example, the Gallup International Millennium Survey [18] showed that only about one sixth of Europeans attend regular religious services, less than half gave God "high importance", and only about 40% believe in a "personal God". Nevertheless, the large majority considered that they "belong" to a religious denomination. Numbers show that the "de-Christianization" of Europe has slowly begun to swing in the opposite direction. Renewal in certain quarters of the Anglican church, as well as in pockets of Protestantism on the continent attest to this initial reversal of the secularization of Europe, the continent in which Christianity originally took its strongest roots and world expansion. In North America, South America and Australia, the other three continents where Christianity is the dominant professed religion, religious observance is much higher than in Europe.

South America, historically Catholic since European colonization, has experienced a large Evangelical and Pentecostal infusion in the 20th century with the influx of Christian missionaries from abroad. For example: Brazil, South America's largest country, is the largest Catholic country in the world and is the largest Evangelical country in the world (based on population). Some of the largest Christian congregations in the world are found in Brazil.

Roman Catholic Church

India and China

In 1939 Pope Pius XII, within weeks of his coronation, radically reverted the 250-year-old Vatican policy and permitted the veneration of dead family members. [19] The Church began to flourish again with twenty new arch-dioceses, seventy-nine dioceses and thirty-eight apostolic prefects, but only until 1949, when the Communist revolution took over the country.[ clarification needed ] [20]

Second Vatican Council

The interior of Saint Peter's Basilica. Prior to these years, the basilica was illuminated using beeswax candles, suspended on high chandeliers. Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh 005.jpg
The interior of Saint Peter's Basilica. Prior to these years, the basilica was illuminated using beeswax candles, suspended on high chandeliers.

A major event of the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican II, was the issuance by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of a joint expression of regret for many of the past actions that had led up to the Great Schism between the Western and Eastern churches, expressed as the Catholic-Orthodox Joint declaration of 1965. At the same time, they lifted the mutual excommunications dating from the 11th century. [21]

Intended as a continuation of Vatican I, under Pope John XXIII the council developed into an engine of modernisation. [22] It was tasked with making the historical teachings of the Church clear to a modern world and made pronouncements on topics including the nature of the church, the mission of the laity and religious freedom. [22] The council approved a revision of the liturgy and permitted the Latin liturgical rites to use vernacular languages as well as Latin during mass and other sacraments. [23] Efforts by the Church to improve Christian unity became a priority. [24] In addition to finding common ground on certain issues with Protestant churches, the Catholic Church has discussed the possibility of unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church. [25]

Vatican II reaffirmed everything Vatican I taught about papal primacy and infallibility, but it added important points about bishops. Bishops, it says, are not "vicars of the Roman Pontiff". Rather, in governing their local churches they are "vicars and legates of Christ". [26] Together, they form a body, a "college", whose head is the pope. This episcopal college is responsible for the well-being of the Universal Church. Here in a nutshell are the basic elements of the Council's much-discussed communio ecclesiology[ clarification needed ], which affirms the importance of local churches and the doctrine of collegiality.

Changes to old rites and ceremonies following Vatican II produced a variety of responses. Some stopped going to church, while others tried to preserve the old liturgy with the help of sympathetic priests. [27] These formed the basis of today's Traditionalist Catholic groups, which believe that the reforms of Vatican II have gone too far. Liberal Catholics form another dissenting group who feel that the Vatican II reforms did not go far enough. The liberal views of theologians such as Hans Küng and Charles Curran led to Church withdrawal of their authorization to teach as Catholics. [28] According to Professor Thomas Bokenkotter, most Catholics "accepted the changes more or less gracefully". [27] In 2007, Benedict XVI reinstated the old mass as an option, to be celebrated upon request by the faithful. [29]

A new Codex Juris Canonici - canon law called for by John XXIII, was promulgated by Pope John Paul II on January 25, 1983. It includes numerous reforms and alterations in Church law and Church discipline for the Latin Church. It replaced the 1917 version issued by Benedict XV.

Modernism and liberation theology

In the 1960s, growing social awareness and politicization in the Latin American Church gave birth to liberation theology. Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez became its primary proponent, [30] and in 1979 the bishops' conference in Mexico officially declared the Latin American Church's "preferential option for the poor". [31] Archbishop Óscar Romero, a supporter of the movement, became the region's most famous contemporary martyr in 1980, when he was murdered while saying mass by forces allied with the government. [32]

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) denounced the movement. [33] The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff was twice ordered to cease publishing and teaching. [34] While Pope John Paul II was criticized for his severity in dealing with proponents of the movement, he maintained that the Church, in its efforts to champion the poor, should not do so by resorting to violence or partisan politics. [30] The movement is still alive in Latin America today, though the Church now faces the challenge of Pentecostal revival in much of the region. [35] [36]

Social and sexuality issues

Quadragesimo anno was issued by Pope Pius XI on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Rerum novarum. Unlike Leo, who mainly addressed the condition of workers, Pius XI concentrated on the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He called for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity. [37] He noted major dangers for human freedom and dignity, arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian communism.

The social teachings of Pope Pius XII repeated these teachings and applied them in greater detail not only to workers and owners of capital, but also to other professions such as politicians, educators, housewives, farmers bookkeepers, international organizations, and all aspects of life including the military. Going beyond Pius XI, he also defined social teachings in the areas of medicine, psychology, sport, TV, science, law and education. There is virtually no social issue, which Pius XII did not address and relate to the Christian faith. [38] He was called "the Pope of Technology", for his willingness and ability to examine the social implications of technological advances. The dominant concern was the continued rights and dignity of the individual. With the beginning of the space age at the end of his pontificate, Pius XII explored the social implications of space exploration and satellites on the social fabric of humanity asking for a new sense of community and solidarity in light of existing papal teachings on subsidiarity. [39]

The sexual revolution of the 1960s brought challenging issues for the Church. Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae reaffirmed the Catholic Church's traditional view of marriage and marital relations and asserted a continued proscription of artificial birth control. In addition, the encyclical reaffirmed the sanctity of life from conception to natural death and asserted a continued condemnation of both abortion and euthanasia as grave sins which were equivalent to murder. [40] [41]

Efforts to consider the ordination of women led Pope John Paul II to issue two documents to explain Church teaching. Mulieris Dignitatem was issued in 1988 to clarify women's equally important and complementary role in the work of the Church. [42] [43] Then in 1994, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis explained that the Church extends ordination only to men in order to follow the example of Jesus, who chose only men for this specific duty. [44] [45] [46]

Persecutions of Roman Catholic clergy

During the Mexican Revolution between 1926 and 1934, over 3,000 priests were exiled or assassinated. [47] [48] In an effort to prove that "God would not defend the Church", president Plutarco Elías Calles ordered "hideous desecration of churches ... there were parodies of (church) services, nuns were raped and any priests captured ... were shot ...". [49] Calles was eventually deposed, [49] and despite the persecution, the Church in Mexico continued to grow. A 2000 census reported that 88% of Mexicans identify as Catholic. [50]

In 1954, under the regime of General Juan Perón, Argentina saw extensive destruction of churches, denunciations of clergy and confiscation of Catholic schools as Perón attempted to extend state control over national institutions. [51] Cuba, under atheist Fidel Castro, succeeded in reducing the Church's ability to work by deporting the archbishop and 150 Spanish priests, discriminating against Catholics in public life and education and refusing to accept them as members of the Communist Party. [52] The subsequent flight of 300,000 people from the island also helped to diminish the Church there. [52]

Persecutions of the Catholic Church took place not only in Mexico but also in 20th-century Spain and the Soviet Union. Pius XI called this the "terrible triangle". [53] The "harsh persecution short of total annihilation of the clergy, monks, and nuns and other people associated with the Church" began in 1918 and continued well into the 1930s. [54] The Spanish Civil War started in 1936, during which thousands of churches were destroyed and thirteen bishops and some 6,832 clergy and religious Spaniards were assassinated. [55] [56] After the Church persecutions in Mexico, Spain and the Soviet Union, Pius XI defined communism as the main adversary of the Catholic Church in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris issued on March 19, 1937. [57] He blamed Western powers and media for a conspiracy of silence on the persecutions carried out by Communist, Socialist and Fascist forces.



Countries by percentage of Protestants 1938.svg
Countries by percentage of Protestants (2010).svg
Countries by percentage of Protestants in 1938 and 2010. Pentecostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations fueled much of the growth in Africa and Latin America.

In the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, there has been a marked rise in the evangelical wing of Protestant denominations, especially those that are more exclusively evangelical, and a corresponding decline in the mainline liberal churches. In the post–World War I era, Liberalism was the faster-growing sector of the American church. Liberal wings of denominations were on the rise, and a considerable number of seminaries were taught from a liberal perspective. In the post–World War II era, the trend began to swing back towards the conservative camp in America's seminaries and church structures. Those entering seminaries and other postgraduate theologically related programs have shown more conservative leanings than their average predecessors.

The Evangelical push of the 1940s and 1950s produced a movement that continues to have wide influence. In the southern United States the Evangelicals, represented by leaders such as Billy Graham, experienced a notable surge.

Australia has seen renewal in different parts of the Anglican Church, as well as a growing presence of an Evangelical community. Although more "traditional" in its Anglican roots, the nation has seen growth in its religious sector.

Pentecostal movement

The Third Great Awakening had its roots in the Holiness movement which had developed in the late 19th century, giving way to the Pentecostal movement. In 1902, American evangelists Reuben Archer Torrey and Charles M. Alexander conducted meetings in Melbourne, Australia, resulting in more than 8,000 converts.

Torrey and Alexander were involved in the beginnings of the Welsh revival which led Jessie Penn-Lewis write her book "War on the Saints". In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born at Azusa Street in Los Angeles.

From there Pentecostalism spread around the world. These Pentecost-like manifestations have steadily been in evidence throughout the history of Christianity—such as seen in the first two Great Awakenings that started in the United States. However, Azusa Street is widely accepted as the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism, which in turn birthed the Charismatic movement within already established denominations, continues to be an important force in western Christianity.


Ecumenical movements within Protestantism have focused on determining a list of doctrines and practices essential to being Christian and thus extending to all groups which fulfil these basic criteria a (more or less) co-equal status, with perhaps one's own group still retaining a "first among equal" standing. This process involved a redefinition of the idea of "the Church" from traditional theology. This ecclesiology, known as non-denominationalism, contends that each group (which fulfils the essential criteria of "being Christian") is a sub-group of a greater "Christian Church", itself a purely abstract concept with no direct representation, i.e., no group, or "denomination", claims to be "the Church". Obviously, this ecclesiology is at variance with other groups that indeed consider themselves to be "the Church". The "essential criteria" generally consist of belief in the Trinity, belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to have forgiveness and eternal life, and that He died and rose again bodily.


Christian monasticism experienced renewal in the form of several new foundations with an 'inter-Christian' vision for their respective communities. Expressions of ecumenical monasticism can be seen in the Bose Monastic Community and communities of the New Monasticism movement arising from Protestant Evangelicalism.

In 1944 Roger Schütz, a pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church, founded a small religious brotherhood in France which became known as the Taizé Community. Although he was partly inspired by the hope of reviving monasticism in the Protestant tradition, the brotherhood was interdenominational, accepting Roman Catholic brothers, and is thus an ecumenical rather than a specifically Protestant community.

The Order of Ecumenical Franciscans is a religious order of men and women devoted to following the examples of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assisi in their life and understanding of the Christian gospel: sharing a love for creation and those who have been marginalized. It includes members of many different denominations, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and a range of Protestant traditions. The Order understands its charism to include not only ecumenical efforts and the traditional emphases of the Franciscans in general, but also to help to develop relationships between the various Franciscan orders.

Modernism and liberal Protestantism

Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically-informed religious movements and moods within late-18th-, 19th- and 20th-century Christianity. The word "liberal" in liberal Christianity does not refer to a leftist political agenda or set of beliefs, but rather to the freedom of dialectic process associated with continental philosophy and other philosophical and religious paradigms developed during the Age of Enlightenment. Despite its name, liberal Christianity has always been thoroughly protean.

Enlightenment-era liberalism held that man is a political creature and that liberty of thought and expression should be his highest value. The development of liberal Christianity owes much of its progression to the works of philosophers Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schleiermacher. As a whole, liberal Christianity is a product of a continuing philosophical dialogue. Many 20th-century liberal Christians have been influenced by philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Examples of important liberal Christian thinkers are Rudolf Bultmann and John A.T. Robinson.


Fundamentalist Christianity began as a less rigid movement than the current movement described and self-described by that term. It is a movement that arose within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly in reaction to modernism and certain liberal Protestant groups that denied doctrines considered fundamental to Christianity yet still called themselves Christian. Thus, fundamentalism sought to re-establish basic tenets that could not be denied without relinquishing a Christian identity, the "fundamentals". These distinctive tenets defined inerrancy of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The movement divided over these and other factors over time into those now known as Fundamentalists, retaining its name, and those known as Evangelicals, retaining its original concerns.


In the early 20th century when the Anglo-Catholic Movement was at its height, the Anglican Communion had hundreds of orders and communities. However, since the 1960s there has been a sharp falling off in the numbers of religious in many parts of the Anglican Communion, most notably in the United Kingdom and the United States. Many once large and international communities have been reduced to a single convent or monastery composed of elderly men or women. There are however, still thousands of Anglican religious working today in religious communities around the world. While vocations remain few in some areas, Anglican religious communities are experiencing substantial growth in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Eastern Orthodoxy

Emigration to the West

One of the most striking developments in modern historical Orthodoxy is the dispersion of Orthodox Christians to the West. Emigration from Greece and the Near East in the 20th century created a sizable Orthodox diaspora in Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia. In addition, the Bolshevik Revolution forced thousands of Russian exiles westward. As a result, Orthodoxy's traditional frontiers have been profoundly modified. Millions of Orthodox are no longer geographically "eastern" since they live permanently in their newly adopted countries in the West. Nonetheless, they remain Eastern Orthodox in their faith and practice. Virtually all the Orthodox nationalities—Greek, Arab, Russian, Serbian, Albanian, Ukrainian, Romanian, and Bulgarian—are represented in the United States.

Russian Orthodoxy

By 1957 about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches were active. But in 1959 Nikita Khrushchev initiated a campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active. [58]

The charitable and social work formerly done by ecclesiastical authorities was taken over by the state. As with all private property, Church owned property was confiscated into public use. The few places of worship left to the Church were legally viewed as state property which the government permitted the church to use. After the advent of state funded universal education, the Church was not permitted to carry on educational, instructional activity for children. For adults, only training for church-related occupations was allowed. Outside of sermons during the divine liturgy it could not instruct or evangelise to the faithful or its youth. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all illegal. This persecution continued, even after the death of Stalin until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This caused many religious tracts to be circulated as illegal literature or samizdat. [4] Since the fall of the Soviet Union there have been many New-martyrs added as saints.

Georgian Orthodoxy

Following the overthrow of the Tsar Nicholas II in March 1917, Georgia's bishops unilaterally restored the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church on 25 March 1917. These changes were not accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church. After the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921, the Georgian Orthodox Church was subjected to intense harassment. [59] Hundreds of churches were closed by the atheist government and hundreds of monks were killed during Joseph Stalin's purges. The independence of the Georgian Orthodox Church was finally recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church on 31 October 1943: this move was ordered by Stalin as part of the war-time more tolerant policy towards Christianity in the Soviet Union.

On 3 March 1990, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized and approved the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church (which had in practice been exercised or at least claimed since the 5th century), as well as the Patriarchal honour of the Catholicos. Georgia's subsequent independence in 1991 saw a major revival in the fortunes of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Catholic–Orthodox dialogue

Over the last century, a number of moves have been made to reconcile the schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Although progress has been made, concerns over papal primacy and the independence of the smaller Orthodox churches has blocked a final resolution of the schism.

Some of the most difficult questions in relations with the ancient Eastern Churches concern some doctrine (i.e. Filioque, Scholasticism, functional purposes of asceticism, the essence of God, Hesychasm, Fourth Crusade, establishment of the Latin Empire, Uniatism to note but a few) as well as practical matters such as the concrete exercise of the claim to papal primacy and how to ensure that ecclesiastical union would not mean mere absorption of the smaller Churches by the Latin component of the much larger Catholic Church (the most numerous single religious denomination in the world), and the stifling or abandonment of their own rich theological, liturgical and cultural heritage.

With respect to Catholic relations with Protestant communities, certain commissions were established to foster dialogue, and documents have been produced aimed at identifying points of doctrinal unity, such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification produced with the Lutheran World Federation in 1999. The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church first met in Rhodes in 1980.

Uniate situation

At a meeting in Balamand, Lebanon in June 1993, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the delegates of the Eastern Orthodox Churches declared "...and that what has been called 'uniatism' can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking". [60]

At the same time, the commission stated:

Other moves toward reconciliation

In June 1995, Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was elected as the 273rd Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in October 1991, visited the Vatican for the first time when he joined in the historic inter-religious day of prayer for peace at Assisi. Pope John Paul II and Bartholomew I explicitly stated their mutual "desire to relegate the excommunications of the past to oblivion and to set out on the way to re-establishing full communion". [61]

In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania, becoming the first pope since the Great Schism to visit an Eastern Orthodox country. Upon greeting John Paul II, the Romanian Patriarch Teoctist stated: "The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity." Pope John Paul II visited other heavily Orthodox areas such as Ukraine, despite lack of welcome at times, and he said that healing the divisions between Western and Eastern Christianity was one of his fondest wishes.


20th-century timeline

See also


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History of Christianity: Modern Christianity
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Christianity in
the 19th century
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Christianity in
the 21st century
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