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Religious diversity: rethinking religion
Religious diversity: rethinking religion

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2.3 The variety of Christianity in London

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Figure 8 Eternal Sacred Order of The Cherubim and Seraphim march through Walworth, London during their annual thanksgiving service, 28 July 2013. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Church of England is perhaps the most familiar expression of Christianity to many in Britain. However, the world population of Christians is changing.

As recently as 1910, there were four times as many Christians in the ‘Global North’ as in the ‘Global South’. By 2011, more than 61% of Christians worldwide lived in the ‘Global South.’ It may come as a surprise that among the top 10 countries with the largest percentage of Christians are China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria (Pew Research Centre, 2014).

As scholar Philip Jenkins writes: ‘Over the last century, ... the centre of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably away from Europe, southward, to Africa and Latin America, and eastward, toward Asia. Today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in those regions.’ (Jenkins, 2002, pp. 1–2).

The Christian tradition – its beliefs and practices – have been translated to new geographical settings. And these new forms of Christian worship are also making their mark in Britain (Catto, 2012).

Global migration has had a huge impact on London’s religious life. By far the largest area of growth has been in the so-called ‘black majority churches’. These churches include a diverse range of traditions and spiritualities, but have congregations primarily of African and Caribbean heritage, though many of the members were born in Britain as the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

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Figure 9 Members of a choir sing and dance during the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church's annual Thanksgiving service, 2013, London. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images