Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 2004

Article excerpt

The table opposite is the twentieth in an annual series describing statistics and trends in world mission, reporting on the previous year's annual Christian megacensus-the totality of churches' and church agencies' annual censuses of their adherents, activities, personnel, finances, ministries, and all aspects of their mission in the world. This year we add five new lines: Lines 48 to 51 describe the mushrooming of Christian conciliarism, and Line 16 highlights a parallel non-Christian religious megabloc of staggering complexity.

What Christian Councils Contribute

A brief list of twelve words beginning with "c" may help: conciliarism contributes communication, consultation, conversation, communion, collegiality, confessionalism, cooperation, collaboration, centering on common fellowship, common witness, and common service in the cause of Christ.

A Phenomenal Worldwide Explosion

In this report, "councils" are ongoing bodies whose members are organized Christian denominations. Four varieties are tabulated opposite, as follows:

Confessional councils (Line 48). Termed Christian World Communions (CWCs) since 1957, these 310 major organizations at the world level each represent a single ecclesiastical tradition or family, such as Lutheran or Methodist or Anglican or Baptist or Roman Catholic or Russian Orthodox. The earliest were the 20 Orthodox and 13 Catholic patriarchates, who recorded councils at a steady rate from the second century on. Membership of each CWC is restricted to denominations sharing a common tradition. By contrast, the next three categories of councils admit denominations from any Trinitarian confession or tradition.

International councils of churches (Line 49). These 115 councils include 12 world, worldwide, or global councils (WCC, WEA, ICCC, WCBC, et alia), 40 continental councils (AACC, AEA, CCA, CCEE, CEC, CELAM, CLAI, CONELA, SECAM, etc.), and 63 regional councils (based on the United Nations' twenty-one regions of the world).

National councils of churches (Line 50). Denominations of any tradition working within a single nation are admitted to these 890 councils in 205 countries. A few are plurinational councils with denominations from two or three neighboring countries.

Local councils of churches (Line 51). These councils number at least 9,700 in 180 countries. Each brings together any or all denominations and churches within a single city or metropolis (at present 2,500 councils are located in the world's 4,830 metropolises and megacities [see Lines 7 and 8], for example, the Council of Churches of the City of New York); also counted here are councils in a province or other subnational political entity or area. Some 3,000 of them are linked to the Ecumenical movement (Britain has 600 such local ecumenical councils, USA 260, Netherlands 210, Sweden 75, Canada 70, Papua New Guinea 30, Indonesia 20, Myanmar 15, South Africa 14, India 14, Kenya 8, etc.); one thousand are linked to the Evangelical world; several hundred are linked to the Roman Catholic world; and the remaining 5,000 have no wider structural links.

National Councils Proliferate Globally

Arguably the most effective and powerful of these four groupings are the 890 national councils. …