Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Siena Institute wrote a long article for me at the end of 2005, when I was editor of Catholic World Report, on the topic of the “Independent Christianity” movement, which includes many of the Pentecostal and other churches that fall outside the mainstream Protestant denominations.
Unfortunately, there was some disagreement between me and Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, on the suitability of the article for CWR and it never got published. I was chagrined and regretful because of the work that Sherry put it into and I’m sorry she wasn’t able to find a venue to publish it and receive remuneration. However, she has decided to publish it in installments on her blog.
I was incredulous. I knew that the last word one could use of the Christian missionary enterprise at the beginning of the 21st century was “collapse”. Once more, I was standing on the edge of an unbridgeable chasm of experience that yawned between this prominent American theologian and the world I had known. I couldn’t help but wonder if Peter Phan inhabited the same planet as the evangelicals with whom I had lived and studied. Discouragement? Pessimism? Evangelical missionaries have faced the same historical and cultural realities as Catholics since 1960. But they believe that they have been privileged to be part of the greatest expansion of Christianity in history and are absolutely exuberant about the future of missions.
Sherry describes this evangelical and missionary Protestant movement, one of the fastest growing religious movements in the world and one of the largest when you aggregate all the like-minded but independent groups together. She also explores what lessons they can teach Catholics about having a missionary and apostolic spirit and about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You may not agree with all of her conclusions, but it could be an interesting conversation that no one else is having yet.