Monday, May 16, 2022
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kerala: new-age christianity

Pent Up Baptism

'Impersonal' mainline churches are losing their laity to a surge of zealous Pentecostals

Pent Up Baptism
A.S. Satheesh
Pent Up Baptism
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Here's why church-goers in Kerala are increasingly embracing Pentecostalism and holding prayer fellowships:

  • No Christian fellowship in churches
  • Decreasing exposure to scriptures
  • The church does not offer personalised evangelism
  • Mass, sacraments, sermons and printed prayers don't appeal to many
  • The clergy lives in a different world. Their mantra: obey, pay and pray.

***

To call it an exodus would be an exaggeration. But the Catholic church in Kerala as well as mainstream oriental church denominations—like the Jacobites and Marthomites—are witnessing an alarming erosion of their following. Many in the flock seem to be drifting towards new-age Pentecostal churches and prayer fellowships, as the bishops and priests look on helplessly. No figures are available but the Catholic clergy estimates that such desertions, if unchecked, will earn the Pentecostal church more followers in Kerala than the mainstream ones by 2020. That's something for a state that has a 60.5 lakh Christian population—the highest in the country.

Why are the faithful fleeing? The mainline clergy once used to accuse Pentecostals of stealing their flock. That doesn't hold true anymore. Very few return any more after they cross over—so it is no longer impulsive or money-driven. "Personalised evangelism" is the buzzword among those who preach a brand of Christianity that is at times a frenzied alternative to the established church. Says a Catholic schoolteacher in Kollam, whose family recently embraced the Indian Pentecostal Church of God: "The priests once kept the Bible beyond our reach. Now, it's with us—we read it and understand for ourselves. We prefer a personalised, democratic Church to the conventional ones that are unwieldy."

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