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Growth and Decline in South Africa's Churches, 1960-911

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

South Africa's churches grew or declined so quickly in the years after 1960 that by 1991 the country's religious map had been redrawn. This article charts and offers explanations for such developments. Almost all Christian churches grew substantially in the first half of the twentieth century but mainline churches were dominant. They continued to grow numerically into the 1960s and 1970s, but were beginning to shrink as a proportion of the expanding population. By contrast, Roman Catholic, African Independent and smaller independent denominations were growing quickly. By the 1990s, mainline Protestant churches were suffering considerable decline and Roman Catholicism's growth had stalled. African Independent and other churches continued to grow rapidly. A matrix of forces help to explain this phenomenon-including the political situation, socio-economic pressures, secularisation and particular religious factors. A comparative perspective shows South Africa's churches to have much in common with African and global trends.

Affiliations: 1: St. Catharine's College, Cambridge


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