Christianity is a religion that emerged in the Middle East, specifically Israel, in the first century AD. Christianity now constitutes a minority among the population in the Middle East, but this was not the case in the Old World. Despite the persecution that welcomed the religion in the Roman Empire and other places, it maintained considerable followership in the Middle East. However, the population of Christians in the region witnessed a significant decline through emigration and conversion over time.
Middle East Christianity is diverse, as witnessed by several denominations of churches. This is directly linked to the Nestorian schism of the 5th century. It was a doctrinal dispute which led to Christological debates in the 4th and 5th centuries. It happened in Constantinople, the Roman capital at that time. Alexandrians condemned the Antiochians for extremism in their claim that the nature of Christ as a God is separate from his nature as a man. This belief is called dyophysitism- the belief in the dual nature of Christ. The Alexandrians won the debate.
The victory of the Alexandrians in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 would therefore lead to wide adoption of the doctrine of monophysitism (the belief that the nature of Christ as a God is not distinct from his nature as a man) and a decline of traditional Antiochian tradition in the Roman Empire and beyond. However, the Council of Chalcedon of 451 found a compromise between the two doctrines but favored the Antiochian position.
After two thousand years of historical and doctrinal evolution, there are now four great families of churches in the Middle East that follow either monophysitism or dyophysitism. The most notable family is the Oriental Orthodox family, consisting of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church (or Church of the East), and the Apostolic Armenian Church. This family of churches separated from the other churches in the 5th century and did not accept the dyophysite Christological doctrine.
There is also the Orthodox (Chalcedonian) family, which four churches in the Middle East represent. These churches have roughly one million members in total. The churches separated from the Catholic Church in 1054 after the mutual ex-communication of the Church of Rome and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The ex-communication resulted from strained relationships between the two patriarchal churches and their leaders.
This family of churches believes in dyophysitism. The churches in this family believe that full humanity and full divinity exist in the person of Jesus Christ without any confusion or contradiction.
The Catholic family in the Middle East comprises seven churches, including Maronite, Chaldean, Melkite, Coptic Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Catholic, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. These seven churches are under the Catholic Church of Rome and recognize the authority of the Pope.
The fourth family is the Reformed Family. It has been in existence since the 19th century and consists of 13 different Protestant denominations. These include Lutheran, Evangelical, and Presbyterian churches. The total number of followers is 81,000, and they are prominent in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.
Despite its strong historical roots in the Middle East and its rich diversity in the region, the population of Christians in the Middle East is rapidly reducing. In 1900, 12.7 percent of the region’s population were Christians, but in 2020, only 4.2 percent of the entire population were Christians. Meanwhile, comparatively, followers of Islam had grown from 86 percent to 92.4 percent within that period. Recent projections based on the current rate of Christian emigration claim that by 2050, Christianity will have lost more followership in the Middle East.
Pentecostalism is a Christian doctrine of worship that puts great importance on the baptism of its followers and their relationship with the Holy Spirit. The manifestation of this relationship with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. The Pentecostal movement has over 400 million followers and is the fastest expanding Christian doctrine globally. The movement runs a heterogeneous system, with hundreds of independent churches coming up every day.
Charles Parham and Williams Seymour are notable figures in American history because theologians recognize them as the fathers of Pentecostalism in the United States. The Pentecostal doctrine of Christianity began with Charles Parham's teachings in Texas in 1905. William Seymour was Charles Parham's apprentice, and he urged Seymour to attend one of his church services.
Seymour came from a religious background before meeting Parham. He was instrumental in spreading a widely believed notion that speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in a Christian. In 1906, Seymour moved to a town called Azusa in Los Angeles, where he began to spread the Pentecostal gospel. He created so much influence that in the same year, he hosted the Azusa Street Revival, which was the first major public broadcast of the Pentecostal way.
Both Seymour and Parham agreed to belong to the same denomination. In October 1906, Seymour began catering to members of different races, while Parham's members stayed predominantly white. However, due to ideological differences, and Parham's dislike for the enthusiastic way black people worshiped in Seymour's church, the men split up the Pentecostal denomination into two, with Seymour taking mostly the African American members to his church called the Church of God in Christ, while Parham took the white members to his church called the Assemblies of God.
The Pentecostal doctrine thrived in the south but was much slower in Los Angeles due to skepticism from the residents. Both churches were also very interested in missionary work, especially in the global south.
The Assemblies of God renounced segregation in the church in 1995. The governing body announced that the church had committed discrimination offenses and resolved to take steps to repent. An interracial Christian event preceded this repentant act called the Miracle in Memphis, where Black and White ministers tried to reconcile the Black and White worshippers.
A.G Garr and his wife were the first international missionaries Seymour baptized and sent to India and Hong Kong to spread the gospel. Seymour's influence also reached a Norwegian Methodist pastor on a church tour in the United States called T. B Barrat. Theologists state that T. B Barrat was responsible for spreading the Pentecostal doctrine in Norway, Germany, Sweden, and France.
Most of the other Christian denominations in America initially ridiculed Pentecostalism. The World Christian Fundamentals Association called the movement "fanatical' and "unscriptural." However, in 1942, the narrative had changed so much that the Pentecostals were a part of the Christian establishment called the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE is an association of all churches, missionary schools, and organizations.