One of the paradoxes of modern religion is that the intolerant forms grow with immigration. As a general rule, you get liberal churches in monocultural places, and fundie ones in multicultural ones. This is depressing, but I had just come on a simple explanation.
Hilary Putnam’s research into social capital shows that ethnic diversity makes people less willing to trust their neighbours — irrespective of ethnicity. He was working, I think, in Los Angeles, but I have seen the result repeated by a couple of Swedish sociologists there.
The thing about fundie churches is that they have high costs of entry. These aren’t financial so much as matters of daily discipline — temperance, dietary restrictions, keeping-it-in-your-trousers, wearing silly clothes, etc. The payoff is that you know that everyone else who pays this price is committed to the success of the enterprise and so can be trusted. I first came across this dynamic, and felt its force, on the visit to Romania excepted below. It was obvious then that there was no one in the whole country you could trust except another Baptist.
So in large, multicultural cities, with low levels of social trust, you would expect strict churches to flourish. It’s not more complicated than that. This explains why HTB is in London, and the diocese of Sydney is in Sydney. Whether there is any correlation between immigrant density and conservatism in TEC I don’t know but it would be interesting to find out.
This is an elegant explanation, but not a cheering one. It certainly suggest that we will see a Christianist backlash in some parts of Europe. Does anyone out there have evidence of flourishing evangelical churches in Belgium?