Pious Spain, a legacy of the past? In a generation, more than a quarter of the population left Christianity… And yet. At the same time, the number of evangelicals has increased eightfold in twenty years. Conversions are not weakening, according to data published this year by the Observatory of Pluralism in Spain and the CIS research center. Today, 2% of the population is said to be Evangelical Protestant. The figure is 3% for the 18-29 age group, with an over-representation of women.
Gathered around more than 4,200 places of worship, the supporters of this move evangelical ask to be heard. Freedom ? They already have it. The question posed today is that of equality, mirroring a long hegemonic Catholicism, which remains the only religion mentioned in the Constitution.
It is in this context that Carolina Bueno has just been elected head of the Federation of Religious Entities of Spain. It is scheduled to take office in early 2022. Founded in 1986, this federative structure brings together almost all non-Catholic Churches, mainly Evangelical Churches. Jurist, of Catholic origin, Evangelical Protestant, Carolina Bueno has worked for twenty years, with energy and determination, on questions of religious freedom. Asked about her plans as an executive secretary, she sees her role as something other than “work”. It intends to defend the rights of the Churches before the government, while encouraging an ecclesial coordination in the service of the “good of the Spanish society” as a whole. Vast program at a time when society, hard hit by the pandemic, is looking for a future. His appointment gives us three lessons.
At the societal level, it illustrates the growing pluralism of Spanish society, and, beyond, of European societies. What if populist and identity tensions were only a rearguard fight? The growing visibility of Spanish evangelism, in a country once famous for its closure, in any case opens a window of diversity.
On the scale of Iberian Protestantism, it confirms the evangelical leadership on the federative structure of the Spanish Churches. Something to think about on the other side of the Pyrenees, one year from a renewal of the executive team of the Protestant Federation of France, in a French Protestant landscape where evangelicals have also become the most numerous (54% of the total , against 30% for Lutherans and Reformed and 16% for other Protestants).
Finally, it marks an additional stage in the affirmation of women in the roles of responsibility in Protestantism. After the elections of Emmanuelle Seyboldt at the head of the United Protestant Church of France in 2017, and of Anna-Nicole Heinrich as head of the Evangelical Church of Germany, on May 10, that of Carolina Bueno confirms, in within European Protestantisms, a feminization of Christian authority: a “reliable sex” at the helm of churches or federations, contrary to the clichés and roles long prescribed.