The Church and Society

The College for Bishops Leadership Institute was established to provide educational resources for new bishops as well as trending informational resources for all bishops. The Church and Society focuses on the following specific topics:

New items are added on a monthly basis. To comment or suggest additional topics or resources, please use the feedback form located at the bottom of this page.

Faith & Politics

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A reporter maps the journey to forgiveness in the wake of a church massacre

This summer, reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes’ book, “Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness” was released in the week before the event’s fourth anniversary. Its timely theme is the hard work of healing for a community and for survivors. Hawes delves into the complexity of forgiveness for many of the survivors, as well as the challenges faced by, and in some cases caused by, church leadership in the wake of the shooting -- all set in the broader historical context of race and the black church in Charleston.


The Future of Church-Race Relations

In this article from Comment, New Testament scholar Wesley Hill sat down with author Jemar Tisby to talk about his book The Color of Compromise. Both Tisby and Hill care about the future of the church, but—as their discussion reveals—the future of the church depends on its ability to know and own up to its past. Because “the past,” as Faulkner once quipped, “is never dead. It’s not even past.”

What’s My Complicity? Talking White Fragility with Robin DiAngelo

Years of deep learning, research and mentorship from colleagues of color Robin DiAngelo not only to understand that her whiteness has meaning—but also to become really good at explaining this to other white people. The New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism sat down with Teaching Tolerance to discuss why working against one’s own fragility is a necessary part of white anti-racist work—and why good intentions don’t matter.


A Preacher for Trump’s America: Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel

Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty — these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too. Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience. “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.” Edward Luce examines Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel in this article from Financial Times.

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At a time when Americans are moving apart in their political and religious views, worshippers at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C., have learned to avoid some subjects for the sake of maintaining congregational harmony. White Memorial is thriving, with about 4,000 members, while other mainline Protestant congregations are struggling. Just as impressively, it brings together worshippers with disparate political views, both red and blue.


In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors, and even rewriting scripture

The Guardian reports that Chinese churches are in the midst of the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion. Researchers say the current drive, fueled by government unease over the growing number of Christians and their potential links to the west, is aimed not so much at destroying Christianity but bringing it to heel.


America's New Religion

Everyone has a religion. It is, in fact, impossible not to have a religion if you are a human being. Unfortunately, the post-Christian West has come to believe in something we have called progress as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning.


How can America call itself a Christian nation if it treats children like this?

What is the Christian way to manage borders? Strength does not require cruelty. Indeed, cruelty is a response rooted in weakness. Jesus was clear about what true strength is and it always is driven by love. There may be many policy prescriptions, but the prism through which we view them should be the same: does the policy treat people with love, acknowledging our common humanity? If the answer is no, it is not a Christian solution. Bishop Michael Curry wrote this editorial for The Guardian.

‘I pray for Donald Trump, I do’: Bishop Michael Curry addresses US divisions

For 24 hours after the royal wedding ceremony at Windsor Castle, Bishop Michael Curry rivaled Pope Francis as the most recognizable faith leader in the world. He was interviewed by major networks on both sides of the Atlantic. Fans asked for selfies. He was even parodied on Saturday Night Live. This article from The Guardian discusses Bishop Curry’s return home to the progressive Reclaiming Jesus movement.

Awake to Woke to Work:  Achieving a Race Equity Culture

Achieving race equity — the condition where one’s racial identity has no influence on how one fares in society — is a fundamental element of social change across every issue area in the social sector. Yet the structural racism that endures in U.S. society, deeply rooted in our nation’s history and perpetuated through racist policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages, prevents us from attaining it. Equity in the Center created this publication in collaboration with over 120 practitioners, thought leaders, and subject matter experts on diversity, inclusion, and race equity in the social sector.

Churches and Gun Violence: 7 Practical Preparation Tips

In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in a church, Ministry Matters offers this article from Rev. Derrek Belase, a former certified police officer turned pastor, with two degrees in criminology. He is now the Director of Discipleship of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. His current portfolio includes coordinating the Safe Sanctuary Training. Derrek believes that you can’t completely prevent gun violence from erupting. How can a church adequately protect itself? Here are seven practical tips that can help any church prepare for the unexpected.

The 'Alt-Right' Has Created Alt-Christianity

In this article from Time Ideas, Brian McLaren proposes that white nationalism isn’t simply an extremist political ideology. It is an alt-religious movement that provides its adherents with its own twisted version of what all religions supply to adherents: identity, community, and purpose. If faith communities don’t provide these healthy, life-giving human needs, then death-dealing alt-religions will fill the gap.

What does it mean to be a refugee?

About 60 million people around the globe have been forced to leave their homes to escape war, violence and persecution. The majority have become Internally Displaced Persons, meaning they fled their homes but are still in their own countries. Others, referred to as refugees, sought shelter outside their own country. But what does that term really mean? This brief video from TED-Ed explains.

White Privilege: Let's Talk - A Resource for Transformational Dialogue

White Privilege: Let’s Talk is a free downloadable adult curriculum from the United Church of Christ that's designed to invite church members to engage in safe, meaningful, substantive, and bold conversations on race.  This is a resource that can be used by any church regardless of size or budget. Divided into four focused parts, each one introduces a different aspect of the dynamic of white privilege. In all four parts, each author contributes a different view of the subject matter presented based on their unique personal experiences. The materials include questions for discussion and reflection.


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