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.

The Church in Action

Missionaries at Border Spread Christianity to North Korea

Along the North Korean border, dozens of Chinese missionaries are engaged in work that puts them and their North Korean converts in danger. Most are South Koreans, but others are ethnic Koreans whose families have lived in China for generations. In recent years, ten such front-line missionaries and pastors have died mysteriously. North Korea is suspected in all those deaths. Hundreds of other missionaries have been imprisoned or expelled by China, which bans foreigners from proselytizing.

The Death Penalty

By many metrics, incarceration rates are growing in America with valid concerns about a "cradle-to-prison" pipeline in certain regions. With thirty-one states currently supporting the death penalty backed by a moral, "an eye for an eye," position, how should Christians engage? Author and activist, Shane Claiborne, believes the Church must be pro-life no matter who is under threat. As an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, he explains how prison reform is the natural outflow of every Christian's call to value and protect life.

Restoring the Justice System

Cases like George Zimmerman, Jodi Arias, Bradley Manning and Ariel Castro may have once dominated the news, but much of what's happening in the American justice system remains overlooked. America now boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world, but even more alarming are the system’s endemic injustices. Minority communities are far more afflicted by the justice system, a reality that affects the psyches of the children who grow up in them. Additionally, our system treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. Bryan Stevenson believes these realities are fundamentally changing our world, and he’s devoted his life’s work to finding solutions. 

What does it mean for clergy to "stay in their lane"?

Pastors seeking to support justice movements should let people on the front lines lead. This means clergy are going to have to get used to being uncomfortable, writes a pastor from Charlotte, North Carolina.  Clergy need to show up as clergy, and to bring with them the resources and gifts of their training and their networks.

Jesus is Calling Us to Pick Up Our Cross

Christian leaders who seek to combat violence and hatred can do more than debate tactics and post to Facebook, says Sarah Thompson, executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams.  She said those actions can range from making public statements to training in non-violent direct action -- skills as specific as how to dodge bullets.  This interview offers suggestions for Christian leaders seeking to combat hate in their communities.

A small Episcopal church's welcome to refugees hits the movie screen

The true story of how a group of refugees from Burma helped to save an Episcopal church in the US state of Tennessee has been turned into a movie. Distributed by Sony Pictures, All Saints will open in cinemas in America next week and is also being distributed internationally.  All Saints is a fictionalized account of how the congregation of All Saints’ in Smyrna was very close to shutting its doors just a few years ago until a group of refugees from Burma (Myanmar) came to the vicar and asked if they might attend church there. 

Christians are more than twice as likely to blame a person's poverty on lack of effort

Which is generally more often to blame if a person is poor: lack of effort on their own part, or difficult circumstances beyond their control? The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation asked 1,686 American adults to answer that question — and found that religion is a significant predictor of how Americans perceive poverty.  Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, are much more likely than non-Christians to view poverty as the result of individual failings.

Stuffing Shoe Boxes for the Poor? Maybe You Should Reconsider

Being generous requires us to dedicate profound thought to what the person receiving our generosity actually needs.  So often, the church make generosity synonymous with the free giving of stuff, but it’s not.  Westerners come in and drop off free toys, food, and clothing.  Typically, it’s not useful, they’re paying way too much for overseas shipping, and the local food or clothing vendors don’t make their living for the week.  If the church desires to help those living in poverty and share God’s love, it must recognize a deeper “yes” as it says “no” to problematic and unjust forms of generosity

How Can We Help Ex-Convicts Re-Enter?

Approximately 2.2 million people are in jail in the U.S.; 60 percent of incarcerated males are African-American. Disproportionately, only 12-13 percent of the American population are black males. People of the Second Chance see an opportunity for renewal in these otherwise bleak statistics. The members of this organization host what they call “Prodigal Parties" for ex-convicts upon their release to help them re-enter society well. Hear from the founder of People of the Second Chance, and an inmate returning home who is using his second chance for good.

This Study Guide is designed to be used along with the film Injustice Anywhere as a tool for discussion, reflection, and action. It is written primarily with members and ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in mind with the hope that the guide will prove useful far beyond this faith community. The prayer is that it helps us all as we seek racial and social justice for all God’s people.

New Life Emerges from a Dying Congregation

 Resurrection is taking place in Oklahoma as a once dying Episcopal Church has found new life in birthing a new congregation. The Church of the Savior in Yukon was down to 36 active members when worship stopped for a sabbatical period of discernment. What followed was new birth as the Revs. Tim and Kirsten Baer, funded in large part by a $100,000 Church Planting Grant from the Episcopal Church and a $500,000 grant from the Diocese of Oklahoma, forged a new vision and kindled a sense of hope as they worked with a dozen members to reboot the church.

An architect of the "Boston miracle," Rev. Jeffrey Brown started out as a bewildered young pastor watching his Boston neighborhood fall apart around him, as drugs and gang violence took hold of the kids on the streets. The first step to recovery: Listen to those kids, don't just preach to them, and help them reduce violence in their own neighborhoods. It's a powerful talk about listening to make change.  Watch his TED talk and view his recommended reading list.

Community Engagement & the Rural Church

In declining rural communities, churches remain some of the few viable institutions.  They can use this position to help strengthen the wider community, according to this article from Faith & Leadership.  Vital churches are those that take their incarnational mission seriously.

This article from ECF Vital Practices highlights information about the newly launched Episcopal Asset Map project.  A helpful list of relevant links gives opportunities to explore the asset map, see how it is being utilized in various Episcopal dioceses, and learn how to get involved.

Death and Resurrection of an Urban Church

Broadway United Methodist Church is turning the model of the urban church inside out, killing off its food pantry, clothing ministry, and after school program.  Deciding that they were called to be good neighbors, the church hired a "roving listener" to find out what the community really needed.  This article from Faith & Leadership tells the story of a church's resurrection that has come from seeking the gifts of others.


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