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.
Current Religious Trends
The percentage of Americans who belong to a church, mosque or synagogue has declined in the past 20 years, forcing some religious leaders to make a difficult decision: sell their houses of worship and downsize. Repurposing church buildings, or adaptive reuse, is becoming increasingly common. While some buildings may be sold to other congregations, others will become something entirely different — like a nun-themed coffee shop.
A growing number of Americans do not follow a religion. But chances are that the details of their lives are still ruled by some sort of a religious impulse, says author David Zahl. Zahl is the founder of the popular nondenominational Christian Mockingbird Ministries project and his most recent book, “Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do About It,” suggests that American culture is not actually becoming more secular at all.
Recently, Ralph Reed, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s founder and chairman, told the group, “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!” Reed is partially right; for many evangelical Christians, there is no political figure whom they have loved more than Donald Trump but at what cost to the church?
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that about nine-in-ten U.S. adults – including 95% of Catholics – have heard at least “a little” about recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic priests and bishops, including a clear majority who say they have heard “a lot.” And, overall, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults say the recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic priests and bishops reflect “ongoing problems that are still happening” in the church.
On the plane returning to Rome from Romania, Pope Francis made an extraordinary statement on the role of theology in ecumenical relations at his press conference. Francis has stressed the ecumenism of shedding blood together and of working together in service to the poor, the sick and the marginalized. But during the press conference Francis went further.
United Methodists across the U.S. have protested the global denomination’s crackdown on LGBTQ members in all kinds of ways. But now a group of teens in a confirmation class at a historic United Methodist church in the Midwest has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to join the church. Eight teenagers who make up this year’s confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb., stood before the congregation on Confirmation Sunday (April 28) and read a letter saying they do not want to become members at this time. “We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision,” the confirmation class wrote.
Buddhism has been popular in various forms among certain celebrities and tech elites, but the religion’s primary draw for many Americans now appears to be mental health. The ancient religion, some find, helps them manage the slings and arrows and subtweets of modern life. There’s something newly appealing about a practice that instructs you to just sit, be aware, and realize nothing lasts forever.
In reaction to the pitfalls of denominations, the mid-20th century birthed the baby boomer phenomenon of the “nondenominational megachurch.” American evangelicalism saw a rising tide of churches that were explicitly or implicitly antidoctrinal and nontraditional, focused on relevance, extraversion, positivity, attractional style and seeker-sensitivity. Often these churches are helmed by a charismatic male head-pastor. But what happens when this innovation backfires.
The economists of the early 20th century who predicted a lighter work load and shorter work week did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.
With the rise of non-denominational churches with slick branding and a hip, contemporary aesthetic, it isn’t always clear what churches believe, especially on issues of gender and sexuality. Far too many LGBTQ+ people have become involved in churches only to discover months or years later that they were forbidden from being in leadership or that their pastor would not perform a same-sex wedding. For these reasons, the group behind Church Clarity has sought to get churches to clarify their actively enforced policies around gender and sexuality.
Americans worship differently according to the faiths to which they belong, but a new report grouping people by their beliefs on a wide spectrum of topics rather than their religion affiliations offers a fresh take on what the country’s faithful have in common. The “Sunday Stalwarts,” “God-and-Country Believers” and “The Solidly Secular” are among the seven new religious typologies in a nearly 100-page report released recently by the Pew Research Center. The typologies are not intended to replace religious affiliations, but rather to offer a new lens through which to examine religion in America and what unites and divides the country religiously.
So many Christian churches in the United States do so much good — nourishing the soul, comforting the sick, providing services, counseling congregants, teaching Jesus’s example, and even working to fight sexual abuse and harassment. But like in any community of faith, there is also sin — often silenced, ignored and denied — and it is much more common than many want to believe. It has often led to failures by evangelicals to report sexual abuse, respond appropriately to victims and change the institutional cultures that enabled the abuse in the first place.