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
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.
Before the United Methodist Special General Conference opened on Saturday, we prayed. Perhaps God would miraculously grant a fruitful discussion among 800 disputants who have very little in common except our cross-and-flame name tags. We prayed for openness to different points of view, unity, communion, gracious listening, holy conferencing, empathetic feelings, and generosity of spirit. It didn’t work.
After approving the Traditional Plan in the morning, General Conference delegates spent the afternoon debating and ultimately voting against the One Church Plan and the Simple Plan. Delegates opposed the bishops’ recommended One Church Plan by a vote of 436 to 386. Delegates also voted against moving forward with the Simple Plan, submitted by the unofficial United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, by a vote of 494 to 323. This article from the United Methodist News Service gives an overview of the conference actions.
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.
Evan Moffic is a rabbi in the Chicago area who leads Congregation Solel, a synagogue of 500 families. He blogs regularly for Beliefnet.com, Huffingtonpost.com and MichaelHyatt.com. This article from Ministry Matters is an excerpt of his upcoming book, First the Jews: Combating the World’s Longest-Running Hate Campaign (Abingdon Press, 2018).
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.
Americans are deeply religious people—and atheists are no exception. Western Europeans are deeply secular people—and Christians are no exception. These twin statements are generalizations, but they capture the essence of a fascinating finding in a new Pew Research Center study about Christian identity in Western Europe.
In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing.A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. But the things that keep people away from religious services are more complicated.
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.