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
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.
In the United States, religious congregations have been graying for decades. Recent surveys have found that younger adults are far less likely than older generations to identify with a religion, but this is not solely an American phenomenon. Lower religious observance among younger adults is common around the world, according to this new Pew Research Center analysis pf surveys which were conducted in more than 100 countries and territories over the last decade.
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.
Recently, Vatican officials agreed to lend 41 items from the Sistine Chapel sacristy to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met would have been grateful for even six. The items on loan, which include papal robes and accessories never viewed outside the Vatican, debut May 10 as a part of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Organized by Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Costume Institute, the exhibit has drawn attention for its seemingly provocative juxtaposition of religion and fashion.
Dilshad D. Ali, managing editor of Patheos Muslim, writes about growing up Muslim in North Dakota during the 1980’s and 1990’s and the differences faced by Muslim children today. In this article from The Atlantic, she says: “It’s different today. I am teaching my children to be unapologetically Muslim and American. That they have as much right to be who they are outwardly and inwardly as anyone else in this country.”
At a time when young Jews see synagogue affiliations as less of a social obligation, one synagogue’s non-membership, ticketed model has offered a way to be spiritually self-structured, to come and go, to pay by the activity. Sixth and I’s High Holy Days services sell out to over 3,000 people, part of the 80,000 who visit every year — a staggering number for a small space that is just over a decade old. “What it is today is really the story of the inordinate amount of change we’re seeing in American Jewish life,” says Rabbi Bruce Lustig.
As Protestants recently observed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, new Pew Research Center surveys show that in both Western Europe and the United States, the theological differences that split Western Christianity in the 1500s have diminished to a degree that might have shocked Christians in past centuries. Across Europe and the U.S., the prevailing view is that Protestants and Catholics today are more similar religiously than they are different. Both Protestants and Catholics across the continent now overwhelmingly express willingness to accept each other as neighbors and even as family members.
More than 80 countries favor a specific religion, either as an official, government-endorsed religion or by affording one religion preferential treatment over other faiths, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data covering 199 countries and territories around the world. Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries (including most in the Middle East-North Africa region) officially enshrining Islam as their state religion. By comparison, just 13 countries (including nine European nations) designate Christianity or a particular Christian denomination as their state religion.
The line of locals and tourists stretches about 400 people long, and one might think they are waiting to get into a play, a museum or even for ice cream. But these people want to go to a church service. In Britain, where churchgoing is mostly in decline, what has drawn the crowd on a late afternoon in August is evensong, the hymn-heavy evening service of the Anglican church taken from the Book of Common Prayer.
When Marty Baker, pastor of the Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Ga., first installed two ATMs in the church lobby, donations doubled by the second year. He took it one step further, by introducing the “automatic tithing machine” that took cash out of the giver’s account and deposited it directly into the church’s coffers. This new ATM was beginning to virtualize the all-important collection. Some users responded by placing their receipts in the plate at the appropriate time in the service. The tithe, of course, refers to the tenth of one’s income that conservative Protestants are largely taught to pay to the church in gratitude for what God has done. It is a sacred obligation, and the cash money is a serious matter.
As churches across Minnesota try new ways to accommodate the hectic lives of the faithful, Wednesday night services have emerged as a popular option. For churches that already offered religious education on Wednesdays, added a worship service was a logical fit. For others, a Wednesday service helps folks who travel on weekends, hold down jobs, or schlep children to hockey, soccer, and other events. The on-demand culture has affected church people as much as society.
About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders. This Pew Research Center study explores why people look for a new church and what factors influence their decisions.
According to a recent national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 52 percent of Americans know a Muslim and far fewer can claim any as friends. Since most Muslim communities are in urban areas, many who live in small towns and rural communities simply haven’t had the opportunity to build these kinds of interfaith relationships. And because so many of us don’t really know our interfaith neighbors, it is then no surprise that unfair and inaccurate stereotypes take root, fueled by our divisive politics and the secular media. This study guide from the Wisconsin Council of Churches is available with many additional resources on their website