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
Religion in public schools has long been a controversial issue. While periodic battles continue in the courts, what is the day-to-day experience of students in public schools across the country? A new Pew Research Center survey asked a nationally representative sample of more than 1,800 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) about the kinds of religious activity they engage in – or see other students engaging in – during the course of the school day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.