Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Economist's Analysis of United Methodist Church

Economist Don House, a life-long member of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and chair of that church's Economic Advisory Committee, has projected long-run decline in the UMC in the United States.  His projections help shape denominational budgets, but they are also sparking discussion within the denomination about its future more generally.  This article summarizes some of the issues.  I recommend that you also browse the full report of his analysis here, but do not read it very closely unless you are interested.  Just get a sense of the kind of analysis done.

Some questions for you to think about as you read the article:
  • Why is it useful for churches to have these kinds of projections when planning church operations?
  • What has happened to UMC average worship attendance recently?
  • Why did House say that the UMC is gracefully closing its doors?
  • What does House mean when he said that "the denomination has church buildings that were in the right locations in 1952 but not for today?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Churches Using Public School Buildings

A recent article in the Boston Review discusses "church planting" by evangelicals in Boston.  Church planting involves creating small, low-cost congregations, often using underused buildings.  A new approach is using public school buildings for church meetings, which can be rented at little-to-no cost.  Read the article.  Why is church planing an effective strategy?  What challenges, legal or otherwise, do these churches face?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pew Research Center Study on America's Changing Religious Landscape

The Pew Research Center has conducted a new survey on religion in America.  Their complete report is quite long, so you can just browse it.  But everyone should read the summary.

Here are some of the findings from the summary:
  • Christians have declined in overall percentage share and in absolute numbers.
  • Religious intermarriage is on the rise.
  • Switching religion is a common occurrence.
  • Evangelical Protestantism is the only major Christian group that has gained more members than lost via religious switching.
The overview chapter has some nice charts and tables showing changes from 2007 to 2014.
  • The Protestant and Catholic shares have both declined.
  • Orthodox Christian, Mormon, and Jehovah's Witnesses, and Jewish shares have remained steady.
  • Muslim and Hindu shares have both increased, yet the shares are quite low (each less than 1%).
  • Atheist and Agnostic have both increased.

Monday, May 4, 2015

USCIRF Annual Report 2015

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report on religious freedom around the world.  Press release here and full report (200+ pages pdf) here.  You will learn more about the USCIRF later in the quarter, but for now you should read the brief Introduction and Overview found in the full report.  You do not need to read the full report, but  you should browse it and pick a few countries to read about the types of religious freedom violations occurring around the world.

The USCIRF recommends that the following countries be redesignated as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs) where severe violations of religious freedom are perpetrated or tolerated by the government:  Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

It also recommends the the following be added to the list of CPCs:  Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

Still other countries are noted as ones with governments that engage in or tolerate violations of religious rights of individuals.