- newUnited Methodist conflict hits Bible Belt pews, while Tennessean report omits crucial facts
If you have followed United Methodist warfare for the past 40 years or so, as I have, you know that this is a local, regional, national and global story that is only getting more complex now that it has reached pews in local churches.For years, the key battles were between activists in the global UMC majority (primarily growing churches in Africa and Asia) and the North American UMC establishment (rooted in agencies, seminaries and shrinking blue-zip-code flocks).At the moment, the fiercest battles are in parts of the Midwest and the Bible Belt where doctrinally conservative churches (usually rural and suburban) will square off with establishment leaders based in big-city-friendly regional conferences. You can see this drama in a recent Tennessean story: “As United Methodists in Tennessee navigate schism, 60 churches leave denomination.” Here’s the overture: As 60 churches in West and Middle Tennessee leave the United Methodist Church, churches in East Tennessee are so far sticking around but passionately debating denomination policies. The departures and disagreements were features of recent annual meetings for Tennessee’s two UMC conferences, illustrating the regional variation of the ongoing schism in the UMC. In May, the split within the UMC solidified when a new "traditionalist" denomination splintered from the UMC for churches with more conservative theological and cultural views, including on sexuality and gender. When the new Global Methodist Church launched, the pace of churches leaving the UMC was expected to intensify.Yes, there is that problematic word once again — “schism.” In this recent post — “In terms of church history, should the United Methodist break-up be called a 'schism'?” — I argued, for several reasons, that it’s more accurate to call what is happening a “divorce.”Without repeating all of that, the crucial point is that group given the “traditionalist” label is, in fact, the majority in the GLOBAL denomination that has, for several decades, won tense votes defending the doctrines in the UMC’s Book of Discipline. The group seeking to change these doctrines is the entrenched North American establishment. According to the Tennessean framing, the majority is creating the “schism,” while the establishment minority represents the doctrinal heart of the denomination.Instead of a “schism,” many in the denomination — a coalition on the doctrinal left and right —negotiated is a “divorce” plan that could save years of additional pain and millions of dollars in legal fees. That plan is the “Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” protocol, which remains in limbo after establishment leaders twice delayed the vote, citing COVID-19 fears.This Tennessean story never mentions this important document.
- 18 hours ago 28 Jun 22, 3:59pm -
- Fallout from Supreme Court abortion decision: When reporters parrot partisan talking points
With emotions running high, the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade marked a cataclysmic shift in the ongoing culture wars. What it means for the upcoming midterm elections and beyond has been the topic of much speculation since the ruling was handed down.The decision was marked by joy on one side and anger on the other, with may reporters wearing their emotions on their faces and under their bylines. However, many people I know reacted with mixed emotions. Even conservatives were uneasy about the decision, mostly because they feared the violence that could be a part of the fallout. Indeed, the National Catholic Reporter’s news account put it best in its headline: “As Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Catholics react with joy, anger, trepidation.”We do live in a time when political decisions often inspire violence.Lose an election? Storm the Capitol Building.Unhappy with police misconduct? Burn down stores.Both sides are guilty of this, although the mainstream press — which has grown ever-partisan in the Internet age — hasn’t always been good about calling out both sides for such intimidation.The fallout from the Dobbs decision? It’s only been a few days, but there was violence in some parts of the country from Rhode Island to Iowa to Arizona. The rhetoric was vile on Twitter, quickly aimed at Christians, and that was soon on display in the streets in a variety of forms.Again, national legacy media have not always been good about giving proper background and context to the events of the recent past, especially in terms of coverage of violence against churches and crisis-pregnancy centers.The fissures in American public life are real. So are the distorted realities partisan news organizations like to perpetuate these days.Just two weeks ago, Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, argued that opinion pages are alienating readers and becoming obsolete. They doubled down by warning their reporters to refrain from using social media platforms to comment on the decision. However, take a look at this morning’s news summary from USA Today. Spot any patterns?
- 2 days ago 27 Jun 22, 3:33pm -
- Plug-In: Roe falls, plus the Supreme Court's four other biggest religion cases of 2022
It happened.The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.The Associated Press’ Mark Sherman reported: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump. The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.Read the full opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.• • •I haven’t always paid close attention to the Supreme Court. But lately I do.On days the nation’s high court releases new opinions, I vow find myself refreshing — again and again — the justices’ home page.The court’s five biggest religion cases of 2022 have piqued my interest. The Dobbs decision, highlighted above, was not specifically about religion. But religious voices on both sides are a major part of the debate.Here is where the other four religion cases stand:
- 2 days ago 27 Jun 22, 1:00pm -
- Reality on bloody ground: That Pentecost massacre in Nigeria wasn't all that unusual
The massacre occurred during a Sunday Mass, but it wasn't an ordinary Sunday -- this was the great feast of Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season.What's more, the gunmen didn't strike in tense northern Nigeria, where Christian communities are isolated in a majority-Muslim region. This 30-minute attack was inside St. Francis Catholic Church, located in the safer southwestern state of Ondo.While 40 worshippers were confirmed dead, including five children, the number was almost certainly higher since many families buried their dead privately. Another 100 were wounded.The scope of this attack was "unique," especially in southern Nigeria, but "this violence … was not unique in its occurrence," stressed Stephen Rasche, senior fellow at the independent Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C. "These types of murders are taking place weekly, almost daily, in Nigeria -- murders of innocent Christians, being gunned down, slaughtered indiscriminately, throughout the north and, increasingly, into the central part of Nigeria and into the south."Human-rights activists are trying to document the bloodshed. According to the nondenominational watchdog group Open Doors, the 4,650 Christians killed in Nigeria during 2021 accounted for 80% of such deaths worldwide -- nearly 13 per day. Nigeria's Christian death toll has topped 60,000 over the past two decades.Nevertheless, this year's International Religious Freedom Report from the U.S. State Department said the "Secretary of State determined that Nigeria did not meet the criteria to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom or as a Special Watch List country for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom."It's understandable that news reports about Nigeria have faded, in part because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and pressing global economic issues, said Rasche, who visited Nigerian churches during this Holy Week and Easter.Also, many Western leaders view atrocities in Nigeria as clashes between Christian farmers and Muslim cattle herders, with climate-change issues erasing safety zones between these groups.
- 3 days ago 26 Jun 22, 6:22pm -
- Gen Z and trends in religious faith and practice: Looking at 2021 and beyond
It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written a post about the precarious religious position of Generation Z (those born after 1995), and with data from late 2021 available it seems like a prime opportunity to update what we know about their religious inclinations.Because almost all surveys only contact adult Americans (18+), we can’t get a full picture of the entirety of Gen Z, but just the oldest members of this generation. Thus, here I am analyzing those between the ages of 18 and 25 years old.Let’s start broadly, comparing the religious composition of different generations beginning with the Silent Generation (who were born between 1925 and 1945).In this generation, half of all respondents indicated that they were Protestant, while 22% said that they were Catholic. Just 8% of the Silent Generation say that they were atheists or agnostics and nearly the same share describe their religion as “nothing in particular” (10%). In sum, the oldest Americans are 72% Christian and 18% none.Now, for Generation Z things are much different.Just 22 % of the youngest adults describe themselves as Protestant — a more than 50% decline from the Silents. Catholics make up 14% of Gen Z, an eight percentage-point dip from the Silent Generation.Of course, the share of nones is much larger. Seventeen percent of young people describe their religion as atheist or agnostic, and 31% say that they are attached to no religion in particular. Taken together, 36% of Gen Z are Christians, while 48% are nones.For journalists, there is the news hook: This is the first generation in history in which the nones clearly outnumber the Christians.
- 4 days ago 25 Jun 22, 6:22pm -