Modernize or die?

Candace Chellew-Hodge at Religion Dispatches writes of Faith and Flux, a recent Pew Forum study on religious affiliation:

This should be a wake-up call for all churches – Catholic or Protestant, Evangelical or Mainline. For some reason, the church is failing to capture the imagination of its flock. Overall, the church is failing in important ways to build a sustainable and thriving community that will attract, feed, nurture, and hold people throughout their lifetime. Instead, church is becoming stale, uninviting and boring. It no longer provides spiritual sustenance or holds any deep meaning for its congregations. Instead of building excitement and a commitment to social justice, the Good News is producing yawns – and not just from those who haunt the back rows, but those who otherwise would be committed to the church and its mission. That has led to the largest group being those who are unaffiliated with any religion.


What does the survey show the church must do to hold, feed, and energize its flock? Modernize.

“Many of those who become unaffiliated say they’ve done so due to disillusionment or disenchantment with religious people or organizations, saying that religious people are hypocritical and judgmental rather than sincere or forgiving, or that religious organizations focus too much on rules and not enough on spirituality,” Smith said.

Most who left both the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations and remain unaffiliated did so because they no longer agreed with the conservative teachings from the church on issues like abortion, homosexuality, the Bible and social justice issues like poverty, war and the death penalty. For 54 percent of those raised Catholic who are no unaffiliated, they left because the church’s teaching was too conservative on abortion and homosexuality. Only one percent left because they believed the church’s teaching was too liberal on these subjects. Fourteen percent of those raised Catholic who have become Protestant feel the Catholic Church’s teaching on these issues was too conservative. Twenty percent of now unaffiliated Protestants agreed, as did 7 percent of Protestants who had swapped Protestant traditions.

Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News also has some thoughts on the study.

Do you agree with the perscription: modernize or die?

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