On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

1) The Archdiocese of Quebec has recently changed over to “missionary status,” a reflection of its declining parishes and numbers, but it is using its designation to stress evangelism and a more countercultural stance. Led by Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, the archdiocese is undergoing a reorientation away from an establishment church model and towards that of a “field hospital” church, which is a model Pope Francis has advocated. The archdiocese has been steadily losing hundreds of churches in recent years, as they are demolished or converted into mixed-use facilities, and the numbers of baptisms have dropped, particularly during the pandemic. The new model would mean fewer Sunday Masses and priests, and “smaller meeting rooms where laypersons would animate the liturgy of the Word and be a sign of God’s love for humanity by their personal and collective [action] for the common good,” in the words of Frederic Barriault, a researcher at the Jesuit-run Center for JusTce and Faith in Montreal. Rather than evangelization in a conservative Catholic mode (as has been advocated under previous papacies), Barriault looks to young people, raised during the rapid secularization of the province, who are “rediscovering the prophetic heritage of Catholic social activists involved in labor, feminist, ecological and decolonial struggles.” Even if attendance at Mass is far from the norm, 64 percent of people in Quebec still self-identify as Catholic. (Source: America, April)

Basilica of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré – Quebec, Canada (© 2009 Jeffrey James Pacres | https://www.flickr.com/ photos/jjpacres/3768471950)

Source: Global Prophetic Alliance.

2) The proliferation and failure of prophecies recently issued in Pentecostal and charismatic circles has led to the release of a four-page statement of “prophetic standards” by a segment of leaders to help correct abuses in the movement. The failed prophecies have mainly concerned predictions on the reelection of Donald Trump and the failure to foresee the outbreak of Covid-19. The statement, released in late April, is the work of 85 leaders within the “prophet movement,” which teaches that the biblical offices of apostles and prophets are still in existence today. The statement calls for leaders issuing public prophecies to apologize and take responsibility for wrong and misleading prophetic “words.” It also calls for prophets to have their prophecies evaluated and to be held accountable by peers in the ministry. Observers say the group issuing the statement, led by evangelist Michael Brown and Bishop Joseph Ma`era, took the diplomatic route of not naming names. But the majority of prophetic leaders did not sign on, including the most prominent ones, such as Kenneth Copeland, Cindy Jacobs, and Dutch Sheets. This is not the first attempt to reign in the abuses of the prophetic movement, as similar efforts to increase accountability were tried in the 1990s. Critics of the statement said such an effort will have the effect of boxing in prophecy and over-policing prophets. (Source: Religion Unplugged, April 29)

3) Through the crowdfunding project #karavanen, Salafi Muslims in Sweden are engaging in a novel form of outreach and fundraising. Crowdfunding, a collective effort of many individuals who network and pool their resources to support initiatives started by other groups or people, is a new method of outreach by Muslims. #karavanen is the brainchild of Islam.nu, an organization of Salafi Muslims who seek to spread a “pure” form of Islam throughout Sweden. Islam.nu runs Instagram posts promoting books it publishes and what it calls “convert kits” given to new Muslims, which include a prayer book, hijab (if it is a woman), a prayer rug, and argan oil. The theme of fighting Islamophobia and “hate” is also employed in this campaign. Muslims are asked to support the distribution of new books and the convert kits by contributing money to a direct debit account, to which they can donate on a monthly basis. The campaign has been largely successful, with Islam.nu’s Facebook page said to be getting as many “likes” as the Church of Sweden’s page. The campaign has been successful both in strengthening existing among Salafi Muslims and spreading a particular school of Islam among new and old Muslims in Sweden, as well as enlisting other institutions, such as mosques and travel agencies, to distribute the material for them. (Source: Religions, issue 12)