Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Signs of détente in relations between Vatican and China

After “months of stagnation and tension” there has been an improvement in relations between the Vatican and China—“the culmination of months-long efforts to ease tensions with Beijing,” reports journalist Loup Besmond de Senneville in La Croix International (January 30). For Pope Francis, who dreams of visiting the country, China remains a top priority. A 2018 […]

Community organizing programs changing mainline seminaries

Mainline Protestant and Catholic theological education has recently broadened its mission beyond the training of competent clergy to embrace community organizing, reports Aaron Stauffer in the Christian Century (February). It is nothing new for mainline Protestant and Catholic seminaries to be centers of social activism, but community organizing has now been integrated into the curriculum […]

Reviewing 2023—a year of schisms and rumors of schisms

In this review and preview of annual religious trends, it seemed that much of the drama of religion in 2023 came toward the end of the year, meaning that we may have to wait to see if these events will unfold as significant trends in 2024. Yet, developments such as the divisions over the Vatican’s […]

Same-sex blessings as a new dividing line within Roman Catholicism

Released on December 18 under the title Fiducia Supplicans, the declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) allowing for non-liturgical blessings of couples of the same sex or in irregular situations led to expected divisions in the Catholic Church. A number of bishops sought to issue clarifications in answer to local […]

Pro-life movement shedding religious language as pro-choice activists invoke spirituality

In the post-Roe era, anti-abortion groups are moving away from a strictly religious perspective while religious pro-choice activists are taking a more positive and affirming stance towards abortion than previously, according to two reports. In the online magazine, The Conversation (November 7), political scientist Anne Whitesell of Miami University argues that while anti-abortion groups may […]

Shared prophetic teachings a factor in Middle East conflict?

International affairs analysts have overlooked important religious factors in the current situation in the Middle East that may prevent them from grasping its complex nature, writes Paul Marshall on the website Religion Unplugged (November 13). These factors hinge on Islamic, Jewish, and evangelical prophetic concepts and teachings. Marshall writes that Muslim concerns that Israel is […]

Religion a growing threat or enduring asset for democracy?

The largely affirmative response to the classic question of whether religion is good for democracy seems to have become more qualified over the last decade, articles in the latest issue of the Journal of Democracy (October) show. In recent years, scholars studying democracies have sounded the alarm about a “democratic recession” in the face of […]

Oriental Orthodox churches become growth center of U.S. Orthodoxy

Oriental Orthodox churches in the U.S. are outgrowing their sister Eastern Orthodox bodies, possibly even stealing some of their members, according to a new analysis of this venerable yet largely forgotten ancient church tradition hailing largely from the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. At the late-October conference of the Society for the Scientific […]

Latter-day Saints’ literary and business cultures retain hold amid challenges

A significant segment of young-adult (YA) fiction is written by Mormon writers, although the growth of LGBTQ themes within the genre is causing strain among these authors and their readers, reports the New York Times (September 3). Although it is difficult to quantify, the article by Abby Aguirre reports that “Latter-day Saints are some of […]

Denominational conventions at an end?

Annual denominational gatherings may continue, but many of the trappings of annual conventions seem to have outlived their purposes, according to the Forum Letter (September), an independent Lutheran newsletter. Peter Speckhard writes about the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) recent convention in Milwaukee but suggests that his portrayal of the end of an era may apply […]