Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
December 28, 2018
Contact: Chelsen Vicari office: 202-682-4131, cell: 540-239-2170, e-mail: email@example.com
Washington, DC—Polyamory called “holy,” accelerating membership decline, and accusations of wavering biblical orthodoxy at a major evangelical Bible school are just a few of the religion news stories covered by the Institute on Religion & Democracy staff in 2018. It has been quite a year for religion news.
Below are the IRD’s top church news stories for the year in ascending order, based on the number of page views on the IRD blog Juicy Ecumenism.
Episcopalians have yet to hit bottom in their downward membership spiral that began in the early 2000s. Statistics made available by the Episcopal Church General Convention Office show a denomination continuing a sustained decline in 2016 to 1,745,156 domestic members, as IRD’s Anglican Action Director Jeffrey Walton reported. The U.S.-based denomination shed 34,179 members, a decline of 1.9 percent, while attendance losses were relatively limited compared to previous years, declining 9,327, down 1.6 percent. A net 37 parishes closed, bringing the denominational total to 6,473 congregations.
Would-be United Methodist “Bishop” Karen Oliveto warned against making Jesus an “idol,” and purports to expose his sins, “bigotries and prejudices.” IRD’s UM Action Director John Lomperis reported on Oliveto’s controversial statements made during her weekly message to the Mountain Sky Area and posted on Facebook. Oliveto’s message has since been deleted, but thankfully Lomperis captured several screenshots and made them available within his article. Although the report was first published on IRD’s blog in September 2017, it remains one of IRD’s most widely read stories of this year.
Within the United Methodist Church, the unofficial group Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) has urged the denomination to stray from biblical teachings on marriage. IRD Intern Esther Chung had heard that once a United Methodist congregation joins RMN, it takes a toll on the congregation’s membership. To prove this theory, she compiled data for most United Methodist congregations that joined RMN between 2008 and 2014. Chung’s research proved the theory to be overwhelmingly true.
After imposing an unusual degree of secrecy, the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops finally released the results of votes on the five proposed amendments to the denomination’s constitution. The results on all five show how the denomination is moving in an increasingly orthodox, faithful direction overall, as IRD’s John Lomperis reported.
It is difficult to read of Christian clergy calling premarital sex “healthy” and chastity “unreasonable.” But that is just what post-Evangelical minister Brandan Robertson, alongside others, had to say during a recent interview with Huffington Post. May the Church have the courage to confront those “who call evil good and good evil…”
Neglecting traditional theology and bashing the church are just a couple of trends observed by guest author John Wesley Reid who penned a response to young Christian millennials who often sacrifice their Christian values for the sake of being relevant to the world. He reminds young Christians that their social advocacy for Christ should never come at the expense of their witness and relationship with Him. Reid’s observations drew significant attention, especially on social media.
In October 2018, post-Evangelical minister and author Brandan Robertson shared a video on social media where he declared open and polyamorous relationships “holy” and “beautiful” before his congregation. The video was soon after removed from Robertson’s Twitter account. Thankfully, IRD’s Evangelical Action Director Chelsen Vicari transcribed the monologue and made it available in a comprehensive report.
After much anticipation, the Council of Bishops of the global United Methodist Church approved three separate plans as options to seek resolution of the longstanding internal tensions over a vocal minority’s disagreement with and disobedience of the UMC’s official teachings marriage and sexuality. Final decisions on any such proposals will be made at a specially called UMC General Conference in February 2019, to which IRD’s John Lomperis will be a voting delegate.
Does it matter if your church is affiliated with a denomination? Guest author Brady Weller shared his reasons for leaving non-denominational churches behind and committing to the Southern Baptist Convention as his Christian community and home. The article was widely shared via social media, making it IRD’s second most-read article of 2018.
IRD’s top story of the year surrounds the serious allegations around the evangelical Bible school Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Allegations centered upon the school’s questionable spending practices and wavering Biblical orthodoxy. From a school-provided luxury suite for a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, an anonymous letter shared by disgruntled faculty, to the abrupt firing of a beloved Moody radio host investigating reports of unorthodoxy, one cannot help but be concerned.