“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.
“Fuller Theological Seminary Names New President” – Emily Belz in Christianity Today: “Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest Protestant interdenominational seminary in the country, named Black church theologian and missions leader David Emmanuel Goatley its next president. Goatley, who leaves a post at Duke Divinity School to begin in January, says he wants to counter the ‘partisan poison’ he sees in American evangelicalism, and turn students’ eyes to the testimonies of the global church. And like presidents in higher education everywhere, he also faces the problem of declining enrollment. He will be the first Black president at the 75-year-old institution. Outgoing president Mark Labberton said when he announced his departure last year that he hoped his replacement would be a woman or person of color. Goatley has a Baptist background but is centered in the Black church. Ordained in the National Baptist Convention-USA, he pastored a Black Baptist church in Kentucky for nine years, then spent the next 20 years as CEO of a historic Black missions agency, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society. ‘There’s a certain representation that is important … The journey of which I am part matters,’ Goatley told CT. ‘I am a Black person in the United States, which means some of my story has to do with discrimination and segregation and slavery, and all of that helps to give insight to how I handle myself and how I seek to handle creation and engage with other people.'”
“Modeling the Future of Religion in America” – Pew Research Center: “Since the 1990s, large numbers of Americans have left Christianity to join the growing ranks of U.S. adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular.’ This accelerating trend is reshaping the U.S. religious landscape, leading many people to wonder what the future of religion in America might look like. What if Christians keep leaving religion at the same rate observed in recent years? What if the pace of religious switching continues to accelerate? What if switching were to stop, but other demographic trends – such as migration, births and deaths – were to continue at current rates? To help answer such questions, Pew Research Center has modeled several hypothetical scenarios describing how the U.S. religious landscape might change over the next half century. The Center estimates that in 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious ‘nones,’ accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. Adherents of all other religions – including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – totaled about 6%. Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, ‘nones’ would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population.”
“State of Bible: Gen Z leads in active evangelism, desire to share faith” – Diana Chandler in Baptist Press: “Gen Z adults, those 25 and under, match elders in a desire to share their faith, and lead all ages in their openness to spiritual conversations, the American Bible Society (ABS) said Sept. 8 in releasing its latest chapter of the 2022 State of the Bible. More than half, 54 percent, of Gen Z and elders expressed a desire to share their faith with others, and 58 percent of Gen Z engaged in individual spiritual conversations with three or more persons in the past year, more than any other age group studied. The ABS defines elders as age 76 and older. ‘We asked a range of questions with different phrasing – sharing faith, having spiritual conversations, talking about the message of the Bible,” ABS said of its survey. “The Bible itself expresses the work of evangelism in various ways (preaching, reconciling, conversing, answering), so we felt comfortable approaching the subject in different ways.’ The findings are a good report for Gen Z, ABS said, in contrast to the previous release from the 2022 report placing a large percentage of Gen Z among committed Christians who don’t attend church at least once monthly. ‘We’re especially encouraged by Gen Z. Our last chapter included some causes for worry, but here we see a desire for faith-sharing among Scripture-engaged young people,’ ABS said in releasing the report’s sixth chapter, focused on evangelism. ‘We also see signs of a greater openness to spiritual conversations in the Gen Z culture. As with many other factors in State of the Bible, evangelism is strongly associated with Scripture engagement and church attendance. Those who are committed to the Bible and the church are far more likely to be committed to sharing their faith.'”
“‘God-denying’ women and self-replacing Christians: How religion changes birthrates” – Ryan Burge in Religion News Service: “In a GSS question about marital status, respondents are asked to identify as married, separated, divorced, widowed or never been married. In 1972, about 14% of the American population reported that they had never wed. Evangelicals were just a bit lower at 9%. However, those without a religious affiliation reported a much higher likelihood of never being married. In 1972, 36% of them had never walked down the aisle. Over time, the portion of Americans who have remained single has clearly climbed. In 2021, nearly 3 in 10 adults said that they have not married — double the rate in 1972. Evangelicals have also seen a significant increase, with 19% never having wed. Among the so-called nones — those unaffiliated with any religious organization — the share of people who have never married, at 42% in 2021, has increased, but the rise has been far more modest. Still, that’s about 12 percentage points above the national average. Religion doesn’t only impact the likelihood of entering into matrimony. It can have profound impacts on other decisions, such as when to have children or the number of children to have. That’s clearly shown by the General Social Survey. In the early 1970s, evangelical households had a little more than 2.5 children on average. That was just slightly higher than the average American, who was having 2.3 children. Nones were much, much lower than that. In 1972, the average none had 1.4 children.”
“Elizabeth the Great: Why do many journalists choose to edit faith out of her Christmas talks?” – Terry Mattingly at GetReligion: “The Queen is dead. God save the King. It’s hard to edit the religion content out of that equation. However, when journalists are asked to deal with the death of the queen who was, it can be argued, the most famous woman of the past 100 years, there are plenty of important, ‘real,’ issues to deal with other than the state of her soul and her Christian faith. I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening watching the BBC Global coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as opposed to, shall we say, American ‘telly.’ The BBC focused on the death of one of the greatest, if not ‘the’ greatest, monarchs in Great Britain’s history. There were many references to her Christian faith. American television, for the most part, offered discussions of the death of a great celebrity. If I have been too harsh with that judgment, please send me some quality URLs. How to approach this totally justified tidal wave of coverage? I think the easiest way to search out the religion-beat content is with two specific online searches. First, search Google News for “Queen Elizabeth” and “Christmas.” Elizabeth the Great was known, of course, for her dignified and timely Christmas addresses — an essential part of the season for Brits and those who love all things British. The vast majority of the mainstream-media obits for the queen contain references to her Christmas talks — sort of. What did she say in these very personal messages? That’s the key. This leads to my second Google News search, for “Queen Elizabeth” and “Christian.” This is where the mainstream press — unless I have missed something, somewhere — offer, well, something like this. In the religious press, readers will find many, many pages of content, such as this feature from Premier Christianity, a niche UK religion website: ‘Queen Elizabeth II served Christ.'”
“What We Sing as Creation Cries Out” – Kelsey Kramer McGinnis in Christianity Today: “Deckers Creek, an Appalachian tributary that runs through Morgantown, West Virginia, was once clean and clear. These days, it often has an orange hue. ‘That’s the heavy metals leaching into the creeks and ground water,’ said Zac Morton, a pastor at First Presbyterian Church, a nearby congregation of roughly 250. ‘It’s notorious as an acid mine tributary.’ In Appalachia, Morton says, addressing climate change and weaving the theme of environmental justice into liturgy reflects the experiences of his community. His church members live in an area littered with reminders and effects of exploitative land use, from higher rates of childhood asthma linked to coal-powered plants to poor water quality due to runoff from nearby mines. ‘People here are dealing with the consequences of mismanagement and exploitation of the land,’ he said. The global church is entering the Season of Creation, observed from September 1 until October 4, the Feast of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology. Millions of Christians from various traditions will focus on creation and stewardship, including in their musical worship. Music that meditates on beauty and laments its destruction can be a call to action and an antidote for despair. New resources from The Porter’s Gate Worship Project—the album Climate Vigil Songs (released in July 2022) and an accompanying worship guide—aim to help congregations make time for exultation, lament, and action. When creating the album, The Porter’s Gate artists initially struggled to find a sense of hope amid the news of extreme weather disasters and uncertainty for the future.”
Music: The Porter’s Gate featuring Taylor Leonhardt, “Jubilee,” from Climate Vigil Songs