Retired SBC pastor Rick Warren wrote and posted an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention challenging the current direction and emphases of America’s largest denomination. In the long 1,384-word letter, the famous minister pushed back against the decision of the SBC credentials committee to exclude their California church and then launched an attack on the use of a creed rather than mission to determine fellowship within the denomination. He cited the long-running statistical decline of the SBC. He also asserted that “for 178 years, Southern Baptists have agreed to disagree on dozens and dozens of doctrinal differences so we could cooperate for the gospel.”
University scholar and Baptist pastor Ryan Burge published a color-coded map showing the churching of America county by county. That is, each county is colored according to the number of churches per population. He used data from once-a-decade Religion Census of 2020 which found 344,894 religious congregations in the United States. He concluded that “there are too many houses of worship in parts of the United State that have seen population decline or stagnation. But in places where the population has expanded … [they] have not kept up with the rising number of people ….” He furthermore found a band of red running south to north through counties from west Texas, up through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota with the highest number of churches per population.
Oklahoma became the first state in the Union to authorize a private religious school as eligible for state tax money. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 3-2 to approve the application by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School. The online public charter school would be open to students across the state in kindergarten through grade 12. It would be the first publicly funded religious school in the nation, despite a warning from the state’s attorney general that the decision was unconstitutional. Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt earlier this year signed a bill that would give parents in the state a tax incentive to send their children to private and religious schools praised the board’s vote.
The Pew Research Center reports that approximately a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) regularly watch religious services online or on TV, while a third regularly attend services in person. The polling was done in November 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic was winding down but before the end of the Covid-10 public health emergency. The survey finds that 43% of Americans regularly join in worship services one way or the other, either in person or on screens, which has held steady since 2020. Among the 17% of Americans who both attend services in person and watch them virtually, the clear preference is attending in person.
An influential mega-church in Seattle has voted to withdraw (or disaffiliate from) their denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church. The issue is, once again, the acceptance of LGBTQ Christians. Quest’s move to voluntarily disaffiliate comes as the ECC is preparing to vote this summer on expelling Quest and another LGBTQ-affirming congregation, Awaken Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. The ECC, also known as The Covenant, was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1885 and has become one of North America’s most racially diverse denominations. It is headquartered in Chicago and counts North Park University and Seminary as its chief educational enterprise. Rev. Eugene Cho — who left the church in 2018 and now leads Bread for the World — planted Quest Church in 2001. Current pastor is Gail Song Bantum.