A Seismic Shift?

The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church is John L. Allen Jr.’s most ambitious book to date. The longtime CNN Vatican analyst and National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent argues that various globalization forces are rocking the Catholic Church's ancient foundations. During this exciting and challenging period of change, and with the majority of Catholics living in the global South, it's an opportune time for the church to renew its vocation to the disenfranchised, to those on the underside of history and socioeconomic norms.

According to Allen's trends, it's crucial for today's world church -- laity, clergy, religious, and hierarchy -- to embrace the rise of young evangelical Catholics and ever-expanding lay roles. Modern Catholics should also learn from and engage with other denominations and faith traditions, especially Pentecostalism and Islam. Lastly, Catholics need to consider the ethics of biotechnology, the perils of globalization (especially for the poor), and the surging world powers.

In the introduction, Allen warns his readers that his book is descriptive, not prescriptive. He maintains that the selection of trends was "based on more than a decade of day-in, day-out analysis of the global Church." He doesn't, however, explain his criteria for choosing trends until the penultimate chapter, "Trends That Aren't." Readers may wonder up to that point why Allen selected certain trends and ignored others. The trends, he says, have to be global, impact the Catholic grassroots and hierarchy, be explanatory and predictive, have long-term consequences for the church, and be non-ideological.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2010
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