faith communities

Why Some Smaller Churches Thrive Despite the Odds

Kletr / Shutterstock.com
Image via Kletr / Shutterstock.com

More people in the pews, more energy for programs, more funds to maintain the roof — these are all keys to survival for such small congregations, according to the latest Faith Communities Today report, released Jan. 4 by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

It finds that congregations with fewer than 100 in weekend attendance — the most vulnerable to collapse — rose to 58 percent in 2015, up from 49 percent five years ago.

Yet the report is optimistically titled: “American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving.”

5 Reasons the Future of Faith Depends on the Open Internet

jannoon028 / Shutterstock.com
jannoon028 / Shutterstock.com

Today, the Open Internet Order goes into effect. Many business owners, entrepreneurs, and economists are praising the order as a win for the economy. But there’s an unexpected voice in the chorus of praise: America’s faith leaders.

As a Christian and Sikh, we are celebrating the Open Internet Order, because the communities we serve cannot flourish today without an open and free Internet. The order codifies principles that have governed the Internet in the U.S. for decades. It keeps the Internet an open space for free speech, including religious expression.

Religious Leaders' Near-Unanimous Support for Immigration Reform

Courtesy Jacob Lupfer
With Rev. Jim Wallis and our Georgetown students outside the #fast4families tent on the National Mall. Courtesy Jacob Lupfer

One of the most meaningful things I get to do in my work as a Ph.D. student in political science is assist Jim Wallis with a course he teaches at Georgetown every fall titled "Faith, Social Justice, and Public Life." Jim is well known as the founder and leader of Sojourners and as a lifelong advocate for social justice. Through lectures, discussions, and guest speakers, our students learn about how and why clergy and lay people of various religious backgrounds advocate for public policies as expressions of their faith commitments. This fall, the push for comprehensive immigration reform was one of the case studies we examined with our students.

I'm no expert in immigration policy. But, as a political scientist, I can offer an informed assessment about when, why, and how the House of Representatives will pass the reform in 2014. This will be the subject of a future post. For now, though, I want to highlight some distinctive features of the debate that I have noticed as an observer of religion in American politics. I do have a layman's interest in the theological justifications being offered in support of (and, perhaps surprisingly, against) comprehensive immigration reform. But for now, I will focus mostly on the politics.

The Great American Water Crisis

Corporate raider T. Boone Pickens made billions as a Texas oil baron, but he’s betting that the real money will come from mining “blue gold”—water. Pickens owns more water than anyone in the U.S.—he’s already bought up the rights to drain 65 billion gallons a year from the Ogallala Aquifer, which holds the groundwater for much of the Great Plains. Almost all the Ogallala water—95 percent—is used for agriculture, but Pickens plans to pipe it down to Dallas, cashing in on the hotter-and-drier weather from climate change. (The result, according to an Agriculture Department spokesperson: “The Ogallala supply is going to run out and the Plains will become uneconomical to farm.”)

Pickens isn’t alone in his new role as a water baron. Multinationals such as Nestlé are buying up water rights, siphoning lakes, and selling our most precious resource to the highest bidder. Slick advertising has seduced many Americans into the mistaken belief that (expensive) bottled water is “purer” or “healthier” than tap water—and led to the annual consumption of 9.67 billion gallons of bottled water, with underserved Latinos and African Americans having the highest rates of bottled water use. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that by 2030 nearly half of the world’s population will inhabit areas with severe water stress.

As our authors explain, cities and towns across the country are in the midst of an epic fight to keep water as a public trust. Communities of faith have joined what they see as a battle for basic justice: Protecting the right of everyone, rich and poor alike, to the crucial stuff of life, water. —The Editors

THE UNITED STATES has one of the best public water supply systems in the world.

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Faith Amid the Rising Conflict in Eastern Congo

Photo by Fidel Bafilemba of Enough Project.
Spokesperson for M23, Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, gives press conference. Bunagana, DR Congo. Fidel Bafilemba of Enough Project.

Faith, for many in eastern Congo, is a source of hope in an environment where optimism is often in short supply. Many Congolese consider faith communities to be among the few trusted institutions in a society (and a government) rife with corruption.

As the situation in eastern Congo has markedly worsened in recent weeks, the church and faith communities have been at the center of efforts to end violence and create space for peace.  

Violence has rapidly escalated in eastern Congo since a new rebel movement known as M23 emerged in April. M23 is composed of several hundred Congolese soldiers, loyal to the former Rwandan backed rebel movement — the CNDP — who were subsumed into the Congolese army in 2009 as part of an opaque peace agreement between the rebels and the governments of Congo and Rwanda.

The Morning News: Thursday November 17, 2011

As Injured Vets Return Home, Churches Reach Out. Occupy Wall Street Gears Up For The Big Day. Faith Overtones In Occupy Protests But Leaders Wary. OpEd: How The First Amendment Got Hijacked. Religious Groups Offer Help To Evicted Protesters. OpEd: What Happens When A Seminary Is Occupied? Religious Voices Loud And Clear At Keystone XL Protests. Iowa Scientists Ask Candidates To Acknowledge Climate Change. And Below The Line: Portraits Of American Poverty.

News: Quick Links

Baby steppin': Economy grew 2.5 percent in the third quarter. Democrats first offer: $3 trillion for debt. Immigration is a faith issue. Harsh rhetoric to derail the GOP? The canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in London resigns over plans to evict Occupy London protesters. Elizabeth Warren and the #OccupyWallStreet election test.

Mandatory E-Verify: Immoral and Bad Business

I admit it: A few years back, when I first heard about the E-Verify program, I thought it sounded reasonable. The program was described to me as a way for employers to voluntarily verify the U.S. citizenship of their employees by cross-checking their information with the online databases of the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security administration. I knew that there were flaws in the system, which sometimes misidentified workers as undocumented even when they were not. However, I thought, what employer doesn't deserve the right to check the employment eligibility of his or her workers?

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