Protestantism — like the rest of the world — continues to evolve.
Compared to fairly recently, the country looks vastly different.
Less than four decades ago, President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 the “Year of the Bible.”
It was no great shock: In the early ’80s — as reported by the Pew Research Center — 89% of Americans identified as Christian.
Adherents to other religions totaled 4% while only 7% subscribed to no religion at all.
Since then, faith has seen a radical decline.
As observed by Gallup, 2019 marked the first year American church membership dropped below 50%.
U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.
What’s the effect of such change?
One might draw two conclusions:
- Churches are now left to the charges of the minority
- Churches may evolve in order to strengthen their appeal
As for whether this story falls along either line, perhaps it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just the result of a society in flux.
Spiritual practice — like most everything else — is in mid-makeover.
Apropos of progress, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) made an announcement over the weekend.
Per a press release, on May 8th, Rev. Megan Rohrer was elected to serve as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.
A notable point, from the official proclamation:
Rohrer is the first transgender bishop in the ELCA.
Bishop-elect Megan Rohrer, a transgender pastor in San Francisco, will serve at the Sierra Pacific synod, which includes congregations across Northern California and Nevada. https://t.co/pfMUF5OmQN
— NPR (@NPR) May 10, 2021
According to The Daily Wire, the church is “the first mainline Protestant denomination to elect a transgender bishop.”
Megan had stiff competition — in a face-off against Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, the biological female narrowly triumphed, 209-207.
Megan may be a first, but there’s sure to be a close second.
As I covered last month, Hope United Methodist Church has placed openly-gay Isaac Simmons in a position of leadership.
Isaac is a drag queen who sometimes delivers messages while dressed to the hilt:
The minister has been promoted in Illinois as a candidate for ordination.
And in 2019, Durham, North Carolina’s Calvary United Methodist Church hosted its “Drag Me to Church” event.
The “family-friendly drag show and silent auction” raised money for iNSIDEoUT18, the church’s LGBT youth group.
Back to Megan — who earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2017 — the bishop’s pronouns are he/they.
ELCA.org lays out a plan:
Rohrer’s installation is scheduled for Sept. 11 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Megan will serve a six-year term.
The election was held in San Francisco, a town hardly known for its old-fashioned sensibilities.
However, North Carolina is a far stretch from the Left Coast.
The church is changing, and I’m reminded of an idea to which I was recently introduced.
You may have heard that politics is downstream of culture; personally, I think that’s true.
Yet, you may not have been acquainted with the following:
Religion is upstream from culture.
If that’s the case — and I believe it is — the church is still changing the world.
It’s just changing it in a different way than it used to.
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