"Should I call you 'Reverend'?" someone asked me recently. I
paused for a moment, thinking a million thoughts at once. I'm not much of a fan
of the "reverend" title, in part because of its problematic grammar but mostly
because I don't want to be revered.
If you had asked the pastor of the mainline
church I grew up in how his congregation was addressing public issues like
poverty, health or education, he would have pointed to a few church-sponsored
programs (like a child-care center and a Meals on Wheels program) but he would
also have named church members who were doctors, civil servants and public
Mary Valle, who recently heard of the Christian flag for the first time, I
grew up pledging allegiance to it at school. In 1897, a Sunday school superintendent
in Brooklyn was discussing with students the symbolism of having a U.S.
If you share my concern about the theological thinness of much of the
current craze of construing Christianity as a practice, get Roger
Owens's book. Even more, if you care about the theological identity of
the church, you will find The Shape of Participation to be this decade's finest work of ecclesiology.
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).