Political shifts, continued economic hardship and changing religious trends could make 2013 a big year for church news. Below are IRD’s predictions for what religious news stories have the most potential to make headlines in the coming year.
Ecumenical Councils Struggle: While the National Council of Churches struggles to stay afloat, the National Association of Evangelicals will experience further liberalization and marginalization. At least two oldline seminaries will shutter, and the most liberal church bodies, such as the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Metropolitan Community Churches, will continue to move closer towards eventual consolidation.
Continuing Growth of Mormonism: Nearly tying United Methodists for members, the growing Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will be increasingly seen as mainstream in conservative circles and hard to ignore in liberal circles. The growth of Mormonism, along with Pentecostalism and Nondenominational Evangelical Christianity, will continue to contrast with diminishing oldline Protestantism.
Evangelical/Catholic Partnerships Grow: Both groups have led in anti-sex trafficking efforts over the last decade. Thanks to the Obamacare HHS mandate, however, active Protestants and Roman Catholics will grow closer together in the public square, especially as religious freedom cases continue to unfurl.
Persecuted Middle East Religious Minorities: Conflicts in Syria and Egypt, home to two of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, will result in increasing emigration.
Evangelical Liberal Disenchantment: The distance between the Evangelical Left and the liberal political establishment will increase, especially differences with President Obama over religious liberty and abortion.
Sexual Liberalism: Post Sexual Revolution mores will spread in evangelical colleges and universities. Meanwhile, transgenderism and polyamory will be increasingly touted openly in old line church circles.
New Archbishop of Canterbury: After succeeding Rowan Williams in March as head of the world’s almost 80 million Anglicans, Justin Welby cautiously leads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion in a more orthodox direction, with a nod to Global South Christianity’s growing influence on the Western Church.
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