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PREDICTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY'S FUTURE:

PART 2

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Opinions of:

bulletWilliam Easum, is a church consultant and Christian futurist.
bulletLucy Forster-Smith, a college chaplain.
bulletDavid Gibson, a religious news writer.
bulletDouglas Hall, a professor of Christian theology.
bulletDaphne Hampson, a lecturer in systematic theology.

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William Easum

"Bill" Easum is the "Senior Managing Partner of Easum, Bandy and Associates (formerly 21st Century Strategies). Bill is one of the most highly respected church consultants and Christian futurists in North America." 1 He describes some of the trends that he expects in the Christian church during the 21st century:

bulletWorship will focus on experiences of God rather than learning about God.
bulletThe unchurched, who he describes as "biblically illiterate and ethically void" is a growing segment of society. They need to "experience the presence (immanence) of God."
bulletChurches will become a safe place where the parishioners can seek protection from the increasing hostility of the world which will be directed against Christians.
bulletPrograms will be aimed at converting the unchurched rather than pulling in life-long Christians.
bulletChurches will make disciples rather than encouraging the laity to hold offices in the church.
bulletHouse churches and small groups will proliferate. 
bulletA high commitment will be expected of all.
bulletThere will be an Increased role for the laity.
bulletChurches will become multicultural.
bulletQuasi-denominations (loose alliances of churches) will emerge.
bulletChurches will tend to be more theologically conservative.
bulletThe latest technology will be exploited.
bulletChurches will focus on serving an geographical area.

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Lucy Forster-Smith:

Lucy Forser-Smith is a chaplain at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. As a guest columnist for PioneerPlanet, she made a number of points:
bulletThere is a "massive resurgence of interest in religion" globally, although some would claim that the interest will be in spirituality, not religion.
bulletNew religious movement will be spawned.
bulletAn unidentified writer has predicted that by the year 2020, 30% of all teen-agers will draw their main religious experience from the Internet.
bulletMany will want an immediacy of spiritual experience; "a 'felt experience' is the way of the future."
bulletIslam is the fastest growing religion world-wide; it will take on a greater importance in the U.S.
bulletChristianity is growing rapidly in Africa.
bulletThe gap in belief between liberal and conservative Christianity will widen.
bulletMany denominations will split due to "deep differences in biblical interpretation and lifestyle practice." The latter is an apparent reference to persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation.
bulletMegachurches, where one can tap into everything from Bible study to support groups, will become more common. Other religions may follow suit.
bulletAt the other end of the scale, very small congregations will form clusters and hire a single leader. 
bulletShe sees a call "to seek the larger good of this globe... and anchor our lives in something larger than ourselves." 2

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David Gibson:

David Gibson is a religious newswriter from The Bergen (Hackensack, N.J.) Record. In an article written for PioneerPlanet, he predicted trends in Christianity during the next millennium:

bullet"Cafeteria Christianity" (where believers pick and choose "what appeals to them in various denominations, even in other faiths") will increase.
bulletGibson quoted George Gallup Jr., the pollster from Princeton, N.J.: "Religion has become a bit of a dirty word. It sounds dead, old-fashioned, archaic. Spirituality is a safer word. If you can say you are spiritual, you don't have to make a commitment. For a lot of people it's a way out."
bulletGibson wrote: "Lately, religion has become so psychologized [sic] that its aim is often purely one of inner peace. The ancient commandment to help one's neighbor can become an afterthought. Combine that with faddism and good old American individualism, and we see a 'religion' so privatized that it has little impact on society at large."
bulletReligious attendance and belief in God or some higher power remains very high in the U.S. "About one-third of Americans say they have had a profound religious experience, and the rest seem to be looking for one."
bulletChristianity remains highly fragmented. He quotes a book by Phyllis Tickle, the religion editor of Publishers Weekly, titled: "Re-Discovering the Sacred" She referred to some 2,500 distinct forms of Christianity in the U.S. 3
bulletDenominational loyalty is decreasing. By the late 1980's, over a third of the Christians in the U.S. have switched denominations during their lifetime. At least 60% of Americans are married to a person from another denomination. The percentage of Americans who have no religious preference doubled from 7% in 1972 to 14% now.
bulletHe quotes Richard Cimino and Don Lattin in "Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium:" 4 "One way to understand American religion and chart its future is to see the world of faith like any other product or service in the U.S. economy.''
bulletReligious experience will be increasingly divorced from church congregations. "... 8 in 10 Americans already say the Internet plays a role in their spiritual lives," and in another close to 20% say they will rely "primarily or exclusively on the Internet for religious input" by 2010."

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Douglas Hall:

Douglas Hall is Professor of Christian Theology at McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec. In his book "The end of Christendom and the future of Christianity," he writes: 5

bulletUnder the Roman emperors Constantine and Theodosius in the fourth century CE, Christianity underwent a great shift. Christianity, the faith, evolved into the imperial church. A shift in the reverse direction is occurring today. "Christianity has arrived at the end of its sojourn as the official, or established, religion of the Western world."
bulletChristian churches are gradually being pushed to the edges of society; they are being disestablished. The process cannot be reversed.
bullet"The decline and humiliation of Christendom in the West is...a process. It is not a matter of sudden death."
bulletMost denominations are living in a delusion: that we are still living in a basically Christian civilization, as if Christianity is the "official religion of the official culture."
bulletChristianity may return to its original, first century form, "the disciple community described by the Scriptures."

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Daphne Hampson:

Ms. Hampson is a Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the University of St. Andrews in the UK.  In her book, Theology and Feminism, she asserts that Christianity and feminism are incompatible. 6 She states:

bullet"...feminism represents the death-knell of Christianity as a viable religious option...the feminist challenge strikes at the heart of Christianity."
bulletThe religious myths of the Israelites and, later, of Christian theology represent simply two of many groups in the world who interpreted the world from their own perspective.
bulletThe Christian myth is no longer either either tenable or ethical.
bulletThe path of the future is towards post-Christianity: to find a method of viewing God independently of the Christian myth, and in today's language. In doing so, we "shall be doing no more than did others in their time, drawing on the cultural milieu in which they lived.

The implication in her writing is that feminism is the stronger force. It will cause the eventual abandonment of the Christian religion because of the latter's ties to male supremacy.

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References:

  1. W.M. Easum, "The church of the 21st century," at: http://www.easum.com/
  2. "Future of Religion Research Page" by the World Network of Religious Futurists at: http://www.wnrf.org/
  3. Phyllis Tickle, "Re-Discovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America," Crossroad, (1995) Read reviews or order this book safely"
  4. Richard Cimino and Don Lattin in "Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium" Read reviews or order this book safely
  5. Excerpts from: Douglas Hall, "The end of Christendom and the future of Christianity," Trinity (1997) at: http://www.christianism.com/
  6. Excerpts from: Daphne Hampson, "Theology and Feminism," Basil Blackwell, (1990) at: http://www.christianism.com/ 

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Copyright © 2000 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JAN-15
Latest update: 2004-OCT-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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