Some interesting data on Canada, though I am still struck by the fact that much of this shift is from nominal Christians to those with no religious identification. For example, the percentage of evangelicals remains pretty steady. I talk more about that in this USAToday article and in some analysis at Christianity Today, This article in Facts and Trends, where I serve as Executive Editor, explains it well from the U.S. side (and the author Carolyn Curtis recently won an award for the article from the Evangelical Press Association).
A new national study shows that while Canada remains overwhelmingly Christian, Canadians are turning their backs on organized religion in ever greater numbers.
Results from the 2011 National Household Survey show that more than two-thirds of Canadians, or some 22 million people, said they were affiliated with a Christian denomination.
At 12.7 million, Roman Catholics were the largest single Christian group, representing 38 percent of Canadians; the second largest was the United Church, representing about 6 percent; while Anglicans were third, representing about 5 percent of the population.
Observers noted that among the survey's most striking findings is that one in four Canadians, or 7.8 million people, reported they had no religious affiliation at all. That was up sharply from 16.5 percent from the 2001 census, and 12 percent in 1991.
The Canadian trend seems to mirror but even exceed levels of non-affiliation in the United States. A 2012 survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life pegged the ratio of religiously unaffiliated Americans at just under 20 percent.
But Pew also has found that more than one-quarter of American adults (28 percent) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion -- or no religion at all.
Big news out of New York and a victory for religious freedom. I've written on this extensively, including providing some research directly on the question of whether churches should be allowed to rent to schools, including a New York subsample and an opinion piece I wrote on the subject.
Churches threatened with eviction from New York City public schools are celebrating the city council's passage today of a resolution calling on state lawmakers to protect their right to rent worship space on Sundays.
"Right to Worship Resolution passes NY City Council by 38-11," noted A Journey Through NYC Religions, which broke the news in a brief post. "Council steamrolls over Speaker Christine Quinn's opposition to resolution."
"This is one of the first times in recent memory that the city council has responded to faith-based groups and, despite significant opposition, passed a resolution supporting their rights," said Tony Carnes, editor of the Journey site, which chronicles religious life in NYC. "That's a remarkable change, and certainly will catch attention."
Carnes pointed to a Journey poll indicating that nearly 70 percent of the neighbors of schools that rent to churches do not see the rentals as a problematic endorsement of religion.
The long-running legal standoff between churches and the city's education department over whether or not schools can ban worship has been pending since a judge blocked the city's ban last June and the city appealed. The Supreme Court declined to hear the relevant lawsuit by the Bronx Household of Faith. A previous attempt by lawmakers at the state level to permit church rentals failed.
My friend Justin Holcomb does a great job talking about why growing awareness of social issues should be encouraging. Justin and I are friends (as you can see in this video) and I am looking forward to being back with him at Re:Train next year.
Recently, we have begun to see an encouraging trend in Christian circles: a greater awareness of violence and oppression (such as human trafficking), as well as an increased concern for rescuing and caring for victims. We are seeing an explosion of attention to social justice issues in organizations like Passion, International Justice Mission, and the World Evangelical Alliance, and with the publication of books like God in a Brothel and The White Umbrella. Everywhere you look, churches, parachurch organizations, and individual Christians are waking up to the hidden world of injustice, violence, abuse, and slavery around us--and taking action.
The Bible does not hesitate to depict the harsh reality of violence and oppression, and in fact God's people are clearly called to fight for justice and mercy for all people. Throughout the entire Bible, God is portrayed as one who is just and merciful in his dealings with humanity. Psalm 68:4-5 says, for example, that God is "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows." Theologians from a wide variety of backgrounds--from Gustavo Gutierrez to Nicholas Wolterstorff to Tim Keller--have concluded that God has a special place in his heart for the poor and vulnerable. Indeed, part of Israel's vocation was to enact social justice, not for its own sake, but because in so doing Israel would reveal the character of God to the surrounding nations, as a city set on a hill.
I had the pleasure of hosting Francis Chan on The Exchange recently, in partnership with the Exponential Conference. It was quite an interview.
Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange. We talked about the discipleship deficit and had some fun about "going Francis Chan" on your church.