Denominational conventions, changing religious trends and a U.S. presidential election could make 2012 a big year for church news, according to the conservative Christian organization Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD).
With that in mind, IRD has predicted what it believes could be the religious news stories to make headlines in 2012.
Redefinition of “Pro-Life”: In an attempt to splinter the evangelical vote in a presidential election year, liberal evangelicals will seek to portray issues outside of abortion and euthanasia as crucial sanctity of life matters. Early 2011 efforts to present environmental causes as pro-life will expand.
Episcopal Church pushes forward with same-sex rites: Despite pleas from the worldwide Anglican Communion not to bless such unions, Episcopal Church officials appear determined to embrace such rites at the U.S.-based denomination’s triennial General Convention meeting July 5-12 in Indianapolis.
Increasing boldness by extreme Islamists: With Boko Haram declaring that all Christians must leave northern Nigeria, Islamists globally are making more assertive demands against vulnerable religious minorities. Egypt’s Coptic Christians may face rule by Islamic parties and accelerated attacks by emboldened militants.
Liberal Mainline congregations increasingly shutter buildings: Shrinking endowments and tough economic times could take a toll. With some denominations reporting more than half their congregations shrinking, long-established but tiny churches will most likely fold at a rate even higher than 2011. As a silver lining, some facilities will be revitalized by newly planted churches of evangelical and especially Pentecostal immigrants.
United Methodism continues turnaround: The quadrennial General Conference of the second-largest Protestant church in the U.S., meeting April 24-May 4 in Tampa, will continue its shift from liberal to moderate. Growing African churches and shrinking U.S. churches are separating increasingly international United Methodism from U.S. denominations that have liberalized their sexual teachings. The denomination may also abandon its long-time abortion rights stance.
Religious criticisms of Israel intensify: United Methodists and Presbyterians will debate anti-Israel divestment at their ruling conventions, with Presbyterians meeting June 30-July 7 in Pittsburgh. Liberal evangelicals will also accelerate their push for evangelicals to abandon their traditional pro-Israel stance, with many prominent activists meeting at a “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Jerusalem March 5-9.