Latest

After two weeks of meetings, Catholic bishops did not come to an agreement on a revised official stance on homosexuality. The church leaders also failed to come to a consensus on whether or not remarried Catholics—who had been divorced—could receive communion. The bishops were called to the historic synod by Pope Francis after new polls revealed that the Vatican’s views of family life were seen as dated. However, despite heated discussions that led some to believe that major shifts in how the church actively ministered in the LGBT community were coming, no significant new agreements were forged. Even a revised report on the meetings—which removed several statements from an earlier report that contained positive language concerning gays and lesbians—did not receive a two-thirds vote of support from the group of bishops.

The latest version of the report said that same-sex couples were not “"God's design of matrimony and the family," but cautioned, “Nonetheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy.” It’s unclear how close the bishops are to revising their position on allowing remarried divorced church members to receive Holy Communion, as the report only said that they will continue to examine the issue. Following the synod, Pope Francis gave a speech, saying, “The Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.” The more than 200 bishops will meet again next fall to discuss similar issues ... Discuss

Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, tops this list of the largest churches in America with more than 31,000 weekly attendees. Outreach Magazine compiled the rundown of the country’s biggest churches, each of which bring in more than 19,000 people every Sunday. Texas is home to two of the featured megachurches (Robert Morris’ Gateway Church and Ed Young Sr.’s Second Baptist Church). Unsurprisingly, most of the others are in the South’s Bible Belt ... Discuss

According to new research from Duke University’s Mark Chaves, several kinds of Christian worship experiences—including speaking in tongues—are on the rise among American churchgoers. As The Atlantic explains:

Since Chaves and his team started tracking these trends in 1998, the portion of congregations that see hand-waving during services has increased by 11 percentage points; spontaneous jumping, shouting, or singing has increased by 9 percentage points; and speaking in tongues has increased by 5 percentage points.

Commenting on his National Congregations Study, Chaves told the outlet that the current trend in American religion is for worship and church experiences that are “more emotionally engaging, not just intellectually engaging” ... Discuss

Today’s edition of The New York Times features a front page story on a topic that may already be familiar to many evangelicals: Hillsong. The story, “Megachurch With a Beat Lures a Young Flock,” primarily looks at the growth of the church in cities like New York, but also examines the ministry’s appeal—combining cool music, compelling messages and hip venues—to millennials:

The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon, capitalizing on, and in some cases shaping, trends not only in evangelicalism but also in Christian youth culture. Its success would be rare enough at a time when religion is struggling in a secularizing Europe and North America. But Hillsong is even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in.

Thrice frontman and indie artist Dustin Kensrue has resigned from his position as director of worship at Mars Hill. The move comes after a letter—signed by Kensrue and several fellow church leaders—asking that Pastor Mark Driscoll step down for a time and seek “restoration” following numerous controversies, was leaked to the media. The original letter added, “We believe that in many cases we have invited these controversies upon ourselves by not seeking the truth and not seeking to be in the light.” In his resignation letter, Kensrue said that the authority of church elders to correct leadership at Mars Hill “is trampled under the man-made hierarchies and ‘chain of command.’” Driscoll has since announced a six-week leave absence saying, “The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church,” adding, “I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire eldership for addressing accusations against me.”

Throughout his resignation letter (which he posted here), Kensrue focused on what he sees as a lack of ability of the church elders to offer correction to higher church leadership, and the inability to address concerns raised by church members and the media. He told members:

I would encourage you to not muddy the issues by engaging in personal attacks and becoming bitter. I honestly believe that [the Board of Advisors & Accountability and Executive Elders] love you, and that they love Jesus. But I also believe that they are blind to what is really going on, and blind to what the roots of the problems are. I believe that they are treating the media as their conscience, rather than heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the elders. So speak boldly, but speak in love. Mars Hill is not on a good trajectory.

In a statement posted on the Mars Hill website, megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll said that he is taking a six-week leave of absence while the elders of the church review a series of allegations against him.

Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church … There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended.

Driscoll is effectively stepping down as pastor of the 15-campus, 15,000-attending church based in Washington—at least for the next month and a half. In recent months, Driscoll has come under fire following allegations of plagiarism in his books, using marketing money to essentially inflate book sales, bullying staff and former members and making vulgar online posts under a false name. Though many of the allegations had been previously addressed, in the last few weeks, public outcry grew. Along with criticism from the online community, the Lifeway Christian retail chain announced that it would no longer be selling his books, and the Acts 29 Network of church planters (which Driscoll helped found) removed Mars Hill and Driscoll, saying “the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network” ... Discuss