Last year, the Pew Religious Landscape Survey made a couple things clear: (1) On the whole, religion is very important to Americans. (2) Americans -- and especially Protestant Christians -- are not very committed to their denominations.
The survey's summary puts this succinctly:
If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44 percent of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.
I think this trend may be related to the suspicion among many people about institutional religion in general. Over at EthicsDaily.com, one columnist has concluded that seminarians aren't interested in serving local congregations, because they're not innovative enough. Read the column here.
So I was interested to see that this postdenominational trend is apparent among Jews as well.
The Washington Post reports that some of the most devout young Jews are gathering in independent groups outside of synagogue settings.
Many of the young Jews say they prefer not to define themselves according to the large denominations that have traditionally divided Jewish worship life: Reform, the most liberal, Conservative and Orthodox, the most traditional. They say they see the partitions as artificially segregating their faith. Instead, they gather in Moishe Houses, a network of group houses where they live and organize worship and social gatherings; in an organization called Jews in the Woods, which meets in rural settings; and in independent minyanim, which is the plural of the word minyan. ["Minyan" means a group of at least 10 people who gather for prayer.]
Mainstream Jewish leaders are taking notice. The established Conservative movement is now offering grants of up to $2,500 for independent minyanim that partner with an existing Conservative synagogue.
It's important for Americans who are interested in Christian theological education to see that the weakening of denominational life stretches across religious lines. People committed to Christian theological education, like their Jewish counterparts, want to see institutions thrive. And yet the newer, more vibrant congregations in both Christian and Jewish traditions often have a character that is less "institutional."
What does this mean for the future of theological education?
Read the entire Washington Post article here.