In Good Faith

What are some of the largest threats to religious institutions in our age?

Sarah Bender - Buddhist

Sarah Bender is a Roshi (senior teacher) in the Koan Zen Buddhist tradition. She is a resident teacher for Springs Mountain Sangha, a Zen community in Colorado Springs (

Religious institutions are most valuable as holders of wisdom traditions, designed to help individuals and communities center deeply in gratitude and love so they can weather whatever comes; and as containers for communities to practice these values. Consumerism, distraction and the astounding rate of change we face are worldwide challenges to community, requiring difficult changes for institutions. Stagnation, protective rigidity and divisiveness corrode institutions from within. As people encounter the reality of suffering worldwide and face severe threats to ongoing life, they ask, “Does my religious institution have the strength and integrity of leadership, and the wisdom and compassion, the flexibility, to lead in a time like this? Is it a live, courageous body of worship and practice, or an empty shell?”

Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian

Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.

Our cultural context is changing dramatically and rapidly — while many religious institutions seem unaware or in denial. Trust: In the last 40 years, the number of people in the U.S. who have a “great deal or quite a lot” of confidence in organized religion has dropped from 68 to 36 percent. Misuse of power, financial misconduct and sexual scandals have moved a whole generation to abandon religion. Resources: Declining membership has left religious bodies with unused and underutilized buildings, which will become an increasing burden, especially if the economy turns downward. Identity: While religious institutions hunker down to demand ever-stricter allegiances, people of all ages — but especially younger folks — are becoming increasingly eclectic about how they understand and construct their own faith identity.

Bryan Garner - Ceremonial Magician

Rev. Bryan Garner is a published author, Ninjutsu instructor, lecturer and western ceremonial magician. He is currently pursuing ordination into the Apostolic Gnostic Priesthood of the Apostolic Johannite Church.

The foremost threats to long-established religions are communities that perceive they’ve evolved beyond the needs the church used to provide. Modern society is much more egocentric, with people scrambling to cram more busy work and distraction into their lives, while technology offers instant interaction and platforms for numerous philosophies. Most religions no longer hold the same authority or moral severity over their communities, and Christian denominations have seen stark declines in attendance. However, the “freedoms” of modern thought have also brought us a loss of tradition, structure and accountability for one’s neighbor.

Ahriana Platten - New Thought/Unity

Dr. Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center, and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.

The greatest threat to religious institutions is human exhaustion. So great is the demand on our day-to-day lives, that spiritual study is being categorized as another task on our never-ending task list. Spirituality, no matter the religious or non-religious flavor, requires the commitment of time and practice. Through practice, we find inner peace, Divine guidance, temperance and tenacity. These qualities are desperately needed in our lives. Equally, we ache for a society that more deeply values honesty, integrity, kindness and generosity. A powerful way to begin recovering these is to recover our connection to the sacred. By making time for spiritual experience, we can create the life changes we desire.

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