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John Wilson

Exodus from the Church?

A debate on the state of the faith.

I'm grateful to Drew Dyck and Byron Johnson for their participation in this debate. I think we need many more conversations of this kind. Earlier this year, at Indiana Wesleyan University, I interviewed Pete Ward, who was visiting in the President's Scholar Series, under the umbrella of IWU's John Wesley Honors College. Pete is Senior Lecturer in Youth Ministry and Theological Education at King's College, London, and author most recently of Gods Behaving Badly: Media, Religion, and Celebrity Culture (Baylor Univ. Press). I learned that he has initiated a series of projects under the provocative rubric "Ecclesiology and Ethnography." (Eerdmans will be publishing a series of books growing out of this enterprise.)

Something like this innovative approach is needed as we consider the questions raised by the debate between Drew and Byron. Scholars and practitioners must be in ongoing conversation. Are we in fact witnessing a historic exodus from the church, especially among young people? How might that question be answered? What's the evidence, one way or the other, and how do we evaluate it? I hope this week's exchange has helped you to clarify your own understanding of these matters—and perhaps nudged you to study the question further.

John Wilson is the editor of Books & Culture.

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