01: The Atlas of Pentecostalism is a new online database that seeks to map the rapid growth of global Pentecostalism as a diverse and networked religion.
The database uses new and old methods, including global crowdsourcing, big data, cinematography, interviews and academic collaborations to provide an independent perspective on Pentecostalism as it changes. The database expands with time and can also be ordered as an eBook or print-on-demand book, which freezes the dynamic data at that moment.
The print on demand book can be ordered as a full color paperback. The book contains the latest contributions and live data maps and is updated daily, with each copy being unique.
For more information about the atlas, visit: http://goo.gl/6qhOzX.
02: Timothy Miller brings together a group of practitioners, leaders and scholars to analyze the present trends and futures of religious communities in the book Spiritual and Visionary Communities (Ashgate, $34.95).
In the Introduction, Miller writes that although religious intentional communities are undoubtedly changing, especially due to their loss of isolation caused by the Internet, it is difficult to provide a reliable count of these often independent groups and thus account for the overall growth or decline of religious communalism. While Miller acknowledges that these communities, at least in the U.S., are relatively short-lived (partly because of their independence, they often refused to learn from the mistakes of those that have failed), he refrains from viewing this as a general trend, because there are so many exceptions.
He is even hesitant to say whether religious communities survive longer than secular ones, because he finds both on his list of long-standing ones. Nevertheless, the chapters themselves show that many long-standing religious and spiritual communal groups remain vital while new communities are taking root.
The tone of the book is often autobiographical as much as sociological, and the emphasis in the book is on those communities espousing new or unconventional religious beliefs and practices. These include groups such as The Farm, a California-based commune from the early 1970s with a mix of Western and Eastern spiritual concepts, the futuristic environmentalist commune in Portugal called Tamera, the esoteric Damanhur community in Italy, the quasi-evangelical groups known as the Twelve Tribes in Vermont, the movement formerly known as the Children of God and now called The Family International, and the Buddhist New Kadampa Tradition community in England.
03: The Education of David Martin (SPCK, visit http://goo.gl/wRSGMa for order information) is a memoir of the formative years (as the title implies, schooling) and career of this leading British sociologist of religion, but along the way it provides interesting accounts of developments in global Christianity.
Martin was one of the first sociologists to question the secularization thesis in the 1960s and then in the 1980s pioneered research into the growth of Pentecostalism in Latin America and eventually much of the non-Western world. The author recounts his early years growing up in an evangelical home and his late and uneasy arrival into the world of academic sociology and the London School of Economics during the turbulent 1960s and 70s.
Martin’s deep reading of history and theology has set him apart from many sociologists, but it is this out-of-step quality of the scholar and the book (especially its second half) that provides the reader with the context for many contemporary trends—from the dismissal (describing himself in the 1960s as a “academic deviant living by a non-existent subject”) and then rediscovery of religion in sociology to his battle to preserve the Book of Common Prayer from liturgical revisionism, and his “near-accidental” turn to studying the charismatic and Pentecostal upsurge in Latin America.
His way of relating the personal and sociological is also provocative; he writes movingly of finding surprising affinities between the self-made quality of his Methodist lay preacher father and the Pentecostal converts he encountered in much of Latin America.
04: Losing Our Religion (Wipf & Stock, $31) by Kevin Ward, tells the familiar story of disaffiliation from religious institutions and the search for alternatives — both secular and religious — but does so in a comparative framework, studying the cases of the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Ward, who is based in New Zealand, finds that the U.S. is something of an exception to these patterns of disaffiliation and decreasing attendance, but even here the trend is downward on both measures.
Yet he notes that in all of these nations, conservative congregations and denominations have either grown or show stability especially during the past four volatile decades. With other critics of the secularization theory, Ward argues that all these countries have not become completely irreligious and that spiritual interest has remained strong.
The most interesting parts of the books are the case studies of congregations — mostly from New Zealand — where Ward finds that a mixture of orthodoxy, relevance, outreach, and community seem to mark those that are thriving. Many of the trends he discusses, such as the growth of megachurches and emerging congregations, and younger generations disaffiliating, suggests a common religious landscape with similar challenges in these countries.
Ward blends sociological with theological analysis toward the end and concludes with an examination how sports, especially soccer, and national holidays in New Zealand such as Anzac Day are serving as substitute and civil religions.