Both the study of emergent religious communities historically and in recent times reveals a rich diversity of communal forms and patterns of change and development. Emergent religious or spiritual communities that survive the initial hazards of public opprobrium engendered by their oft times heretical beliefs and unconventional group arrangements must subsequently make adaptive changes as the pioneering generation ages, founding leaders die or fail to maintain their authoritative status, and second- and third-generation children increasingly require inculcation of their parents' values in order to sustain some degree of continuity and long-term commitment to community institutions. Because of their supernatural valence, religious beliefs can be powerful ingredients in the process of binding people's loyalty to the community and facilitating a privileged sense of mission to carry on a charismatic founder's work. While typically authoritarian in their ultimate devotion to religious guidance and direction, there is some evidence that contemporary American spiritual communities are beginning to adopt more egalitarian practices and democratic flexibility for managing their communities in a rapidly changing global context.

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