I hope this isn't taken as a negative comment, it's just meant to be something for consideration.
I don't mind any of the new additions, and think that some of them are especially good (the membermap, more threads listed on the "recent posts" part of the main forum page, etc.). Some of these changes will make the forum more attractive. However, some of the changes will definately put-off at least a few potential members. Some of the new smileys, and other additions, provide a much more light-hearted atmosphere. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but at the same time, such additions will perhaps keep more serious minded people from posting on or frequenting the forum. I think that Priests and the more mature academic types will be less likely to find this forum attractive with some of the new additions (this wouldn't be the case for all priests and mature academics, of course). Some people like to have a very serious tone when discussing theology, or discussing history, or even discussing topics such as abortion. I guess it's a case of not being able to please everyone. It's a matter of who you are trying to attract to the forum. It's currently, for the most part, people in their 20's who are serious about their faith, but light-hearted at the same time. If that's who you, for the most part, hope to attract to here, then I think things are perfect