Archive for the ‘clergy’ Category

Racial power vs. divine glory: Why desegregation remains an elusive goal for U.S. congregations

It is tempting to think of America as a nation that is transcending an historic racial divide. But a developing body of research is revealing just how pervasive racial differences are in one of the nation’s most powerful voluntary institutions — the houses of worship where people gather for spiritual and moral guidance and fellowship.

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What price a religious calling? Record seminary debt shows need for financial as well as divine guidance

Record seminary debt and rising tuition costs are forcing both prospective clergy and theological schools to reconsider the price of a religious calling. More than a quarter of students graduating in 2011 with a Master of Divinity degree had more than $40,000 in theological debt and 5 percent were more than $80,000 in the red, a new study found. Many of these students discovered that not only they or their spouses had to moonlight to make ends meet, but some had to choose another job besides the ministry to pay the bills.

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Finding the next T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen: Keys to a successful pastoral CEO search

Pastoral transitions may lack the drama of networks choosing their next host of late-night talk shows. But saying goodbye to a longtime leader and deciding on a new spiritual CEO pose special challenges for congregations, where clergy and members bond through some of the most difficult and joyous moments of the life cycle.

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Homosexuality and the pews: Seven signs influencing congregational acceptance of gays and lesbians

Much of the conflict over issues of sexuality takes place at the national level. But individual congregations, not denominations, ultimately decide how gay and lesbian worshippers will be accepted in religious communities. New studies are providing insights into which congregations are more likely to be welcoming to gays and lesbians, and what this means for the future.

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The Final Four, travel teams and empty pews: Research on sports and religion

From youth travel teams to big-time national festivals such as the Final Four, sports have been making increasing inroads in the busy lives of many Americans. And it is having an impact on religious groups, which report increasing difficulty convincing families that are willing to spend half a day traveling to a 9-year-old’s softball or soccer game to make time for worship services. Some congregations have opted out of the competition, while others are adapting by offering alternative service times and their own sports programs.

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The high cost of service: Student debt burdens religious workers

As long as the money from federal loans rolls in, many seminarians find it hard to think ahead to how they are going to pay back the $40,000, $60,000 or $80,000 or more that is their chunk of a student debt tab that has reached $1 trillion. Yet what began as a critical problem for a small percentage of prospective clergy is reaching alarming levels as seminary students get swept up in a national crisis, new research indicates. It is not enough that growing numbers of clergy with burdensome loans report having to put off for years the ability to get married and start a family or buy a house. Now, graduates wanting to explore a religious vocation may be “too poor to take the vow of poverty,” one research center commented.

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Sex and the church: U.S. congregations struggle with gay, lesbian issues

As President Obama comes forward to support same-sex marriage, many religious communities are still finding their way as they balance theology, experience and personal consciences on issues of sexuality. Extremists continue to judge and condemn one another, and the vitriol may ramp up as the issue becomes part of the 2012 election. But new research offers a cautionary note for those who would try to fit members of different religious groups into monolithic boxes on gay and lesbian issues.

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Knowing where they stand: Belief in resurrection central to religious identity across Christian landscape

Give people in the pews some credit. Every so often, a story pops up making light of religious illiteracy because a significant percentage of the population cannot identify facts such as the names of the four books of the Gospel. More often, researchers and media pundits attempt to classify different believers by how they vote or their stands on controversial social issues. Yet, American Christians can and do articulate for themselves what matters most. As Christians prepare to celebrate Easter, it seems clear that the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is overwhelmingly at the center of their faith.

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Killing the clergy softly: Congregational conflict, job loss and depression

In an age of economic anxiety, new research is shedding light on the often secretive process of clergy being forced out of pulpits in congregations where a small group of members are the source of persistent conflict. The findings reveal just how widespread – one online survey found 28 percent of ministers had experienced “forced teminations” – and damaging these job losses can be in terms of lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of depression, stress and physical health problems.

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Looking back – and forth – in anger: Catholic outrage, defections, over abuse scandal not letting up

U.S. Cardinal Edward Egan recently generated controversy by expressing regret for issuing an apology for the church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse. Yet no matter how much individuals such as the cardinal would like to put the abuse scandal behind them, they can no longer appeal to an obedient laity to ignore or downplay the crimes, according to new research. Many Catholics are still mad as heck, and they are not going to take it anymore. The enduring consequences include continuing defections, lower collections, ruptures in pastoral relationships and a loss of moral influence by church leaders, research indicates.

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