Why do clergy leave congregational ministry? A new study of clergy of five Protestant denominations reports that the largest group - 26 percent of those departing - lists conflict with others in their former congregations or with officials of their denominations or their disillusionment with denominational leaders as their major motivation. A second 26 percent credit their departure to a preference for other forms of ministry, a response that for some could include similar discontent.
A majority of those surveyed felt that theological training today was insufficiently practical and realistic, and a majority of all but ministers of the Assemblies of God said their seminary training was deficient in spiritual depth.
Even larger numbers, except from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, said that their denomination's clergy deployment and placement systems needed overhauling.
| Wanted: Practicality
|A large proportion of Protestant clergy leaving congregational ministry say seminary training is lacking in practicality and realism, a new study reports. Also, Catholic University streamlines its School of Theology and Religious Studies
The study, sponsored by the Pulpit and Pew Project at Duke University Divinity School, was conducted by Dean Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger of Catholic University of America.
Relatively small response to the survey - taken among selected resigned clergy of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church, and the Assemblies of God-led the project leaders to warn of possible skew in their findings. They said other information suggested that the angriest former pastors were likeliest not to have replied.
The researchers worked with 963 responses to questionnaires sent out by the former pastors' denominations. Response rates ranged from a high of 54 percent in the ELCA to 20 percent in United Methodist Church and 19 percent in the Assemblies of God.
The Hoge-Wenger report listed seven top reasons respondents gave for leaving congregational ministry:
Conflict in congregation, with staff or laity.
Conflict with denominational officials; disillusioned with denomination.
Burned out; disillusioned; felt constrained; sense of inadequacy.
Prefer other ministry
Allegations of sexual misconduct
Need to care for family or children
Problems in family; divorce
Hoge and Wenger offered their preliminary findings in a paper given to the Religious Research Association in October.
"Already we can come to some conclusions," they said. "For example, the main factors pushing local church ministers away are organizational and interpersonal. These pushes have to do with conflict, feelings of being stymied, and isolation. Also the former pastors, compared with active pastors, reported more stress, conflict, and alienation, more unclarity about the proper role of a pastor, and more resentment from spouses.
"Pastors who have left do not feel that they had sufficient support from their denominations, especially during times of conflict. They often feel lonely and isolated and have little support from other clergy. They experience communication among denominational officials, pastors, and local churches as inconsistent and insufficient. Often they feel that they have had little opportunity to voice their opinions or air their positions.
"Although we were able to identify the main motivation for leaving among pastors, it is the combination of these many stresses and difficulties that pastors face that result in a pastor's being unable or unwilling to continue to serve the local church."
The complete study is to be published as a book later in 2004.
Growth and Loss
The department of theology at the Catholic University of America of Washington, D.C., was reorganized this summer to become a structurally streamlined and non-departmentalized School of Theology and Religious Studies. A month later the new school was stunned by the sudden death of Monsignor Stephen Happel, the reorganization's principal architect. Happel, 59, who was three years into his tenure as Catholic's dean of theology, came home October 4 after jogging and died of a massive heart attack.
In an interview days before his death, Happel described theology's previous aggregation of subdepartments (theology, religion and religious education, biblical studies, church history), and separate schools (canon law and religious studies) as "inefficient academically, financially, professionally, and much more difficult for students." Created in the late sixties out of the desire to bring together separate schools of theology, canon law, and religion and religious education, the components of the previous structure brought with them overlapping and sometimes competing offerings and administration, which had become increasingly difficult for students and staff to navigate. In the new scheme, the dean presides over three associate deans (for graduate students, ministerial candidates, and undergrads) who guide their charges through seven fluid academic programs, and the governing board is comprised of the dean, the three associates, and four elected program heads. All of the forty-plus faculty positions are preserved. The programs (historical and systematic theology; biblical studies, religion and culture; liturgical studies and sacramental theology; moral theology/ethics; church history; and four sub-programs - Hispanic and Latino studies, ministerial studies, religious education, and spirituality - grouped within pastoral studies) are designed to remedy previous overlaps and balance the demands of both undergraduate and graduate-level students. The new school works with an essentially unchanged budget.
Though the process took ten years of planning, ultimately it was right on time. Said Happel: "An organizational consultant with whom I worked told me that all good institutions 'revise' themselves about every thirty years, generationally! We were right on target: 1973 to 2003." Those that do not, he said, "atrophy and eventually become irrelevant or die."
Happel has been replaced by the Reverend Francis Moloney, who was the professor of New Testament in Catholic's Department of Biblical Studies. A native of Australia, Moloney was founding dean of Australian Catholic University, a 1991 amalgamation of four Catholic colleges in eastern Australia. Owing to that experience, Moloney said, he "stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb" and was immediately named as Happel's successor.
In one of his final moves as chancellor of Boston University, John Silber appointed Robert C. Neville, dean of the university's School of Theology, dean of Marsh Chapel and chaplain to the university, a United Methodist-related institution. Replacing Neville as dean is Ray L Hart, who has been chairman of BU's Department of Religion and director of graduate studies in theology and religion.
Michael A. Battle, formerly vice president for student affairs at Chicago State University, has become president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He succeeds Robert M. Franklin Jr., who stepped down after suffering serious injuries in an automobile accident in India and has since joined the faculty of Candler School of Theology at Emory University, also in Atlanta.
ITC, which is a consortium of six historically African-American seminaries, announced in mid-December that it had been placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and School for "not fully satisfying a single issue under the criteria for accreditation.· The announcement, received as In Trust was going to press, did not say what the issue was.
Msgr. Paul J. Langsfeld, formerly vice rector and dean of formation at Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, has become rector/president of Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He succeeds the Most Reverend Earl Boyea, now an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit.
John Wells Kuykendall, a former president of Davidson College, has become interim president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. More news about Louisville Presbyterian will be found in "Our President Is Gone," which begins on page 11 of this issue of In Trust.
The Very Reverend Steven Boguslawski is now rector/president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His predecessor, the Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, is now Roman Catholic coadjutor bishop of Oakland, California.
Metropolitan Herman, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, who served many year as rector of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, has assumed the school's presidency. St. Tikhon's is a candidate for accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools.
Thomas C. Clifton retired in December from the presidency of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.
New rector of St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts, is the Reverend John A. Farren, O.P., formerly director of Catholic information services of the Knights of Columbus. Farren succeeds the Most Reverend Richard G. Lennon, who has become vicar general of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. St. John's is the archdiocesan seminary.
The Reverend Donald Hull has become principal of Canterbury College, Windsor, Ontario. Formerly rector of the Anglican Church of the Ascension in Windsor, Hull succeeds David T. A. Symons, who has retired.
New provost and vice chancellor of Queen's College, St. John's, Newfoundland, is John C. Mellis. Mellis was director of the native ministry program at Vancouver School of Theology. He succeeds Boyd Morgan, who retired.
The Reverend Jaroslaw Zaniewsky, a Bayonne, New Jersey, pastor, has been appointed rector of SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Michigan.
The Reverend John Gallagher, pastor St. Anthony's and St. Agnes' Roman Catholic churches in Edmonton, Alberta, has been named president of Edmonton's Newman Theological College. He succeeds Christophe Potworowski, who is returning to academic work. Potworowski became president in October 2001.
New dean and executive officer of Bethel Seminary of the East, Dresher, Pennsylvania, is the Reverend Douglas Fombelle, senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Rexford, Pennsylvania. His predecessor, the Reverend Philip J. Baur Jr., will continue as pastor of First Baptist Church, Newton, Pennsylvania.
The contestants walking the runway at this year's Miss America Pageant included two seminarians. Neither stepped all the way to the final crown, but both continue their state reigns.
Megan Torgerson, Miss Minnesota, is a second-year student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
Nicole Lamarche, Miss California, is currently on leave from her studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Lamarche plans to return when her reign is completed, and eventually to serve in the ministry of the United Church of Christ. She is also considering a Ph.D., a goal that is made more accessible by the $24 thousand in scholarship money she collected for her ranking as fourth runner-up and for winning the swimsuit competition (this in addition to the $12.5 thousand scholarship – and the Mustang – she acquired as state pageant winner.) Her platform – the cause for which she plans to work during her reign – is "College is Possible," helping students look at funding options.