by Robin Lind

Presbyterian researchers Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce have taken their cue from the birders’ world to produce the newly-published A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations (Westminster John Knox Press.) Their results, based on 122,043 surveys from 434 churches of all denominations, are far more intriguing than might be expected from a “birds of a feather flock together” metaphor. Their research not only pinpoints types of worshipers, it also separates out the common misconceptions about those who flock to church.

Among the findings revealed by the questionnaires:

  • 61 percent of worshipers are female, compared to 51 percent of the U.S. population.
  • 60 percent are age 45 or older, compared to 44 percent of the U.S.
  • 38 percent have at least a college degree compared to 23 percent of the general public.
  • 48 percent have annual household income exceeding $50,000, compared to 41 percent of all households.
  • Only 19 percent contribute 10 percent or more of their net income.
  • Fewer than half of worshipers spend time each day in private devotional activities.
  • 10 percent of worshipers who regularly attend are not members of the congregation.
  • Debunked were perceptions that:
  • Congregations grow by attracting new people who do not already attend religious services. (Actually over past five years, 57 percent of new people transferred from another congregation of same faith tradition; only 7 percent joined a congregation for the first time.)
  • “Nothing ever changes around here” is an accurate statement about parish or congregational life. (Actually, one in three worshipers has been attending services at that church for five years or less.)

Results were tabulated from surveys conducted in April 2001 among more than 300,000 worshipers in all fifty states as part of the larger International Congregational Life Survey that involved more than 12,000 congregations in Australia, New Zealand, England and the United States.

Lilly Grants Awarded
Twenty-five scholars have been awarded Lilly Theological Research Grants by the Association of Theological Schools in the annual program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. to encourage research across the theological disciplines by full-time faculty members at ATS member schools.

Faculty fellows receive up to $25,000 for sabbatical work, research grant fellows receive up to $10,000, and research expense grant fellows up to $5,000.

One of the research expense grants was awarded to Robert J. Priest of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of Trinity International University for continued work on a project titled “Missionary Positions: Christian, Modernist, Postmodernist.” In an interview, Priest, who specializes in cultural anthropology, explained that he is interested in tracing the additional connotations, frequently negative, that the word “missionary” has acquired since it entered the English language in the seventeenth century.

Priest believes that he has established through one area of his research that the term “missionary position”—referring to the idea that Christian missionaries taught that the only moral way to engage in sexual intercourse was with the husband on top and the wife underneath—was first used by sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey in his Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948.

According to Priest, Kinsey got the idea from his misreading of the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, who in fact wrote that Trobriand Islanders of the western Pacific mocked a sexual technique they said was taught them by European traders and planters. Priest said he has found no evidence any missionaries ever promoted the “missionary position.”

Faculty Fellows Grants:
William Abraham, Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University, Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation

Efrain Agosto, Hartford Seminary, Leadership and Commendation in Paul: A Postcolonial and Latino Perspective

Patrick D. Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary, The Ten Commandments and Biblical Ethics

Thomas J. Massaro, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, United States Welfare Policy in the New Millennium: Catholic Perspectives on What American Society has Learned about Low-Income Families

Barbara E. Reid, Catholic Theological Union, Way of the Cross, Way to Life: A Feminist Commentary on the Gospel Passion and Resurrection Narratives

John L. Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary, Using the Bible in the Presence of the Past: How the History of the Church’s Interpretation of Scripture Can Guide the Reading and Proclamation of Difficult Texts

Theological Research Grants:
Michael J. Brown, Candler School of Theology of Emory University, The Lord’s Prayer in North Africa

Stephen A. (Tony) Cummins, Canadian Theological Seminary, Jesus and the Story of Israel: Jewish Narrative Figures and Jesus According to Mark

Christopher L. Elwood, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Profaning the Body: Community, Sex, and Sin in Reformation Discourse and Contemporary Debate

Carole R. Fontaine, Andover Newton Theological School, The Tree of Life in Transition: A Study of the Late Bronze Age Origins of Israel’s Theology

Amy Laura Hall, Duke University Divinity School, To Form a More Perfect Union

Ruth A. Meyers, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Inculturation of the Liturgy in the Episcopal Church

Christine E. Roy Yoder, Columbia Theological Seminary, Search as for Hidden Treasures: Toward a New Theological-Ethical Reading of the Book of Proverbs

Marion A. Taylor, Wycliffe College, Women Interpreters of the Bible in the 19th Century

Research Expense Grants:
Paul E. Capetz, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Revelation in History: H. Richard Niebuhr and the Legacy of Ernst Troeltsch

James H. Evans, Jr., Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, A Theological and Social Analysis of the Back to Africa Movement in America

Peter J. Gentry, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Critical Edition of Greek Text of Ecclesiastes

Steven R. Harmon, Campbell University Divinity School, Gregory of Nyssa’s Oratio Catechetica Magna and the Theological Formation of Christians

Wonkee (Dan) Lee, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Spirituality of Han: Understanding the Spiritual Consciousness of Han in Theological Beliefs and Religious Practice of Korean Christianity

Richard H. Lowery, Phillips Theological Seminary, God, the People: Biblical Faith and Human Rights in the Age of Democracy

Adele S. Resmer, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Preaching on Social Issues

Fred D. Smith, Jr., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Working with Black Youth who are at High Risk: Children of Promise

Kenneth L. Swetland, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Case Studies on Crises which Pastors Encounter in their Ministry

Laceye C. Warner, Duke University Divinity School, Saving Women: Revisioning Historical Theology and Practices of Evangelism

ISOT Closes
The International School of Theology in Fontana, California, closed in June. The seminary was begun in 1978 as a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. It offered master of divinity and master of arts degrees and had been accredited by the Association of Theological Schools since 1994.

International had financial problems almost from its inception. Its sponsoring organization, Campus Crusade for Christ, was limited in the support it could give the school because most of the Crusade’s income comes in the forms of gifts designated for particular projects: some of these, especially support for individual staff members in mission fields and an evangelism film about the life of Jesus, proved more interesting to donors than did the school.

Last year, International’s board made the decision to close. They encouraged their fewer than 100 students to complete their course work this year if possible, and an arrangement was made with the King’s College and Seminary, Van Nuys, California, to accept all of International’s students without loss of credit and to handle International’s academic records (some students have transferred to other schools.).

One legacy left by the school is seven other graduate schools related to Campus Crusade that International helped spawn outside the U.S. “The other legacy we leave is our 500-plus graduates, who have indicated a very high degree of satisfaction with their education and are scattered all over the world seeking to make an impact for Christ. These make our efforts more than worthwhile,” said Ted Martin, International’s dean emeritus.

Changes at the Top
After only nine months as dean of Yale University Divinity School, Rebecca S. Chopp abruptly resigned in May to accept the presidency of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. While there was no public acknowledgment of any connection, Chopp’s time at Yale was marred by a dispute over record-keeping between the university’s central administration and affiliated Berkeley Divinity School (see In Trust, Spring 2002).

Chopp, who is a United Methodist minister, was provost and vice president for academic affairs of Emory University in Atlanta before going to Yale. In earlier years she was on the faculty of Candler Divinity School at Emory. She is a member of the In Trust board of directors.

Chopp is to assume Colgate’s presidency July 1, succeeding Charles Karelis, who resigned in June 2001.

Robert C. Cannada, Jr., has been appointed president of Reformed Theological Seminary succeeding Luder Whitlock who retired in 2001. Reformed now has five campuses, including one in Charlotte, North Carolina, that Cannada started. He previously was executive vice president of the school.

Hilary Gaston, Sr. has become president of New York Theological Seminary, a theological night school in New York. A graduate of the school and a former adjunct faculty member, he has most recently served the school as board chair. Before entering seminary, he served in Vietnam, was a Baltimore, Maryland, police officer, and worked as a postal inspector. Gaston assumed the NYTS presidency just in time to oversee the school’s move uptown from Marble Collegiate Church, where it has spent the last twenty-five years, to a shared space arrangement with the Interfaith Center, where it will have administrative and faculty offices, Riverside Church, where it will have classroom and worship space, and Union Theological Seminary, which will provide library and student services.

Lovett E. Weems, president of Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, will retire at the close of the 2002-2003 academic year, after eighteen years of service. At the time of his retirement he will be the longest-serving active United Methodist seminary president in the United States.

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