The White House has an oft-overlooked religious ally for solving the country’s social problems through greatly expanded government programs, if a new survey of senior pastors in mainline Protestant churches is a good indication.
In the spring of 2006, a University of Chicago Divinity School expert on the history of Christianity was approached by George T. Kurian, a prolific editor of reference books, including two on Christianity. Kurian asked the professor, Bernard McGinn, to serve on the editorial board for an ambitious project: The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization.
Among U.S. churches of better-than-average size and budget, nearly half are feeling the impact of the deepening recession and are being forced in many cases to cut staff or freeze salaries. Donations are down, said 48 percent of church leaders surveyed at these churches in February. Last August, 41 percent of respondents reported a downward trend in donations at a time when Wall Street financial firms needed rescue and gasoline prices were sky high. But although the unemployment rate is rising, credit is tight as a drum and stock and home values are shriveling, 52 percent of congregational executives reported that donations at their churches have not declined.
Many pastors remember struggling in their first ministerial position—isolated geographically or professionally, lacking ready access to mentors and peers. The first person to greet young Daniel Aleshire after he led his first worship service “told me my sermon was ‘the worst damn sermon’ he had ever heard.”
Episcopal bishop J. Jon Bruno of the large Los Angeles diocese was “overjoyed” at the recent California Supreme Court ruling that said breakaway congregations cannot take possession of their properties, which are held in trust for a larger church body.
When President Barack Obama tapped megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, many liberal activists decried the choice of a high-profile evangelical figure who has opposed gay marriage and abortion rights.
When 85 new students enrolled this fall at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, the numbers were “beyond our wildest dreams,” said President Duane Larson. But the Lutheran school’s board, looking at a 35 percent drop in its endowment value and a similar decline in individuals gifts, also had to face up to stark financial realities.
Separate fall meetings for the nation’s two largest organizations of religion professors—a showcase of religious studies research and expertise—may last only three years if negotiations under way bear fruit.
During what some call the start of a recession, mainline church officials are assuring pastors and retirees that their pension funds are secure. But the officials are concerned about how the economic woes will affect their operating budgets and ministries.
After turning over the Crystal Cathedral pulpit nearly three years ago to his son as the main preacher on the Hour of Power TV program, founding pastor Robert H. Schuller now says he has “parted ways” with his son over their opposing visions for the ministry.
When Lutherans recently celebrated 50 years of ordaining women as pastors in Sweden, they invited Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, to speak at festive events in Uppsala and Stockholm.
Alarmed at undergraduate binge drinking and other illegal activities they say are related to a nationwide ban on under-21 alcoholic beverage consumption, more than 100 college presidents have signed a petition pleading for a dispassionate public debate on the issue.
With a California megachurch as the setting for their first joint campaign appearance, Republican John McCain gave crisp, campaign-tested responses, and Democrat Barack Obama offered nuanced replies to questions on religion, character, leadership and public policy.
Only days after Barack Obama resumed his presidential campaign wearing the label of “presumptive Democratic nominee,” the Illinois senator invited a number of evangelical leaders to a private meeting with him in Chicago. The off-the-record session grew to include mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Although mainline Protestant denominations for decades have been closely linked to liberal causes—civil rights, women’s movements, abortion rights and antiwar protests—most of their members have been mainstays of the Republican Party.
With the added backing of delegates and superdelegates on the final day of primary elections, Barack Obama declared himself the winner June 3 of the hard-fought Democratic presidential campaign, becoming the Democrats’ presumptive nominee and the first African American to be a major party’s choice for the White House.
More than any other mainline Protestant executive in the past dozen years, Clifton Kirkpatrick of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been on the hot seat almost annually over church disputes, usually concerning the ordination of noncelibate gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Little noted in the history behind the California Supreme Court decision that gives the “right to marry” to same-sex couples are the bold steps taken over four decades by onetime Pentecostal minister Troy Perry in trying to establish legal and religious rights for gays and lesbians.
The annual pre-Thanksgiving joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature had a record registration in 2006 of over 11,000, and last year’s meeting in San Diego drew about 10,200 scholars, students and publishers.