Nov 29, 2003
The most common reason Protestant pastors leave parish ministry is an experience of stressful conflict, usually arising from differences with laity or staff but sometimes with denominational officials. Compounding these stresses, ex-pastors say, is a lack of support from church officials and fellow clergy.
Former pastors said they are in a Catch-22 situation when thinking about discussing problems with church higher-ups or ministerial colleagues, according to a study termed the best yet on why clergy leave pastoral work.
In a country where the absurd and surreal routinely intersect with everyday life, it was hardly a surprise to find the staff of the Liberia Council of Churches meeting in a room shorn of everything from pencils to wall hangings. Only days earlier, a council employee had found bills and memos from the office being used to wrap fish in the markets of Monrovia. The council’s general secretary, Benjamin Lartey, was trying to hunt down and buy back the agency’s desks, chairs and office equipment, which had been stolen and now were being peddled on street corners.
Why, when almost every major denomination on record opposed unilateral U.S. action in Iraq, did most people in the pews support it? In recent months researchers have begun to address that question by examining knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about involvement in Iraq. The findings reveal a deeply disturbing gap between the facts and the public’s beliefs.
When denominational officials look at the number of empty pulpits in their churches, they worry about a shortage of pastors. Some have strategized about new ways to recruit candidates for ministry. “The clergy shortage is impacting me at every turn,” says Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese in Kentucky. “The bishops and seminaries woke up about two and a half years ago, and realized we have to start recruiting younger people to fill the ranks.”
Eighteen Presbyterian laypersons were recently authorized by the West Virginia Presbytery to conduct services and deliver sermons. They had completed a two-year course of study to become authorized lay preachers. Earlier, a smaller group of women and men were commissioned by the same body as lay pastors, having received an additional half-year of preparation and invitations to serve churches. They may be eligible to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and administer baptism. They are also able to sit as voice-and-vote members of governing bodies.
Dating back to his "man with no name" westerns and including his recurring role as Dirty Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood has embraced projects that rely on his own version of the three R's: remorse, revenge and redemption. His combination of wounded morality and grim artistry peaked in 1993 with the revisionist western Unforgiven, a chilling tale of a gunfighter who fully comprehends the sinful life he has led ("It's a hell of a thing to kill a man") but proves helpless to do anything about it.
Cloistered monks and nuns rarely make headlines, especially if they are paragons of the hidden life, but the recent passing of Dame Felicitas Corrigan of Stanbrook Abbey near Worcester, at age 95, has caused a stir in the British press. There is something to captivate even a secular society in the story of a contemplative nun who became famous for her 15 elegant and idiosyncratic books, her musical compositions and her celebrated friendships.