01: While there has been wide public support for government funded faith-based social services, approval for such programs drops significantly when the groups administering such services are out of the Jewish-Christian orbit, according to a recent poll.
The poll of 2,041, the most extensive yet to measure support for President Bush’s initiative to support faith groups administering social services, was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. There has been an increase of people supporting government funding of faith-based groups — from 67 percent last September to three out of four people in the recent poll.
But majorities of those polled were opposed to funding non-Western and new religions, such as Muslims and Buddhists (38 percent in favor) and Scientology (26 percent). There were also widespread concerns about forcing religious practices on others (60 percent) and government interference in religion (68 percent).
02: The number of mosques in the U.S. has increased by about 25 percent in six years, according to a study by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
There are now more than 1,200 mosques in the U.S., about 250 more than reported in 1994. The number of Muslims in the U.S. has been hotly contested, with figures ranging from two to over six million. The new study, entitled “The Mosque in America: A National Portrait,” finds a total of between six million and seven million Muslims. The figure is taken from calculations based on the average number of Muslims with whom mosques reported some connections.
The study also finds that 20 percent of mosques have Islamic schools, and 70 percent provide charitable assistance for the poor. The New York Times (April 27) reports that the study, conducted with three other Islamic groups, was done through telephone interviews with mosque representatives.
(The study is posted on the council’s web site: http://www.cair-net.org)
03: Strict communitarian religious groups show a high rate of keeping their children in the faith, according to a new survey.
A 10-year study of “old order” Anabaptist groups carried out by Donald Kraybill and Carl F. Bowman, finds that the Amish keep more than 75 percent of their children in the fold. The Hutterites, the oldest communal Protestant order in the U.S., persuade more than 95 percent of their young to remain in their large agricultural communities in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada.
In an article in the Washington Times (April 20), Kraybill says, “Simply making babies will not ensure growth. Children must be persuaded to stay with the church as adults. And the surprise is that they are.” The study, found in the recent book, “On the Backroad to Heaven” (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press), also finds that these groups make it difficult for children to leave because they create for them a total culture, with their own dress, customs, and sometimes even language.
04: The age of ordained clergy continues to rise, with mainline churches registering the fewest young pastors, according to a report in the Christian Century (April 11).
Figures by the Alban institute show the lowest number of clergy age 35 or under are found in the United Church of Christ (four percent of the total number of ministers are 35 and under); Disciples of Christ (3.7 percent), and the Episcopal Church (3.9 percent). The figures were slightly higher among American Baptists (5.8 percent), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (6.1 percent), the United Methodists (6.7 percent) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Twenty five years ago, nearly one quarter of Presbyterian pastors were 35 or under, and almost one-fifth of Episcopal priests were that young. Another article by Barbara Wheeler finds that the mushrooming growth of older seminarians today holds mixed signals for the ministry. In an Auburn Semnary study, she finds that young seminarians are better equipped academically than older students. Yet older seminarians demonstrate stronger commitment to ordained ministry and more interest in serving in congregations.
05: Attendance at religious congregations among Canadian teenagers has rebounded to the high levels found 20 years ago, according to a new survey by sociologist Reginald Bibby reported in the Dallas Morning News (April 21).
In his study, “Canada’s Teens: Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow,” Bibby says he was surprised to find that teens’ weekly attendance rates is now at 22 percent, close to the rate of adults. In 1992 teen attendance had dropped to 18 percent from the 23 percent figure recorded 10 years earlier. Bibby adds that these figures contradict the three out of four Canadian adults who say that today’s teens are no longer interested in religion.