01: Americans are as much divided by class as race when it comes to church attendance, according to a recent analysis featured in Re:Generation Quarterly (Vol. 7, No. 1).
In analyzing recent General Social Surveys, Joy Borkholder finds that as Americans move up the income brackets, both blacks and whites are more likely to attend church with the other race. North American churches are separated by income since people in the lower income households are generally not attending interracial churches while higher income people are; thus they are attending different churches.
The effect of income remains strong even after accounting for the degree of integration in a respondent’s neighborhood; in other words because someone may live near people of other races does not make it more likely that he or she will attend church with them. The regions here one lives also makes a difference: residence in the Pacific West and the Northeast is correlated with interracial church attendance (though the income factor still applies).
Catholics (particularly black Catholics) are the most likely to attend interracial churches, although nondenominational and smaller denomination churches there is the weakest relationship between income and interracial attendance.
(Re:Generation Quarterly, P.O. Box 381042, Cambridge, MA 02238-1042)
02: When it comes to the issue of embryo stem cell research, Catholics and evangelical Protestants are not following cues from their leaders.
A recent ABC/Beliefnet poll on support for using stem cells from human embryos, it was found that 54 percent of Catholics support the research, with only 18 percent saying religion was a decisive influence for their views. For evangelicals, 50 percent said they support the procedure, compared to 40 percent who oppose it. Both Catholic and evangelical leaders have been in the forefront of opposing stem cell research.
In a report for Beliefnet, Deborah Caldwell notes that the opposition from these religious leaders has been strong enough to pressure President George W. Bush from following some Republicans who support the procedure. Bush has been actively seeking to lure more Catholics to the Republican Party.
03: Child abuse is more widespread in larger congregations than smaller ones, according to a recent study.
Charisma News Service (June 25) cites research by a North Carolina organization finding that one in 100 churches across the country last year contended with allegations of sexual misconduct involving children. Christian Ministry Resources, which specializes in legal and risk management for churches, also found in its survey of 1,100 congregations that the number of incidents jumped to one in 25 for congregations with more than 1,000 members, according to a report on the survey in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
04: A survey of Catholic women in church leadership positions say their participation in decision-making is hampered by sexist attitudes, church structures, and the attitudes of some women themselves.
The survey, conducted by Catholic University’s Life Cycle Institute, finds that, on one hand, most of the women (87 percent) in diocesan leadership positions rated the quality of collaboration with clergy, religious and laypeople as good or excellent. But the CARA Report (Spring), a newsletter on Catholic research, notes that nearly one-third of the 233 women surveyed also said that their voices were stifled, and 30 percent said “diocesan leaders or priests have sexist attitudes or don’t understand women.”
The spirit of collaboration is withdrawn particularly if a woman is combative, single-minded or overly militant, say one-fourth of the respondents.
(CARA Report, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057)
05: A recent Barna survey finds that the percentage of Mormons who have born-again beliefs was higher than the amount of professing evangelical believers in Episcopal or Catholic churches.
The poll of 6,000 adults, conducted by the Barna Research Group, finds that thirty-four percent of those who attended a Mormon church said they had made a personal commitment to Christ and knew they would go to heaven when they died solely because they had confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior. Among Episcopalians and Catholics the figures for those holding these perspectives were 30 and 25 percent, respectively. George Barna writes that “Millions of Mormons attended Protestant and Catholic churches for years, and appear to have taken their prior theological training along with them.”
Barna also finds that Pentecostals are highly informed on doctrine, belying their stereotype of being emotional and non-theological. In polling the 12 largest denominational groupings in the country, Barna found that adults who attend charismatic and nondenominational Protestant churches emerged “at the top of the continuum” in being “biblically astute,” while those attending Catholic or mainline churches ranked at the bottom.
Barna finds that “Overall, charismatics have lower levels of education but higher levels of biblical accuracy,” compared to those attending mainline churches who are generally better educated. [It should be noted that Barna’s view of being “biblically astute” is heavily evangelical. An example of this is seen in the Barna survey statement that “the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” Four out of five charismatics agreed, while just one out of five Episcopalians concurred. Even if an Episcopalian was highly informed on Bible teachings, he or she might not hold to such a view of biblical inerrancy because the doctrine is not taught in many Episcopal churches.]
06: Another Barna survey finds that there has been a large drop in church giving in the last year, suggesting that congregations are feeling the same economic pinch as other institutions.
The survey finds that the number of donors to any non-profit or church organization declined by seven percent in the past year. Four out of every ten adults gave nothing to churches in 2000, a 15 percent increase in non-givers from the previous year. Among born-again evangelicals, there was a 44 percent increase in those giving nothing to their congregations. Compared to 1999, the mean per capita donation to churches dropped by 19 percent in 2000.
(For more on this and the previous Barna polls, visit their web site at: http://www.barna.org.)
07: A 25-year pattern of declining vocations in the West and growing numbers of priests and nuns in the Third World and Eastern Europe is starting to reshape religious orders in the U.S. and Europe, according to recent Vatican statistics.
The Long Island Catholic (June 13) cites the Vatican’s latest statistical yearbook as showing that religious vocations to the priesthood have more than doubled in Latin America, tripled in Asia and increased more than ten-fold in Africa. These countries comprise 70 percent of the world’s total vocations — a reversal from 25 years ago when 60 percent of the new religious priests were coming from North America and Europe.
While the governance of religious orders has generally remained in the hands of First World leaders, that is starting to change. Religious order headquarters and universities in Rome have priests from Africa and Asia in their administrations, making them multiracial institutions. Rev. Edward Carolam of the Oblate Fathers order says “This trend will change the nature of the orders over the next 15-20 years, and the change will come right up through the government.”
Another result of the shift of vocations is an age gap between younger Third World priests and nuns and the fewer older religious of the West.
08: Chile is among the Latin American countries with the lowest church attendance, according to a new survey.
Catholic World Report (June) cites a Gallup Poll showing that while 95 percent of Chileans believe in God, only 33.6 percent attend church. The rate is among the lowest in Latin America, but Chile was until recently among the most conservative and religious countries in the region, says Francisco Castillo, a professor of religious studies at La Republica University.
The poll finds that the highest rate of religious practice is found in the lowest and highest socio-economic levels (40.5 percent and 34.5 percent respectively), while middle class religious practice is at 28.5 percent. Only 10 percent of teens attended regularly, while 65 percent were 40 and older.