01: A nationwide study of Protestant ministers shows that four out of ten of them are in serious disagreement with their denomination on politics or theology.
The study, conducted by Ellison Research (press release, Dec. 11), surveyed 475 churches and ministers of almost every denomination, and found that close to 50 percent of senior pastors either have liberal or conservative differences with their church leadership. Pastors who differ with their denomination on theology tend to be split almost evenly (at about 16 percent) between those who feel their church body is too liberal and those believing it is too conservative. When it comes to politics, it was more common for ministers to complain that their denomination is too liberal.
Noteworthy is the finding that both mainline and evangelical clergy tended to perceive their denominations similarly. Seventeen percent of evangelicals consider their denomination too liberal and 24 percent say it is too conservative. Among mainline ministers, 20 percent say their denomination is too conservative, and 28 percent feel it is too liberal.
Although denominational breakdowns were not provided for every church body, of the four major denominational groups evaluated separately–Baptists, Pentecostals, Lutherans and Methodists–the Methodists were least likely to think along the same lines as their denomination (with a 42 percent rate of conservative dissent), while the two-thirds of the Lutherans lined up with their church body on theology.
02: A new poll of 44 nations finds that the U.S. continues to be among the most religious in the West, with countries such as Poland and Italy that are often in the high range showing marked decline.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that six in 10 Americans say that religion plays a “very important” role in their lives. Predominantly Catholic Poland and Italy showed “marked secularization.” In heavily Catholic Italy, fewer than three-in-ten people say religion is very important. In Poland, just 36 percent gave that response.
The Washington Times (Dec. 20) reports that in Western Europe, France was the most secular, while England was the most religious, with one-third saying religion is very important. The Czech Republic ranked the lowest in Eastern Europe, with only 11 percent saying religion was important. Overall, the most religion nation was Senegal, followed by other African and Islamic countries that were in the 80 to 90 percent range.
03: Dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church is far more prevalent among Australian Catholics than among those in the U.S, according to an in-depth survey.
The International Congregational Life Survey, the first of its kind comparing Christians in Australia, New Zealand, U.S., and England, found the most significant differences between Catholics in the U.S. and Australia was in the level of satisfaction with their parishes. Only 36 percent of Australians believed their parish was “very or extremely important to their daily lives,” compared to 65 percent of Americans.
Pointers (December), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association of Australia, adds that the survey — collected from more than 900,000 participants and conducted by the National Church Life Survey of Australia — found Australian Catholics to be older than American Catholics; U.S. parishes boasted a higher proportion of attendees in the 25 to 49 age-range. Yet strong similarities existed between the attendees; in both countries 87 percent attend Mass every week.
(Pointers, Locked Bag 23, Kew, 3101 Australia).
04: Ministers, priests, monks and other religious professionals are likely to live longer than their own congregants and non-churchgoers, according to a study in the Journal of Religion and Health.
The study is drawn from three decades of research on the mortality rates of religious professionals, comparing them with the death rate for those of the same age, race and sex in the general population. In citing the study, the Christian Century (Dec. 4) reports that the standardized mortality rate for clergy was below 90 percent, which means that 10 percent fewer clergy died than did ordinary people. The study speculated that it may be religious professionals’ “contemplative lifestyle” that accounts for the difference.
05: Even in a strongly secularized country such as Sweden, religiosity is driving both opposition and support for membership in the European Union, according to political scientist Magnus Hagevi.
In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (December), Hagevi finds that membership in a “free church” (such as Baptist or Pentecostal and other evangelical groups) as well as in an immigrant church (usually Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) correlates with the fomer’s opposition and the latter’s support for membership in the European Union (EU). For free church members, Hagevi ventures that the EU may be seen as paving the way for a Catholic Europe, as well as possibly setting up a one-world government described in biblical prophesy.
The same negative attitudes were found among evangelicals in the mainline Church of Sweden, though not among other members. But for immigrant churches and non-Christian religions, EU membership is generally supported, possibly because it could keep them in contact with their mother countries, Hagevi speculates.
(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,http://www.las.alfred.edu/~soc/SSSR/)