01: The Episcopal Church has experience a “precipitous” loss of nearly 115,000 members over the past three years, mainly over the issue of homosexuality.
The Christian Century (November 14) reports that the losses come after a period of relative stability, if not much growth, in the denomination. Half of the losses are said to stem from parish conflicts over the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the church. One indication of the outflow of dissenting members comes from figures published by the conservative Anglican American Council, which shows an almost 60 percent rise in individual memberships from the 2003 church convention to shortly before the 2006 gathering.
[More dramatic losses may be in the wings if the California diocese of San Joaquin and others like it secede from the national church.] A study by Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler found that the member losses took place mostly in congregations identified in surveys as already in conflict over gay ordination and same-sex unions. They found that 48 percent of congregations experienced moderate to very severe conflict over the 2003 vote to permit Robinson’s consecration.
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60605)
02: A recent study of married men in rural sub-Saharan Africa finds a link between high religiosity and reporting lower risk of contracting HIV.
In analyzing data from a study of married men from rural Malawi, researchers Jenny Trinitapoli and Mark D. Regnerus find that Pentecostal men with high church attendance were associated both with reduced odds of reporting extramarital partners and with lower levels of perceived risk of HIV infection. In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion(December), Jenny Trinitapoli and Mark Regnerus write that there have been sparse and conflicting, studies on religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa. One problem is that previous research has used broad religious categories–such as “Christian” and “Muslim”–but have not investigated the level of devotion in particular faiths.
The researchers found that when comparing adherents of different religious affiliations, Pentecostal men were the least likely to report having extramarital partners, and persons who report attending religious services weekly or more frequently were less than half as likely as persons who attend less than monthly to report a recent extramarital partner. The researchers note that environmental factors (such as whether polygamy is predominant in a given region) are also at work in the different levels of self-reporting HIV risk and infection. While self-reporting rates may not be completely accurate, there is little reason to believe that the Pentecostal self-reporting would be any lower or higher than the other religious groups, Trinitapoli and Regnerus add.