01: American denominations are experiencing a “clergy glut” after a decade-long shortage of clergy in U.S. pulpits.
The economic decline is causing a situation in many churches where there are two ministers for every vacant pulpit. In the Presbyterian Church (USA) there are 532 vacancies for 2,271 ministers seeking positions. The United Methodist Church, Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene and other Protestant denominations also report significant surpluses. In the 1950s, there was roughly the same amount of clergy as there were congregations; now there are almost two ministers for every church, according to the latest Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (607,944 clergy and 338,713 congregations).
Meanwhile, cash-strapped members of congregations, many of which are aging and in decline, are giving less to their churches, resulting in staff cuts. Older clergy, who may have seen their retirement savings dwindle, are delaying retirement, which provides fewer openings for young clergy. Large churches are cutting vacant positions or laying off associate pastors, while smaller churches are moving some of their full-time clergy to part-time hours.
02: Hispanic Americans are becoming more secularized than expected, according to a new analysis.
The study, by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, found that Latinos who have left the Catholic Church since the 1990s have not gravitated toward Protestantism, as many had expected, but rather shifted toward non-affiliation.
As with the general U.S. population, Hispanics became less identified with Christianity between 1990 and 2008, dropping from 91 percent to 82 percent, according to a report in America magazine (April 5). Those saying they identified with no faith increased from six percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2008. Latinos comprised 32 percent of all U.S. Catholics in 2008, compared with 20 percent in 1990. Yet 60 percent of Latinos said they were Catholic in 2008, compared with 66 percent in 1990.
(America, 106 56th St., New York, NY 10019)
03: A study of American Jewish teenagers shows significantly more support for syncretism, or the mixing of religious teachings and practices, than teens of other faiths.
The study, published in the Review of Religious Research (March) and conducted by Phillip Schwadel, analyzed the survey data from the National Study of Youth and Religion. Schwadel found that living in an interfaith family most highly correlated with holding syncretistic views. All of the Jewish teens living in interfaith households said it was okay to practice other faiths, while less than 70 percent of those living in Jewish households held such views. Personal religiosity also affected the rate of syncretism.
Eighty percent of Jewish teens who said that religious faith is not important, not very important or only somewhat important to daily life supported syncretistic views, compared to 55 percent of Jewish teens who said their religion was very or extremely important to daily life. Interaction with fellow Jews also tended to decrease the level of support for syncretism.
Nevertheless, even controlling for the above factors, American Jewish youth are more syncretistic than other teens, suggesting that it may be the effect of pluralism on Jews as a minority group among a Christian majority that may play a part in this tendency.
(Review of Religious Research, 618 SW 2nd Ave., Galva, IL 61434-1912)
04: Ireland’s young adults show considerable religious individualism and distance from the institutional Catholic Church, yet most demonstrate little interest in spiritual alternatives and even some attachment to some forms of Catholic culture, according to a study in the journal Social Compass (March).
Karen Andersen analyzes the Irish data of the 2006 survey “Church and Religion in an Enlarged Europe” and finds a growing gap between young and older Catholics on beliefs and practice, confirming previous studies on this trend. Young Irish Catholics are less likely than older Catholics to follow church teachings and only half consider themselves to be spiritual. Yet these young adults have not replaced Catholicism with alternative spiritual beliefs or practices, such as New Age or the occult.
They were more likely to believe in the power of Catholic objects (crucifixes, icons) than in nonCatholic rituals and practices. The young adults strongly supported the importance of Catholic education for children (94.2 percent). Andersen concludes that Irish young adults have retained a cultural attachment to Catholicism, although that may not be enough to prevent further secularization.
(Social Compass, Place Montesquieu 1/Boîte 13, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)