01: While politicians and the media often refer to faith-based organizations (FBOs) as generic entities with monolithic strategies and goals, they actually hold diverse and sometimes conflicting “practical theologies” that drive their activism, according to an analysis in the Review of Religious Research (June).
Sociologists Jo Anne Schneider and Patricia Wittberg conducted a study that analyzed data from the Faith and Organizations Project and another pilot project of 92 FBOs in the Northeast, South and Midwest of the U.S. They categorize the different strategies for developing and organizing FBOs into “congregational systems,” “network systems” and “institutional systems.” Jews and Catholics tend to use the latter system, as they both have a more communal ethos and theology that “hold the entire faith community responsible for meeting needs,” and maintain centralized institutions responsible for the development and management of these organizations.
Mainline Protestants tend to use their local congregations in founding FBOs, whether individually or in coalitions with other churches/religious organizations. These mainline FBOs may have a theological rationale, but they usually do not articulate it in their daily operations. The FBOs of African-American churches are often strongly pastor-led and tied strongly to their founding congregations. Evangelical FBOs were less tied to congregations and strongly linked to networks. The mission of evangelical FBOs was outspokenly theological; those organizations that could convey the connection of faith and works drew the most support.
While this form of leadership could lead to vital ministries, the network FBOs could become “so caught up with their evangelical calling that they may fail to ask hard questions about the actual effectiveness of their stewardship,” the researchers write. Other systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. The mainline congregational model has been viewed as normative for U.S. FBOs, but it has the weaknesses of weak funding sources (such as congregations in poor neighborhoods) and allowing secular management strategies to take control out of the hands of board members. The institutional system’s centralized planning allows for effective training and stewardship, although the challenge is to clarify its relationships with the local faith community, other groups and the sponsoring tradition. (Review of Religious Research, 618 S.W. 2nd Ave., Galva, IL 61434-1912)
02: Preliminary findings from a study of U.S. Catholic parish finances suggest that the 2008–09 recession did not have as serious an impact on them as on parishioners, according to The CARA Report (Spring), the newsletter of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
Based on an analysis of the Cooperative Congregations Study Program, which has surveyed 14,300 congregations since 2000, CARA found that four in ten parish leaders report that their parishes’ financial health is “tight, but we managed,” with the same percentage saying that their parishes are in “good” or “excellent” condition.
One in five report that their parishes are in “some” or “serious” difficulty. In reporting on financial conditions five years ago, there were few significant changes, except for about 10 percent more currently reporting “tight” financial health. In contrast to parish conditions, 92 percent of parish leaders report unemployment among parishioners and 85 percent report requests for cash assistance.
(The CARA Report, Georgetown University, 2300 Wisconsin Ave., N.W, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20007)
03: An overview of research on Canadian Jewry and Judaism finds that Jews are less fully integrated into the country, but have higher levels of Jewish identity. In the journal Contemporary Jewry (June), researchers David Koffman and Morton Weinfeld write that the Canadian Jewish experience has tended to be viewed as coterminous with American Jewry, but research shows divisions as much as similarities between these co-religionists.
Because Canadian Jews were more recent immigrants than is the case for American Jews (25 percent were foreign born at the turn of the millennium, compared to 10 percent of American Jews), ethnicity and issues of multiculturalism are more pressing than concerns with integration. Integration has followed a “nested pattern,” with immigrant Jews integrating first into their ethnic group, then only later into the larger Jewish community and Canadian society.
The article notes that religious life remains more conservative than in the U.S., with Orthodox and Conservative Judaism predominating (although the former draws upon New York institutions). While classic anti-Semitism has declined in most parts of Canada, the growing anti-Israel sentiment on some Canadian campuses is cause for concern among members of the Jewish community, who fear an anti-Jewish backlash. Yet the researchers conclude that, overall, Canadian Jews “seem to be doing well compared to other Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and to other ethnic or religious minorities in Canada . . .”
(Contemporary Jewry, http://www.springer.com)
04: While a good deal of research has been conducted on the matter of Jewish mixed marriages and conversions in the U.S., the topic largely remains a taboo in France, explained Catherine Grandsard (University of Paris 8) at the 31st Conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR) in Aix-en-Provence (France), which RW attended.
For some of these people, moving to Israel (aliyah) is a way to resolve their identity dilemma. Grandsard’s research is based on interviews with French-born people born from a Jewish father (but a non-Jewish mother) who emigrated to Israel. In all cases, the non-Jewish parent was of Catholic descent, but with no religious interest. For some, migrating to Israel serves as the final step in a process of conversion or as a way to accelerate the process.
For others, living in Israel helps to address the problem through affirming their belonging to the Jewish people—but does not solve it for women with children if they do not convert.Several of them had been raised as Jews, until they realized they were not Jewish when they became teenagers; the migration to Israel repairs such a rupture in their lives. Often, they felt “aside” or alien in France; once in Israel, despite being immigrants, they are “at home.” The tension created by their mixed origins does not create a psychopathological condition, Grandsard stressed. But for those who suffer from psychological problems, specific issues related to their double legacy can be observed.
05: Businessmen holding Islamic values and belonging to Muslim businessmen’s associations in Turkey apply Islamic morals in an individualized and selective way in the daily life of their firms, observed Dilek Yankaya (Paris Institute of Political Studies) in a paper presented at the ISSR conference.
Yankaya conducted in-depth interviews with 70 members of Müsiad (the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association), a businessmen’s association founded in 1990 in Istanbul drawing together those from pious Muslim circles. More than 2,700 firm owners belong to it, producing 15 percent of the national income. According to data collected during the interviews, the business professionals consider work as valuable in itself, and not as a duty toward God.
The emphasis is put on personal responsibility toward one-self, family and fatherland. Members combine Islamic ethics (i.e. not to earn money through religiously illicit ways) with secular business ethics. The Islamic reference is not perceived as contradictory to modern capitalism, but members are supportive of trends toward a “moralization of economics.” Except for those things that Islam considers as forbidden, business decision-making is determined by economic interests. Similarly, when hiring employees, Muslim businessmen do not take ap-plicants’ personal piety primarily into consideration, but rather professional qualifications.
Choosing business partners is also not dependent on religious choices. The Islamic dimension can be observed in the practical organization of business life: prayer rooms are available and the prayer schedule is usually respected. One can also find women with headscarves among employees. The spirit of work is thus influenced both by Islamic morals and modern capitalism: it is up to each businessman to decide how much of Islamic values he wants to implement selectively into his firm.
06: Western Pentecostal missionaries in Southeast Asia have shifted their priorities to undertaking community development work since the turn of the millennium, according to a paper presented at the ISSR by Vicki Ware (Deakin University, Melbourne).
In a paper co-written with Anthony Ware, Ware linked the development to shifts in Western Pentecostalism since the 1990s, away from an emphasis on millennialism and with a reimagining of salvation not only in spiritual terms. Until the late 1990s, Western Pentecostal missionaries interviewed in Southeast Asia as a part of the research spent most of their time on strictly church activities. From about 1998 to 2000, more time was spent on issues of health, education, livelihood and even advocacy for some of them.
However, the missionaries are reluctant to call such activities “international development” and they conduct them at a smaller scale than most NGOs. There are several stated motivations for this change. They feel that they cannot separate spirituality from other areas. There has also been a re-evaluation of “What Jesus did,” leading to a shift in the theology of mission. If there is a desire for some to build credibility, this is not a motivation for all of them: entering into development work is not necesarily a part of a strategy, but is driven by needs in the field. Moreover, the missionaries must be very careful on the ground in order to keep proselytizing and humanitarian activities separate.
07: The gap between generations in religious devotion is visible in most societies, although there is a good deal of variation among countries and national religious traditions, writes researcher Philip Hughes in Pointers (June), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association of Australia.
Hughes analyzes the International Social Survey Program (1SSP) results from its 2008 and 2009 surveys on religion, comparing the percentage of young people (under 60) to the percentage of older people (over 60) who see themselves as religious. In all countries except one (Israel, which attracts young migrants who are highly religious) in which the ISSP was run, younger people were less likely to see themselves as religious. The one exception to the trend was Israel, which is attracting young migrants who are highly religious.
The gap was greatest in Japan, the Czech Republic and Spain, where the proportion of young people who saw themselves as religious was around 26–29 per cent less than the proportion of older people.Aside from Israel, the gap was also the narrowest in Venezuela, Croatia and Austria, where about 5 per cent fewer young people saw themselves as religious compared with older people. Most of the countries where spirituality was growing were those in which there was a major group with a Protestant background, such as Great Britain, New Zealand, the U.S., Denmark and the Netherlands, although Taiwan and Japan are also included.
Many countries in which older people were more likely than younger people to describe themselves as spiritual were predominantly Catholic, such as Portugal, Ireland, Chile, Mexico and Spain. Hughes concludes that “It may well be that in these countries ‘spirituality’ is seen as believing in the spiritual world, and is something that younger people are rejecting along with religion.”
(Pointers, P.O. Box 206, Nunawading LPO, VIC 3131 Australia)
08: The declining number of religious vocations in Europe is caused by an overall rise of income as well as changes in immigration, urbanization and fertility within Catholic countries, according to a study in the Review of Religious Research (June).
Paulo Mourao (University of Minho) writes that it is surprising that the decline of Catholic priests has been seen in both Catholic and non-Catholic countries with very different political structures. By comparing the Statistical Yearbook of the Church with data sources on demographic values, Minho found that with economic growth in both Catholic and non-Catholic countries, the ratio of Catholic priests to the Catholic population dropped.
But it was only in Catholic countries that the drop in fertility rates adversely affected the number of Catholic priests. It was also in Catholic countries that a growing urban population caused a reduction in membership of the priesthood, although a rise in the proportion of immigrants in the same societies tends to increase the ratio of priests to the Catholic population. The author concludes that his findings support the secularization thesis holding that economic growth changes individuals’ religious behavior.
09: Evangelical leaders in the Global South tend to be more optimistic about the prospects for evangelicalism in their countries than those in the North and West, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The survey, conducted among 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries, finds that seven in ten evangelical leaders who live in the Global South expect that five years from now the state of evangelicalism in their countries will have improved, while their counterparts in European and North American countries believe that the state of evangelicalism will either stay about the same (21 percent) or decline (33 percent) in the next five years. A majority of all the leaders (71 percent) view secularism as the major threat to evangelical Christianity, followed closely by consumerism (67 percent). Interreligious conflicts were not seen as a major threat by a majority of the respondents. Other findings include significant support for women pastors (75 percent) and leaders speaking out on political issues (84 percent).
(The survey is available at: http://pewforum.org)