April 27, 2012 1 Comment
An interview with NT Wright, author of “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.”
April 27, 2012 1 Comment
“Swimming the Tiber” is shorthand for conversion to the Catholic Church (the Tiber River runs alongside of Vatican City). Maybe you have wondered why someone would make such a move or how to intelligently discuss the issue with your friends and loved ones. These and related questions were addressed on Saturday, April 14 on the campus of Wheaton College when authors of the recent book, Journeys of Faith, delivered brief lectures on the subject and answered questions.
1. Dr. Gregg Allison – The Roman Road, or the Road to Rome? Why Some Protestants Drift to Catholicism.
2. Rev. Chris Castaldo -Crossing the Tiber: Why Catholics and Protestants Convert.
3. Dr. Craig Blaising – Does Accepting the Canon of Scripture Implicitly Affirm Rome’s Authority?
4. Dr. Robert Plummer – Moderator
April 27, 2012 4 Comments
They are called “clergy killers” — congregations where a small group of members are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long.
And yet ministers often endure the stresses of these dysfunctional relationships for months, or even years, before eventually being forced out or giving up.
Adding to the strain is the process, which is often shrouded in secrecy. No one — from denominational officials to church members to the clerics themselves — wants to acknowledge the failure of a relationship designed to be a sign to the world of mutual love and support.
But new research is providing insights into just how widespread — and damaging — these forced terminations can be to clergy.
An online study published in the March issue of the Review of Religious Research found 28 percent of ministers said they had at one time been forced to leave their jobs due to personal attacks and criticism from a small faction of their congregations.
The researchers from Texas Tech University and Virginia Tech University also found that the clergy who had been forced out were more likely to report lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of depression, stress and physical health problems.
And too few clergy are getting the help they need, said researcher Marcus Tanner of Texas Tech.
“Everybody knows this is happening, but nobody wants to talk about it,” Tanner said in an interview. “The vast majority of denominations across the country are doing absolutely nothing.”
A secret struggle
The issue of clergy job security will be front and center next month when delegates to the quadrennial General Conference of The United Methodist Church considers a proposal to end “guaranteed appointments” for elders in good standing. The church’s Study of Ministry Commission says clergy job guarantees cost too much money and can focus more on the clergyperson’s needs rather than the denomination’s mission. On the other side, many clergy express fears that eliminating job security may lead to arbitrary dismissals. A major concern is that clergy will be judged based on their performance at “toxic” congregations, churches with so much internal conflict that it is difficult for any minister to have success.
The clergy have good reason to worry. A small percentage of congregations do seem to be responsible for a large share of congregational conflict.
Seven percent of congregations accounted for more than 35 percent of all the conflict reported in the National Congregations Study. And that conflict often had a high price.
In the 2006-2007 National Congregations Study, 9 percent of congregations reported a conflict in the last two years that led a clergyperson or other religious leader to leave the congregation.
It is difficult to get specific denominational figures, Tanner said. Many churches do not keep records indicating when a pastor was forced out as opposed to leaving voluntarily. And not only is it difficult to get clergy to open up about such painful experiences, many ministers are forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement to receive their severance package.
In their study, Tanner, Anisa Zvonkovic and Charlie Adams recruited respondents through Facebook groups relating to Christian clergy. Four-fifths of the 582 ministers participating — 410 males and 172 females from 39 denominations — ranged in age from 26 to 55.
The participants were asked whether they ever left a job “due to the constant negativity found in personal attacks and criticism from a small faction of the congregation.”
Twenty eight percent of the respondents said they had been forced from a ministry job. Three-quarters had been forced out once, and 4 percent had been forcibly terminated three or more times, the study found.
Even one time, however, is more than enough.
A heavy toll
Ministers who were forced out of their jobs because of congregational conflict were more likely to experience burnout, depression, lower self-esteem and more physical health problems, the online study found.
In addition, more than four in 10 ministers forced out of their jobs reported seriously considering leaving the ministry.
A separate survey by Texas Tech and Virginia Tech researchers of 55 ministers who were forced out of a pastoral position found a significant link with self-reported measures of post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
“This study shows that not only is forced termination an issue, but a cruel one that has very distressing effects on those who experience it,” Tanner, Zvonkovic and Jeffrey Wherry reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Health. “It is important that Christian organizations recognize the problem and implement steps to increase awareness and solutions.”
Months of suffering traumatic and demeaning psychological and emotional abuse as they are slowly being forced out of their pulpits due to congregational conflict, Tanner said, “is a really, really horrible process.”
What makes it even worse is the complicity of silence that prevents clergy from getting the help they need to go forward.
April 27, 2012 5 Comments
Over at Cranach The Blog of Veith:
I met an Anglican priest the other day who, it turns out, was a big fan of Spirituality of the Cross and my other “Lutheran” books. As I talked with him, I was astonished at how much he was into Lutheranism. He explained that there is currently a strain in Anglicanism that is seeking to recover its Lutheran roots.
He said Anglicanism generally has had four theological strains: (1) The mainline Protestantism of the Episcopal Church in America; (2) Anglo-Catholicism; (3) low church evangelicalism, which is often distinctly Reformed; (4) the charismatic movement.
But now, he says, a number of Anglicans, especially young theologians, are rediscovering Luther, who was a major influence on the founders of Anglicanism, especially Thomas Cranmer. They are finding that it is possible to be both sacramental and evangelical, liturgical and Biblical. Above all, they are discovering that the Gospel as Luther understood it–radical, liberating–speaks powerfully to our own times and to the specific struggles of both Christians and non-Christians today.
The main force in this movement of Lutheran Anglicans or Anglican Lutherans is the Mockingbird Ministry, run by David Zahl and friends, whose main presence is the blog known as Mockingbird. (Read the FAQ for why it’s called that.) I have been reading and linking to it without realizing its role in a movement. It’s a brilliant website, in both design and content. Much of it is taken up with commentary on music, film, literature, and the culture as a whole. But it’s also full of discussions of the distinction between Law & Gospel and the Theology of the Cross vs. the Theology of Glory.
It draws on ELCA theologians who are still Lutheran, such as Stephen Paulson and Gerhard Forde (who inspires a regular feature called “Forde Friday”), but also Missouri Synod stalwarts such as C. F. W. Walther and Rod Rosenbladt (who is called “our hero” and a formative influence).
And the design and tone are very cool and cutting-edged, not stodgy but young, sophisticated, even avant garde.
I’m not saying it’s all completely on target or could in every instance pass Missouri Synod doctrinal review–a recent post quotes Rudolph Bultmann, though one in which the liberal theologian sounds Lutheran–but it’s a good site to visit.
And it’s a challenge to us Lutheran Lutherans to remind us that, even as some of our own churches play it down, outsiders are finding our theology compelling.
April 27, 2012 2 Comments
Disgraced bishop returns as Vicar of Martin Luther on earth.
The “Bishop of Hearts” is to return and the church rolls out the red carpet for her: In a special service in Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Margot Kaessmann this Friday was introduced to her new role as ambassador for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 . The President of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), President Nikolaus Schneider, has given the theologian (aged 53) this prominent role The whirlwind is not without reason: The church will benefit from the popularity of Käßmann, which continues unabated, more than two years after her resignation from senior positions after conviction for drunk driving.
There are great expectations of Käßmann in her new office: Effective public they should advertise for the anniversary and to illustrate the contribution to the development of the Reformation of Church, State and Culture, said the EKD. From the charismatic popular figure in the Protestant Church promises the necessary attention for her well-main event for years. In addition, Käßmann will win church sponsors and supporters from outside the church for the anniversary and its activities (Cathcon- not least among them the former Chancellor Schroeder) .
The pop star from the Church of Hanover returns
Already on her resignation, there were calls for the quick return of the nationally popular and ever present in the media, Bishop of Hanover and former head of the EKD. Church staff called for a renewed bid for episcopal office and also her successor at the top of the EKD, Praeses Schneider emphasized that Käßmann should remain an important voice in German Protestantism. As for other offices- after Horst Koehler’s resignation briefly as possible- she was discussed as President of Germany. Meanwhile, the theologian took time out at a US university and then took a one-year visiting professorship at the University of Bochum.
But what explains the phenomenon of Käßmann – that front woman of the church with a certain penchant for self-expression? “With integrity and missionary talents like the late Martin Luther filling churches and lecture halls, trying to ignite the torch of Protestant piety in the people,” says the blurb of her latest book. She is not completely insane, Käßmann says, laughing at the comparison with the Reformer. But the fact is: many of her now more than 80 books land on the bestseller lists and her public appearances attract crowds.
“She always seem to discuss exactly what concerns people, and in a kind manner,” an editor of another of her books recently said. “She does not talk over people, she talks to the people,” said the publisher on her many years of preaching church in Hanover. Käßmann is for people an example of moral integrity who can express complex issues in a simple manner, according to the former EKD spokesman Christof Vetter.
The theses of the reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) against the selling of indulgences being nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517 is considered the beginning of the Reformation . The plans for the anniversary have already been running for some time and the Federal Government has pledged a total of around 35 million euros in support including contributing to the restoration of the castle in Wittenberg. The new headquarters of Käßmann, meanwhile, is in the EKD representation in Berlin. Her office there is already decorated with a one-meter high plastic figure of Luther – in 2010 she was part of a controversial action of the church to place 800 one hundred mini-Luthers on the market place of Wittenberg.
Cathcon- it is bit difficult to come to terms with a church named after its founder, Martin Luther, who was, even for his day, a vicious anti-semite. 800 mini-Luthers but they reject the veneration of saints.
Don’t cry for me, Martin Luther- the bishop on the day of her resignation. Someone in the advertising agency has a sense of humour- the advertising accompanying the video is for a powerful BMW.
Or perhaps this is just continental European Protestantism at its worst?