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Oct 19, 2012

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Rev. Ernest Williams

These numbers do not surprise me at all. As a republican-leaning white male retired pastor, I have spent much of my career trying to heal wounds in congregations caused by the political distance between pastors and people. What is the cause? Clearly, it is the discouragement a conservative faces in trying to answer a call to preach and teach within our denomination--in both presbyteries and seminaries. The overwhelmingly liberal world-view of our clergy tends to exclude those who disagree with them.

Matt Ferguson

I am not surprised by the numbers as the past Presbyterian Panel surveys have pointed this out and, as I recall, the ratio used to be even more so than it is now.

It was many, many years ago that I had my own personal campaign of writing artcles in Monday Morning and sending letters off to folks in GA (Nominating Committee members, etc.) asking them to address the issue. In our former FOG we had statements about needing to be sure there was fair representation of theological views but they never put forth any serious effort to design a tool to gauge theological viewpoints so it could be addressed. (Some even tried to argue it couldn't be done but that is not so.)

I know the Panel folks survey others groups than GA and presbytery staff in the 'specialized clergy' but I would bet the GA staff and presbytery staff if surveyed as its own group would be every bit as politically liberal as the 'specialized clergy' numbers. Add to that, I think the theological difference is just as great as the political one.

There has been attempts in recent years to try to bring in better balance by hiring conservatives for key openings but it we are still way out of whack.

Whit Brisky

I have a good deal of experience representing black, evangelical pastors who will, on many issues, find themselves to the right of their congregations (though not to the extent that PCUSA specialized ministers are to the Left) primarily on the social issues.

I think the problem is our seminaries. The mainline requires, for the most part, a BA plus seminary. So our pastors have been indoctrinated into the Left worldview for 7 years or more of higher education. Most of their undergraduate degrees are in the humanities rather than economics or science. Further, the pastor's heart, which is a good gift for ministry, tends to soft-mindedness as well as soft-heartedness.

It is especially bad for people in specialized ministry because they do not even associate with anyonewho would call them out on their liberal views. Even our parish pastors are in many ways isolated from the more right thinking people in the congregation. If a member is constantly e-mailing the pastor with Econ 101 comments, he or she will probably get passed over for leadership positions. It's not easy to keep providing negative feedback for long. You end up just quieting down, or leaving for a more conservative denomination like the LCMS.

I think in many ways this disconnect is responsible for the decline of our denomination. When our pastors put their political views above preaching the Gospel, and those views differ from the majority of their members, what else can we expect? We will, like TEC, soon be left with a lot of empty buildings.

Michael W. Kruse

Matt, I'm not convinced that being politically conservative corresponds as tightly with being theologically conservative as is often presumed (though certainly there is a relationship.) I actually found the staff I worked with at the Center to be quite diverse theologically. My sense is, without objective data, that there is less political diversity than theological diversity.

That said, two things. My experience with staff at the Center was very positive. They were always very professional in working with people from across a broad spectrum. They get a lot of undeserved bad raps on this, too often, I fear, by people who are trying to rationalize their own denominational detachment. Second, I don't want political ideology to be a filter for denominational positions.

Dan

I would argue more in the favor of institutional familiarity and relations with secular and/or governmental organizations. While the congregation is more familiar with grassroots elements of their outreach and service, they're more likely to embrace the GOP's insistence on greater reliance on religious, non-profit, and/or private sectors to take over more and more aid functions. Whereas, members closer to the more nuts and bolts of the functioning of the church will tend to be find themselves besieged by the common adage, "The harvest are many and the workers are few' and they will be more eager to embrace greater assistance from the Federal level and they view insistence on themselves taking a greater role in addressing the community's woes as either unwise or unfeasibly large.

While I have my personal views, this is my theory on why the trend exists rather than a condemnation or praise of either side.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks, Dan. The interesting part for me is that his seems to a particularly Mainline phenom. Why wouldn't this play out similarly in other denominations?

Dan

Well, perhaps this might be a thought, the mainline denominations are larger and more established. Mainline denominations appear to remain the primary presence in urban areas, however dwindling their influence in the country may be, and they are more exposed to the necessity of robust institutional relationships with their neighbors as well as the various government programs to take on the need while having access to a very restrictive supply of resources.

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