Who Shall Lead Them?: The Future of Ministry in America

Who Shall Lead Them?: The Future of Ministry in America

by Larry A. Witham
     
 

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The clergy today faces mounting challenges in an increasingly secular world, where declining prestige makes it more difficult to attract the best and the brightest young Americans to the ministry. As Christian churches dramatically adapt to modern changes, some are asking whether there is a clergy crisis as well. Whatever the future of the clergy, the fate of

Overview

The clergy today faces mounting challenges in an increasingly secular world, where declining prestige makes it more difficult to attract the best and the brightest young Americans to the ministry. As Christian churches dramatically adapt to modern changes, some are asking whether there is a clergy crisis as well. Whatever the future of the clergy, the fate of millions of churchgoers also will be at stake.
In Who Shall Lead Them?, prizewinning journalist Larry Witham takes the pulse of both the Protestant and Catholic ministry in America and provides a mixed diagnosis of the calling's health. Drawing on dozens of interviews with clergy, seminarians and laity, and using newly available survey data including the 2000 Census, Witham reveals the trends in a variety of traditions. While evangelicals are finding innovative paths to ministry, the Catholic priesthood faces a severe shortage. In mainline Protestantism, ministry as a second career has become a prominent feature. Ordination ages in the Episcopal and United Methodist churches average in the 40s today. The quest by female clergy to lead from the pulpit, meanwhile, has hit a "stained glass ceiling" as churches still prefer a man as the principal minister. While deeply motivated by the mystery of their "call" to ministry, America's priests, pastors, and ministers are reassessing their roles in a world of new debates on leadership, morality, and the powers of the mass media.
Who Shall Lead Them? offers a valuable snapshot of this contemporary clergy drama. It will be required reading for everyone concerned about the rapidly shifting ground of our churches and the health of religion in America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A broad-brush view of the state of clergy health in contemporary American congregations and denominations, this ambitious, frustratingly uneven but ultimately upbeat book aims to answer the question: is ordained ministry in American Protestant and Catholic circles in a state of "crisis," or simply facing up to the challenge of living in "very interesting times"? A former reporter for the Washington Times, Witham terms his work a "descriptive look at ministerial variety," and it certainly lives up to that billing. Using copious documentation from surveys, American church history, and interviews across denominational lines, he argues that in spite of such factors as the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church, the risk of clergy burnout, the older age of those entering ordained ministry, and the challenges of immigrant assimilation, ministers who have certain theological tendencies and personal temperaments will likely thrive. The author examines such topics as how clergy are portrayed in the media and controversial matters like the ordination of homosexuals, and discusses ministry in mainline Protestant denominations, among Southern Baptists, and within American minorities. Regrettably, Witham's solid work is sometimes undercut by tormented syntax that can obscure his astute observations. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing on interviews and surveys that include recent census data, Witham (Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America), a former Washington Times reporter, examines the present state of ministry in its various sizes and denominations. (He regrets that Eastern Orthodox clergy, the Mormon priesthood, and Jewish rabbis were beyond the scope of his narrative.) Modern-day ministers, he says, are reevaluating their roles in light of various issues that have cropped up-the sexual abuse crisis, the debate over women in ministry, and the place of homosexuals in the church, to name a few. In a series of insightful chapters, Witham offers a balanced and nuanced view of several key aspects of contemporary ministry: the "call" to this life, the divergent roles of Protestant ministers, the Roman Catholic priesthood, Southern Baptists, and the influence of the "born-again" and minorities. The direction ministry takes will have an effect on millions of church-goers, and so Witham's work is both valuable and timely. Recommended for most libraries and essential for church and seminary libraries.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A perceptive and informative book on a part of the culture that is enormously consequential for believers and nonbelievers alike.... The volume sheds its most interesting light on the struggles and trends within Main Line and Evangelical Protestantism and, to a lesser extent, the epic battle shaping up over governance and practice in the nation's Roman Catholic churches."—Christopher Willcox, New York Sun

"A balanced and nuanced view of several key aspects of contemporary ministry: the 'call' to this life, the divergent roles of Protestant ministers, the Roman Catholic priesthood, Southern Baptists, and the influence of the 'born-again' and minorities. The direction ministry takes will have an effect on millions of church-goers, and so Witham's work is both valuable and timely."—Library Journal

"Over the last century, the clergy have been perhaps the most studied and analyzed of all professions or careers. Even so, Larry Witham's fine study still finds much to say that is new, fresh, and strictly contemporary. His perceptive and wide-ranging study of preachers, pastors and priests matters for anyone interested in the state of American Christianity today." —Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

"This wonderfully engaging book is about much more than the facts and figures of clergy life. Larry Witham uses the experiences and voices of clergy as a lens through which to interpret the main themes, controversies, and challenges facing American religion. One message comes through loud and clear: clergy are still important, not just in their congregations, but also in our communities and in the life of our nation." —Robert Wuthnow, author of America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity

"A fascinating compendium of facts and figures on contemporary Christian ministry. It is also much more than that. It is a vivid picture of where the leadership of the church has been and will be moving toward in the future." —William H. Willimon, Bishop, The Birmingham Alabama Area of the United Methodist Church

"A balanced and nuanced view of several key aspects of contemporary ministry: the 'call' to this life, the divergent roles of Protestant ministers, the Roman Catholic priesthood, Southern Baptists, and the influence of the 'born-again' and minorities. The direction ministry takes will have an effect on millions of church-goers, and so Witham's work is both valuable and timely. Recommended for most libraries and essential for church and seminary libraries."—Library Journal

"Over the last century, the clergy have been perhaps the most studied and analyzed of all professions or careers. Even so, Larry Witham's fine study still finds much to say that is new, fresh, and strictly contemporary. His perceptive and wide-ranging study of preachers, pastors and priests matters for anyone interested in the state of American Christianity today." —Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity

"A perceptive and informative book on a part of the culture that is enormously consequential for believers and nonbelievers alike.... The volume sheds its most interesting light on the struggles and trends within Main Line and Evangelical Protestantism and, to a lesser extent, the epic battle shaping up over governance and practice in the nation's Roman Catholic churches."—Christopher Willcox, New York Sun

"This wonderfully engaging book is about much more than the facts and figures of clergy life. Larry Witham uses the experiences and voices of clergy as a lens through which to interpret the main themes, controversies, and challenges facing American religion. One message comes through loud and clear: clergy are still important, not just in their congregations, but also in our communities and in the life of our nation." —Robert Wuthnow, author of America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity

"A fascinating compendium of facts and figures on contemporary Christian ministry. It is also much more than that. It is a vivid picture of where the leadership of the church has been and will be moving toward in the future." —William H. Willimon, Bishop, The Birmingham Alabama Area of the United Methodist Church

"I cannot think of any book that addresses the issue of ministry that is more poignant for church leaders today, lay and clergy, and especially seminary faculties, candidacy committees, continuing education centers and judiciary staffs, than this book."—Trinity Seminary Review

"Witham's book is filled with fascinating statistics documenting the crisis in church leadership across several denominations. It is a valuable resource for those who care about the church." —Books & Culture

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195315936
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/08/2006
Pages:
258
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 5.70(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Larry A. Witham is a veteran Washington D.C. journalist who has won national awards for his coverage of religion and society. A former reporter for The Washington Times, he is a three-time winner of the Religion Communications Council's Wilbur Award and a recipient of the Religion Newswriters Association's Cornell Award. He is the author of numerous books, including Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America. He lives in Burtonsville, Maryland.

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