Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mainline Denominations Show Erosion in Ability to Attract Younger Leaders

The Associated Press reported on trends among clergy in the mainline denominations. Citing a study conducted by Wesley Seminary's Lovett Weems Jr., the report chronicled dramatic drops in younger clergy in all of the mainline denominations, including the ABCUSA. Implications of the report, as summarized by Weems, point to a situation endemic to declining organizations and institutions, namely they "fail to attract quality young leaders."

WASHINGTON (AP) - United Methodist Church clergy under age 35 were 15 percent of the total in 1985 but only 4.7 percent two decades later, according to a Wesley Theological Seminary survey. The data on "elders" (including those commissioned but not fully ordained) also showed that those age 55 and above increased from 27 percent to 41 percent during the same two decades.

The report included these figures for under-35 clergy in other "mainline" Protestant denominations: American Baptist Churches (5.5 percent), Christian Church-Disciples (5.5 percent), Episcopal Church (4.1 percent), Evangelical Lutheran Church (4.9 percent) and Presbyterian Church (7.1 percent).

For Roman Catholic priests, the total as of 2001 was even lower, 3.1 percent. By contrast, the conservative Church of the Nazarene reported 12.7 percent of its clergy are under 35.

Wesley Seminary's Lovett Weems Jr., the project director, said organizations decline as they "fail to attract quality young leaders," which affects the "vitality of the church."

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