Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rising Women Clergy, Falling Church Memberships?

"In the past fifty years, nearly every major religious group in America that has permitted women clegy has seen a profound drop in membership. And every major religious group that has excluded women cleargy has seen a dramatic rise..."

"Catholics, in America...exclude women clergy and in the past fifty years have grown from 42 million to 67 million. American Muslims...also exclude women clergy, and grew from 527,000 in 1990 to 1.1 million in 2001."

Microtrends: Surprising Tales of the Way We Live Today, Mark J. Penn with E. Kinney Zalesne, Penguin Books, 2007. (emphasis mine)

Penn was documenting how women clergy was on the rise in the United States, how they were facing more stress than men, how they were more likely to be single (imagine introducing a guy to a lady who's a pastor!), how they were usually Liberal in political orientation, how they tended to emphasize the 'heart' (experiences) more than the 'mind' (doctrine) and, of course, how church membership seemed to be heading the opposite way for chuches who accepted women clergy.

What's the trend like in Malaysia and Asia as a whole? Anyone has the facts/figures?


Alex Tang said...

hi Alwyn,

I am curious. Is Mark Penn directly correlating women clergy with increase or decrease of religious groups membership? If he is, he must have given more substantial reasons than what you have mentioned here which is too generalised.

alwyn said...

Hi Alex,

Penn is an expert polling cum statistician and his research shows that in religious groups in which women clergy is on the rise, membership falls. That's it. (The book has the graph, I couldn't find it online, or I would've included it).

It really could be something like the price of tea in China being correlated to the amount of Proton cars sold in M'sia, but the trend seems unmistakable.

Penn does speculate a little, e.g. he suggests that women are usually more 'liberal' and therefore tradition-dominated spiritualc communities may on a whole be rejecting it.

But, to be sure, I'm not so concerned about his 'thesis' as I am about the facts he's presenting. I think we should all be.

Alex Tang said...

or is it the other way around. The organisations that accept women clergy may be more liberal and thus not appealing enough to retain its members.

Alwyn said...

possible...definitely worth exploring, isn't it?

Alwyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
blogpastor said...

This is interesting. Like Alex, my premise is that there has to be many more factors involved, and the one Alex proposed is the more probable causative factor: the churches were in the first place liberal and were already declining, a correlation already well established from the 80's.
Even if no women clergy were added such churches would have declined anyway.

alwyn said...

Thanks for the comment, Kenny. I think there's a slight misunderstanding - I get a feeling that you're thinking about *individual churches*.

However, the churches Penn reports on are *denominations* (ok I have it right in front of me, let's see):

Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, American Baptist Church - all falling trends (and rising women clergy).

Southern Baptist, Church of Latter-Day Saints, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), Church of God in Christ, Islam - all rising membership trends (and low or no women clergy).