In a country where the absurd and surreal routinely intersect with everyday life, it was hardly a surprise to find the staff of the Liberia Council of Churches meeting in a room shorn of everything from pencils to wall hangings. Only days earlier, a council employee had found bills and memos from the office being used to wrap fish in the markets of Monrovia.
Forty years ago, I found myself distracted. I was living 20 miles northeast of Baltimore in a small town that was fast becoming a suburb. Assigned there by my denomination to start a new congregation, I started out with a fair amount of confidence and energy, and with strong personal, organizational and financial support.
Why, when almost every major denomination on record opposed unilateral U.S. action in Iraq, did most people in the pews support it? In recent months researchers have begun to address that question by examining knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about involvement in Iraq. The findings reveal a deeply disturbing gap between the facts and the public’s beliefs.
When denominational officials look at the number of empty pulpits in their churches, they worry about a shortage of pastors. Some have strategized about new ways to recruit candidates for ministry. “The clergy shortage is impacting me at every turn,” says Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese in Kentucky.
The most common reason Protestant pastors leave parish ministry is an experience of stressful conflict, usually arising from differences with laity or staff but sometimes with denominational officials. Compounding these stresses, ex-pastors say, is a lack of support from church officials and fellow clergy.