The Atlanta Journal- Constitution tells us today that “Churches hunger for young clergy.” By “churches,” they mean “denominations.” There’s no mention of the long standing congregational request for a young pastor, with years of experience, many children, a hard working wife who will volunteer (a few may have gotten to the point where they’d tolerate a hard working, volunteering husband), boundless energy and enthusiasm, willing to work for a fairly small salary (although the church will give cost of living raises when it can afford it, reckoned by rounding down to the nearest whole number from a recent report of the inflation rate), and to do exactly what they’ve always done. Instead, the article focuses on several young clergy who have bucked the trend. Serveral theories are mentioned:
Ask a church official why more young people aren’t coming to the ministry and the answers will vary. Some will cite the pay â€” starting salaries may hover around $30,000.
Others, such as Kime, think the career has lost some of its prestige. Some people are liable to think ministers are just following orders from an earthly hierarchy.
“Pastors aren’t seen as individual thinkers,” she said.
Still others are likely to echo the Rev. Carter McInnis, a 29-year-old Methodist minister who last year started a church at a Lawrenceville elementary school.
“I think we’re missing out in college,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s where the church loses its touch.”
Missing out in college? How could that be? Our own colleges value their acceptance in academia more than calling people to faith in Jesus. At least here in the Texas Conference we have a couple of Wesley Foundations that are accounting for a few younger pastors entering the ministry. But as far as I can tell, many around the country are dwindling, settling for a reductionistic social gospel. It looks more attractive to get the business or law degree and than do social work on the side than it does to join “institutional religion.”
In today’s Dallas Morning News, Billy Abraham argues that theology matters.Â Our culture cannot understand radical islamist movements because of our secularism. The churches are no better off because of their rejection of substantive theology. Too many no longer believe in theologicial error. Abraham, however, declares that theological error is exactly the problem with radical islamism.
We also must face squarely the theological challenge of all forms of Islam. The vision of divine revelation, without which Islam is unintelligible, challenges the foundations of Western democracies. The emergence of jihad as a global war against Israel and the West is rooted in a serious engagement with the Quran. Neither pacifism nor just war theory are adequate as a basis for the challenge we now face; we need more robust moral and military resources.
It is time that theologians come to terms with the real world and that citizens awake from their dogmatic slumbers and theological indifference. Theology matters; it has always dealt with matters of life and death â€“ now more than ever.
It’s heartening to hear this coming out of one of our United Methodist seminaries. Go, Billy, go!