Old clergy vs. young clergy

A study of people in Roman Catholic religious orders has found that the younger priests and nuns are more conservative than the older ones. From New Nuns and Priests Seen Opting for Tradition – NYTimes.com:

A new study of Roman Catholic nuns and priests in the United States shows that an aging, predominantly white generation is being succeeded by a smaller group of more racially and ethnically diverse recruits who are attracted to the religious orders that practice traditional prayer rituals and wear habits.

The study found that the graying of American nuns and priests was even more pronounced than many Catholics had realized. Ninety-one percent of nuns and 75 percent of priests are 60 or older, and most of the rest are at least 50.

They are the generation defined by the Second Vatican Council, of the 1960s, which modernized the church and many of its religious orders. Many nuns gave up their habits, moved out of convents, earned higher educational degrees and went to work in the professions and in community service. The study confirms what has long been suspected: that these more modern religious orders are attracting the fewest new members. . . .

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

Of the new priests and nuns who recently joined religious orders, two-thirds chose orders that wear a habit all the time or regularly during prayer or ministry, the study found.

The study also showed that whites account for 94 percent of current nuns and priests but only 58 percent of those in the process of joining orders.

Asians and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented among the newcomers, accounting for 14 percent, far above their 3 percent share of the Catholic population in the United States, Sister Bendyna said.

Hispanics are 21 percent of the newcomers, compared with only 3 percent of the current priests and nuns.

I suspect something similar is going on in other church traditions. Isn’t it true that the most liberal pastors and theologians tend to be the old guys? And that the younger pastors coming out tend to be more theologically conservative? Isn’t this reason for hope?

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  • Terry Culler

    As one of the “old guys” let me say that it’s not necessarily true. However, many of the older pastors received their training in the ’60’s and ’70’s and are still reflecting that training. Like a pendulum, the fads go back and forth. God’s Church always prevails, no matter what the pastor’s do or don’t do. I do wish, however, we could get away from being called Pastor [insert first name]. I asked one of my members whose dad had been a pastor many years ago if anyone ever called him Pr. Don and she looked rather horrified. But if that comes it will be after I’m long gone.
    Terry

  • Terry Culler

    As one of the “old guys” let me say that it’s not necessarily true. However, many of the older pastors received their training in the ’60’s and ’70’s and are still reflecting that training. Like a pendulum, the fads go back and forth. God’s Church always prevails, no matter what the pastor’s do or don’t do. I do wish, however, we could get away from being called Pastor [insert first name]. I asked one of my members whose dad had been a pastor many years ago if anyone ever called him Pr. Don and she looked rather horrified. But if that comes it will be after I’m long gone.
    Terry

  • LAJ

    The ELCA is still turning out very liberal young pastors.
    That’s true. No one ever called my dad Pastor Walther!

  • LAJ

    The ELCA is still turning out very liberal young pastors.
    That’s true. No one ever called my dad Pastor Walther!

  • Jeff

    I studied at an evangelical seminary and at a mainline smeinary for an advanced degree. Do you want to know where young men are going into ministry? The young traditionalists are going to non-denominational evangelical churches. At the mainline seminary I found mostly old, angry women with serious political agendas. Mix in a few younger nuts and you get the picture of mainline “theological” education.

  • Jeff

    I studied at an evangelical seminary and at a mainline smeinary for an advanced degree. Do you want to know where young men are going into ministry? The young traditionalists are going to non-denominational evangelical churches. At the mainline seminary I found mostly old, angry women with serious political agendas. Mix in a few younger nuts and you get the picture of mainline “theological” education.

  • EWR

    In my experience, I would have to agree with Dr. Veith. Clergy tend to become more liberal as they get older. I once heard Rod Rosenbladt refer to this phenomenon with disgust as the “classic drift towards theological liberalism.”

    It seems to be almost the opposite of most people’s political development where they grow more conservative with age.

  • EWR

    In my experience, I would have to agree with Dr. Veith. Clergy tend to become more liberal as they get older. I once heard Rod Rosenbladt refer to this phenomenon with disgust as the “classic drift towards theological liberalism.”

    It seems to be almost the opposite of most people’s political development where they grow more conservative with age.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    In my circuit in Northern California, it’s interesting seeing that the younger guys now coming into the circuit are much more conservative than the “old guard,” many of whom have been serving here for 20, 30, and in one case 42 years at the same church! At a recent meeting, a comment was made by one of the older pastors that he wondered why the LCMS had never gotten around to ordaining women. His wife then chimed in about how there’s nothing prohibiting women’s ordination in the Bible. Us “young” guys just looked at each other and nodded knowingly.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    In my circuit in Northern California, it’s interesting seeing that the younger guys now coming into the circuit are much more conservative than the “old guard,” many of whom have been serving here for 20, 30, and in one case 42 years at the same church! At a recent meeting, a comment was made by one of the older pastors that he wondered why the LCMS had never gotten around to ordaining women. His wife then chimed in about how there’s nothing prohibiting women’s ordination in the Bible. Us “young” guys just looked at each other and nodded knowingly.

  • rlewer

    This also means that young conservatives are going into congregations previoiusly taught by older liberal pastors. It also means that young conservatives go into Districts where the DP’s are more liberal. This leads to problems and frustrations by young pastors trying to be faithful to Confessional doctrine and practice.

  • rlewer

    This also means that young conservatives are going into congregations previoiusly taught by older liberal pastors. It also means that young conservatives go into Districts where the DP’s are more liberal. This leads to problems and frustrations by young pastors trying to be faithful to Confessional doctrine and practice.

  • The young confessional pastors coming out of our Seminaries ARE reason for hope.
    The more liberal DP’s realize that the future doesn’t look good for their brand of liberalism. So now we have each District creating it’s own mini seminary for future pastors. Whose theological understanding will they follow? We now hear that the Seminaries are too expensive for the Synod. This is the new mantra, even though the Seminaries receive very little fiancial support(see Dr. Meyer’s report in the CJ.vol 35 2009)
    Young pastors called to serve in liberal districts and liberal churchs must practice 1. prayer and patience,2. catechize and catechize some more.

  • The young confessional pastors coming out of our Seminaries ARE reason for hope.
    The more liberal DP’s realize that the future doesn’t look good for their brand of liberalism. So now we have each District creating it’s own mini seminary for future pastors. Whose theological understanding will they follow? We now hear that the Seminaries are too expensive for the Synod. This is the new mantra, even though the Seminaries receive very little fiancial support(see Dr. Meyer’s report in the CJ.vol 35 2009)
    Young pastors called to serve in liberal districts and liberal churchs must practice 1. prayer and patience,2. catechize and catechize some more.

  • DonS

    Partially, it may be a function of societal change. Fifty years ago, church life was a given in society. Most folks went, and those who didn’t were suspect. In the 60’s, those of a more liberal persuasion, within the church, decided that if the institution had to exist, it needed to be “relevant”. That forced the traditionalists out of the mainline denominations, over time, and into the newer and more substantive non-denominational churches, but as social mores changed, and church attendance was no longer a societal advantage, many congregants also drifted out of the church.

    So, bottom line, the younger generation of the pastorate are there because they really want to know and worship the Living God.

  • DonS

    Partially, it may be a function of societal change. Fifty years ago, church life was a given in society. Most folks went, and those who didn’t were suspect. In the 60’s, those of a more liberal persuasion, within the church, decided that if the institution had to exist, it needed to be “relevant”. That forced the traditionalists out of the mainline denominations, over time, and into the newer and more substantive non-denominational churches, but as social mores changed, and church attendance was no longer a societal advantage, many congregants also drifted out of the church.

    So, bottom line, the younger generation of the pastorate are there because they really want to know and worship the Living God.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Profound modern orthodox Christian writers including C.S.Lewis, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Gresham Machen , N.T. Wright, Gene Veith, Ben Witherigton, and Richard B. Hays have led the way out of the miasma of utopian liberal Christian thought that embraced a secular regime that had an optimistic view of human nature and no concept of fallen human being.

    The young seminarians understand the holocaust of the Twentieth Century that was based on the theological and political liberal thought of the Nineteenth Century. Being Christian they are returning to Christian orthodoxy, while trying to be loving and patient with the liberal’s assorted pieties. Most of them, also, are familiar with the profound encyclicals of John Paul II and Benedict.

    Meanwhile, though the liberals still command the cultural heights, their foundation is badly cracked and will sooner or later crumble.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Profound modern orthodox Christian writers including C.S.Lewis, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Gresham Machen , N.T. Wright, Gene Veith, Ben Witherigton, and Richard B. Hays have led the way out of the miasma of utopian liberal Christian thought that embraced a secular regime that had an optimistic view of human nature and no concept of fallen human being.

    The young seminarians understand the holocaust of the Twentieth Century that was based on the theological and political liberal thought of the Nineteenth Century. Being Christian they are returning to Christian orthodoxy, while trying to be loving and patient with the liberal’s assorted pieties. Most of them, also, are familiar with the profound encyclicals of John Paul II and Benedict.

    Meanwhile, though the liberals still command the cultural heights, their foundation is badly cracked and will sooner or later crumble.

  • Anne

    rlwer wrote: “Young conservatives go into Districts where the DP’s are more liberal. This leads to problems and frustrations by young pastors trying to be faithful to Confessional doctrine and practice.”

    This is a concern of mine. My son is seriously interested in going to the seminary after college. But what will he find when he graduates and goes to serve in a parish? A bunch of angry people old enough to be his grandparents who don’t respect the liturgy or theologically sound hymns? I know Higher Things is helping young people embrace good theology and practice, and I am thankful for it.

  • Anne

    rlwer wrote: “Young conservatives go into Districts where the DP’s are more liberal. This leads to problems and frustrations by young pastors trying to be faithful to Confessional doctrine and practice.”

    This is a concern of mine. My son is seriously interested in going to the seminary after college. But what will he find when he graduates and goes to serve in a parish? A bunch of angry people old enough to be his grandparents who don’t respect the liturgy or theologically sound hymns? I know Higher Things is helping young people embrace good theology and practice, and I am thankful for it.

  • Anne (@10), you shouldn’t be concerned about that situation, assuming it’s widespread — you should be happy! The only other option would be to send liberal pastors to the liberal old folks. And how would that be helpful, except to keep the peace?

    If pastors (and those in their congregations!) understand their job, they should expect to have to teach people who don’t understand. If a potential pastor is concerned he might come in contact with people who disagree with him, then perhaps it’s not the right vocation for him.

  • Anne (@10), you shouldn’t be concerned about that situation, assuming it’s widespread — you should be happy! The only other option would be to send liberal pastors to the liberal old folks. And how would that be helpful, except to keep the peace?

    If pastors (and those in their congregations!) understand their job, they should expect to have to teach people who don’t understand. If a potential pastor is concerned he might come in contact with people who disagree with him, then perhaps it’s not the right vocation for him.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, the trouble with your response to Anne is that the sixties and seventies types that her son would of necessity deal with are ideologically close minded and angrily defensive. She is correct to be concerned about the difficulty of this. Your assumption that her son could enlighten these people is a pleasant illusion.

    Alan Bloom dealt with this in a brilliant 1988 book, The Closing of the American Mind that deals with the cancer of relativism in modern American thought.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, the trouble with your response to Anne is that the sixties and seventies types that her son would of necessity deal with are ideologically close minded and angrily defensive. She is correct to be concerned about the difficulty of this. Your assumption that her son could enlighten these people is a pleasant illusion.

    Alan Bloom dealt with this in a brilliant 1988 book, The Closing of the American Mind that deals with the cancer of relativism in modern American thought.

  • You’re right, Peter (@12). Why bother trying to reach out to people? Why bother trying to make more disciples than we already have? I’m pretty sure Jesus only sent his followers out to people who were receptive to what they had to say. And even if the crowds in that time were occasionally less than receptive, it’s nothing compared to the singularly hostile people of the 60s and 70s.

    I don’t know what I was thinking.

  • You’re right, Peter (@12). Why bother trying to reach out to people? Why bother trying to make more disciples than we already have? I’m pretty sure Jesus only sent his followers out to people who were receptive to what they had to say. And even if the crowds in that time were occasionally less than receptive, it’s nothing compared to the singularly hostile people of the 60s and 70s.

    I don’t know what I was thinking.

  • The Word of God, still has the power to change the hardest of hearts. I believe St. Paul would agree with that!
    As Christians, whether Pastor or Layman, we are not to expect a road of ease, but a Cross. Think of how many of our brothers and sisters in Christ,are being tortured and put to death in some of the countries controled by Islam radicals.
    Ours must always be “Crux sola est nostra Theologia”.

  • The Word of God, still has the power to change the hardest of hearts. I believe St. Paul would agree with that!
    As Christians, whether Pastor or Layman, we are not to expect a road of ease, but a Cross. Think of how many of our brothers and sisters in Christ,are being tortured and put to death in some of the countries controled by Islam radicals.
    Ours must always be “Crux sola est nostra Theologia”.

  • R. Ohlendorf said something about Districts starting their own mini seminaries. What’s this about? Talking about LCMS, right?

  • R. Ohlendorf said something about Districts starting their own mini seminaries. What’s this about? Talking about LCMS, right?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Mr. Ohlendorf is correct. The Word, as Paul found, is capable of softening some of the hardest of hearts, though he was, also, whipped and beaten on numerous occasions- and finally executed. Contemporary secular enemies of the Christian religion, while more subtle, are clever and dangerous opponents who have managed to cow and win over liberal mainline Christians and leftist evangelicals of rather thin or confused faith.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Mr. Ohlendorf is correct. The Word, as Paul found, is capable of softening some of the hardest of hearts, though he was, also, whipped and beaten on numerous occasions- and finally executed. Contemporary secular enemies of the Christian religion, while more subtle, are clever and dangerous opponents who have managed to cow and win over liberal mainline Christians and leftist evangelicals of rather thin or confused faith.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    Anne (@10), I understand your concern for your son. I’ve had the privilege of serving in a few churches in California, two of which have, for a time, been led by VERY liberal, charismatic (in the persuasive leadership way) pastors.

    As I have begun my work, I’ve tried not to make too many changes right away. I know of one pastor in southern California who simply announced that he was going to do closed communion without any sort of teaching why, and 2/3 of his congregation left in the first month. I’ve tried to be as patient as I can with making changes to the traditional liturgy or with our practices, always accompanying it with teaching or at least an explanation for why you’re doing what you do.

    I wish I could tell you that there was never blood on the floor, but at both these churches some people left. But it was a tiny percentage of people (less than 5%) who realized that the other 95% liked me and supported what I was doing. And new people came when they saw, above all, that we were teaching and worshiping what we actually believed.

    I believe that if your son shows his love and concern for the people he faithfully serves, he will be a great pastor. I know my mother worried about me being a pastor too, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I would rather do for my vocation.

    If you have any other questions, let me know and we can move this off the comments here.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    Anne (@10), I understand your concern for your son. I’ve had the privilege of serving in a few churches in California, two of which have, for a time, been led by VERY liberal, charismatic (in the persuasive leadership way) pastors.

    As I have begun my work, I’ve tried not to make too many changes right away. I know of one pastor in southern California who simply announced that he was going to do closed communion without any sort of teaching why, and 2/3 of his congregation left in the first month. I’ve tried to be as patient as I can with making changes to the traditional liturgy or with our practices, always accompanying it with teaching or at least an explanation for why you’re doing what you do.

    I wish I could tell you that there was never blood on the floor, but at both these churches some people left. But it was a tiny percentage of people (less than 5%) who realized that the other 95% liked me and supported what I was doing. And new people came when they saw, above all, that we were teaching and worshiping what we actually believed.

    I believe that if your son shows his love and concern for the people he faithfully serves, he will be a great pastor. I know my mother worried about me being a pastor too, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I would rather do for my vocation.

    If you have any other questions, let me know and we can move this off the comments here.

  • david in norcal

    I’m fine with theologically conservative but I find it troubling that nearly every LCMS pastor I have talked to is not only politically very conservative, but generally against government help for the poor, the disenfranchised, etc. I find the lack of diversity on these viewpoints very troubling.

  • david in norcal

    I’m fine with theologically conservative but I find it troubling that nearly every LCMS pastor I have talked to is not only politically very conservative, but generally against government help for the poor, the disenfranchised, etc. I find the lack of diversity on these viewpoints very troubling.

  • rlewer

    Jedediah,
    Would I be correct in thinking that there is no organized program at the sems to teach the outgoing students how to deal with these problems and to have a resource person to contact after they get out?

    Have you been able to counsel with the person refered to? If he the one I am thinking of, he still has a group of Masons to deal with.

  • rlewer

    Jedediah,
    Would I be correct in thinking that there is no organized program at the sems to teach the outgoing students how to deal with these problems and to have a resource person to contact after they get out?

    Have you been able to counsel with the person refered to? If he the one I am thinking of, he still has a group of Masons to deal with.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    david in norcal, I also find it disturbing when I talk to pastors who have so much bought into the conservative, Rush Limbaugh/Fox News viewpoint that they cannot even remain faithful to our theology, which is a bit more nuanced than a lot of people make it out to be. Where in Norcal are you?

    rlewer, I haven’t talked to the pastor I heard this from in over a year (since I moved up here from OC). When I took “Church Fellowship” as an elective with Dr. Nagel at St. Louis about 5 years ago, Paul McCain’s “Communion Fellowship” was among the books I bought for that class. It has definitely helped me in dealing with church fellowship issues. So in that class, I was taught a bit on how to deal with those situations.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    david in norcal, I also find it disturbing when I talk to pastors who have so much bought into the conservative, Rush Limbaugh/Fox News viewpoint that they cannot even remain faithful to our theology, which is a bit more nuanced than a lot of people make it out to be. Where in Norcal are you?

    rlewer, I haven’t talked to the pastor I heard this from in over a year (since I moved up here from OC). When I took “Church Fellowship” as an elective with Dr. Nagel at St. Louis about 5 years ago, Paul McCain’s “Communion Fellowship” was among the books I bought for that class. It has definitely helped me in dealing with church fellowship issues. So in that class, I was taught a bit on how to deal with those situations.

  • david in norcal

    Jedidiah, I’m in San Mateo County, CA in the Bay Area. At my last congregation our pastor mentioned in Bible Study that government environmental regulations aren’t appropriate and hurt the economy. As someone who works in that field who knows the statement is wrong, what was I supposed to do or say? It was bible class after all. Not long after I went to an Easter get together and multiple people at that party were going on about how Pelosi should be prosecuted for treason based on some law never used that way (for her trip to Syria). Not surprisingly, I thought to myself, this church is not where I want to be during the 2008 election cycle. So I joined another congregation. I was so cowed politically by politics in this denomination that at my new congregation they had to drag it out of me that I was going to Nevada to volunteer for Obama and in the process learned that many people at this new church had voted for him and that a few who heard that I volunteered for Obama were glad to hear it. We don’t really talk politics at my new congregation but I don’t feel like I have to be silent about it either.

  • david in norcal

    Jedidiah, I’m in San Mateo County, CA in the Bay Area. At my last congregation our pastor mentioned in Bible Study that government environmental regulations aren’t appropriate and hurt the economy. As someone who works in that field who knows the statement is wrong, what was I supposed to do or say? It was bible class after all. Not long after I went to an Easter get together and multiple people at that party were going on about how Pelosi should be prosecuted for treason based on some law never used that way (for her trip to Syria). Not surprisingly, I thought to myself, this church is not where I want to be during the 2008 election cycle. So I joined another congregation. I was so cowed politically by politics in this denomination that at my new congregation they had to drag it out of me that I was going to Nevada to volunteer for Obama and in the process learned that many people at this new church had voted for him and that a few who heard that I volunteered for Obama were glad to hear it. We don’t really talk politics at my new congregation but I don’t feel like I have to be silent about it either.