Friday, 18 September 2009

USA: Number of Female Senior Pastors in Protestant Churches Doubles in Past Decade

After decades of no growth in the ranks of female senior pastors serving in Protestant churches, a new Barna study that has tracked the ratio of male-to-female pastors indicates that women have made substantial gains in the past ten years.

From the early 1990s through 1999 just 5% of the Senior Pastors of Protestant churches were female. Since that time the proportion has slowly but steadily risen, doubling to 10% in 2009.

Not surprisingly, a large share of the woman in the pastorate – 58% – are affiliated with a “mainline” church – i.e., a congregation that is aligned with denominations such as American Baptist Churches (ABCUSA), United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), United Methodist or Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), abbreviated PC(USA). Among male pastors, less than half that percentage (23%) is affiliated with a mainline ministry.

Other Pastoral Characteristics

The survey also revealed that the median age of female pastors has risen during the last ten years, from 50 years of age to the current median of 55. In contrast, the median age of male senior pastors has also risen, from 48 to 52.

Women in the pulpit are generally more highly educated than are their male counterparts. Currently, more than three-quarters of female pastors (77%) have a seminary degree. Among male pastors less than two-thirds (63%) can make that same claim.

Despite their higher educational attainment, though, female pastors typically have smaller compensation levels than do male pastors. The average package for female pastors in 2009 is $45,300. The median compensation for male pastors is $48,600. As striking as the gap may be, it has diminished somewhat over the last ten years. The Barna study noted that while male pastors have experienced a substantial increase in compensation packages since 1999 – up 21% - female pastors received an even greater jump, growing by 30%. In other words, the difference in compensation has been cut by more than half, from $6,900 per year to about $3,300 annually.

One of the reasons for the discrepancy in pay rates between male and female pastors is the size of the congregations they lead. Male pastors lead congregations that average 103 adults in attendance on a typical weekend compared to 81 adults at churches led by female pastors. Read more
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Face it: most Anglicans are happy as they are

Ex-Anglican Fr Ashley Beck takes issue with a recent article suggesting that Anglo-Catholics are ready to stream across the Tiber.

Fifteen years ago, on a sunny Saturday in July 1994, after nine years of ordained ministry in the Church of England, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at a quiet, ordinary lunchtime Mass in St George's Cathedral, Southwark, celebrated by the late Bishop Charles Henderson. Most of the people there were the ordinary cathedral congregation who didn't know me. Others were the priest who had prepared me and two priests from the local parish in the area where I had worked as an Anglican, as well as my mother and few other relatives and friends. My wife, Caroline, was pregnant with our first child. Afterwards, the cathedral administrator hosted a small informal reception and the archbishop dropped in to greet us.

At that time many were received in similar ceremonies all over the country, the fruit of a long process of discernment with bishops, priests and lay people: we were received with great warmth, understanding and generosity of spirit. This helped us realise that God was calling us into the Catholic Church, and to be priests in the Church. After two years of formation and the gaining of the necessary dispensation from Pope John Paul II, I was ordained a priest. For me and for those I knew, these were days of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So Damian Thompson's words in his article "We should throw a lifeline to struggling Anglicans" (Comment, August 7) are a false caricature when he says that in 1992 the "Bishops of England and Wales were not well disposed to 'misogynist' traditionalists, as they were unfairly characterised; the standard of English Catholic liturgy was at an all-time low; and Anglo-Catholicism, though divided and unhappy, still had the stomach for a fight..."

The bishops who dealt with people like me and our families could not have been more positive, and Thompson's picture is not only mistaken but an insult to the bishops and the memory of those who have since died, such as Bishop Henderson, Cardinal Hume, Archbishop Couve de Murville, Bishop Brewer and Bishop Clark.

We were given financial support. We were pastorally cared for and formation programmes were devised for us, taking account of our Anglican training and experience. At the ordination ceremonies a specific clause was introduced (with the Holy See's approval) which recognised the value of our Anglican ministry. We have worked in a variety of parish and other jobs and many of us have been given positions of responsibility and seniority in the Church in this country, receiving much support and affection in our parishes. We are at home and have not looked back, like Lot's wife. Read more
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Boy, 12, is having sex change school annouces

The youngster arrived for his first term at secondary school wearing a dress and with long hair in ribboned pigtails after his parents changed his name to a female one by deed poll over the summer holidays.

However, the boy, who is preparing to undergo hormone treatment and sex change surgery, was immediately taunted by classmates who recognised him from primary school.

As a result, the 1,000-pupil school in south east England decided to call an emergency assembly ordering children to treat him as a girl and use his new name.

But parents have reacted angrily after some youngsters were apparently left in tears by the news. They claim that the head teacher should have informed parents of the matter beforehand, so that they could have discussed gender issues with their children.

One mother, whose daughter was a classmate of the boy at primary school, told The Sun: "She [my daughter] told me that the pupil is already a target for bullying. Read more
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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Ministers retreat on child database

Moves to vet every adult who works with children are set to be watered down after the Government ordered a last-minute review of the controversial anti-paedophile scheme.

Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, acted amid fury that the criminal record checks would affect parents who give lifts to children on behalf of sports teams or voluntary organisations such as the Scouts. The move comes after The Independent revealed that prominent children's authors, including Philip Pullman and Anthony Horowitz, have threatened to stop visiting schools rather than subject themselves to the "insulting" requirement.

Pullman said last night: "I hope they use this as an escape hatch and come up with something more acceptable." Denouncing the current plans as a "witch hunt", he said: "It's quite clear people in positions where they are constantly in contact with children need to be checked. But occasional visitors to schools – like visiting authors, or people who come to talk about a charity, or policemen who come to supervise cycling proficiency tests – aren't alone with children. It's crazy." Read more
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Monday, 14 September 2009

Anti-mosque protesters chased out of Wealdstone

HOARDS of rampaging young Asian men chased a small group of men through the civic centre car park after they apparently came to protest against Harrow Central Mosque.

Hundreds of people had gathered in Station Road, united against any protest against the mosque, and determined to protect their religion.

When the small group of men arrived, chanting from the crowd turned to anger and groups of protesters, some armed with sticks, broke ranks and began to chase the men.

The men, who had arrived at Harrow and Wealdstone station to head down to the mosque, quickly turned and ran through the car park when faced by the hostile crowd, hotly pursued by the protesters.

Police tackled the protesters on the edge of the civic centre car park, stopping them catching up with the group of men, and a short stand-off ensued between officers and the marauding protesters. Read more
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Call for BNP public sector ban

Union leaders have called for a ban on BNP members working in public services and called for a huge campaign to counter the threat of fascism. Skip related content

The TUC Congress said urgent talks should be held with the Government about extending the current ban on BNP members working in the police and Prison Service.

BNP membership was "incompatible" with jobs in teaching, the NHS and other parts of the public sector, said the TUC.

Delegates at the TUC Congress in Liverpool lined up to attack the BNP before holding a silent vigil outside the conference centre to press home their message.

Janice Godrich, of the Public and Commercial Services union, said the election of two BNP MEPs and local councillors was partly explained by a "collapse" in votes for Labour. "It is not acceptable that you can be a fascist at weekends, yet work between Monday and Friday accessing confidential information of members of the public." Read more
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Sunday, 13 September 2009

Meet the polyamorists – a growing band of people who believe that more lovers equals more love

A minority group for those who find strength in numbers. A community for people who like their intimate lives communal. Polyamory – the practice of openly engaging in multiple loving relationships – acquired its name in the 1990s, and has been gaining ground as a recognised lifestyle and movement ever since. With the UK's first "poly" website just launched, and Polyday taking place in London later this month, it seems there's never been a better time for "ethical non-monogamists" to stand up and be counted.

Let's clear up a few things first. This isn't polygamy, where one person (usually male) has numerous spouses who cannot pursue other liaisons themselves. Nor is it swinging or adultery; polyamorists aren't into cheating or one-night wife-swaps. It also differs from the hippie notion of "free love", which was primarily about enjoying sex. And it's a bit more specific than an "open relationship". What polys want – not so different from the rest of us – are ongoing, honest, committed relationships. But with several people at once.

The internet has helped them hugely on this quest, allowing individuals who might otherwise never meet to form vast, wide-ranging networks and communities. Through forums, chatrooms and niche dating sites, they can share advice, discuss sexual politics and even find new partners.

In the UK alone, there are thought to be several thousand enthusiasts. In July, Britain got its first dedicated poly website when Graham Nicholls founded "The whole community was calling out for a main information site," says the 34-year-old artist from west London, currently in a "triad" with two female partners. "It uses podcasts, video interviews and photos, and will hopefully raise consciousness about polyamory in a positive way." Read more

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We need to repeal 12 years of vile laws attacking our liberty

It takes 100 years or more for some species of tree to grow to full size but a few minutes to cut them down. The roots may live and sprout but the tree never grows back in quite the same way again. The question that faces the British electorate in the next eight months or so is whether the same applies to the conventions of liberty, trust and privacy which have been felled by Labour's chainsaw. Is the damage irreversible or can the opposition parties muster the leadership and will to guarantee a restoration of all that has been lost in the last 12 years?

The question haunts me. Every day, there is some new example of madness or spite perpetrated by a government that seems now in its final gibbering months to be waging war on normality itself. What better betrays the suspicion and dread that writhe in the minds of civil servants and ministers than a law which requires every parent to join a government database and be vetted before accompanying their children's friends to some sport event or scout meeting, where, incidentally, the traditional penknife is now banned?

How have they got away with this presumption, with the lunatic idea that everyone who has contact with vulnerable people or children is a potential abuser? The bill to the taxpayer is going to be £170 million, but will the Independent Safeguarding Authority do much to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable? I very much doubt it. Read more
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Britain in moral crisis, warns Bishop of Rochester

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali said that the rejection of Christian values is having a damaging effect on the country.

Speaking at his farewell service, he expressed particular concern at the breakdown of the family and at growing calls for the legalisation of assisted suicide.

Although he is stepping down as bishop, he vowed to continue to speak out on important issues and to fight for a return to Christian principles.

"I believe that the Christian faith is necessary for the life of our country," he said.

"We need to get away from the constant making of moral decisions by opinion poll.

"We are facing a crisis about affirming the dignity of human purpose.

"It may be at the earliest stage of life or as we are hearing more and more, at the later stages of life."

He added: "It is obvious to many people that the weakening of family life is responsible for what we face on our streets, in our classrooms and in homes.

"It would be irresponsible for a Christian leader not to point this out." Read more
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