G. Jeffrey MacDonald

News reports say poll paints bleak picture of clergy's role in American society — but does it really?

News reports say poll paints bleak picture of clergy's role in American society — but does it really?

Is the glass three-quarters empty or one-quarter full?

That’s the question one prominent Godbeat pro is asking after an Associated Press story painted a somewhat negative portrait of clergy members’ role in U.S. society.

It probably should be noted that the award-winning journalist, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, also is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

According to the AP headline, a new poll shows that Americans “rarely seek guidance from clergy.” MacDonald takes issue with the global wire service’s concept of “rarely.” More on that in a moment.

First, the lede from AP:

DETROIT (AP) — Timothy Buchanan says he never consults clergy about important decisions, but it’s not for lack of faith: He regularly attends a nondenominational Christian church near his home.

Buchanan, 41, is not alone. A large majority of Americans make important decisions without calling on religious leaders for advice, according to a new survey released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research . The poll finds three-quarters of American adults rarely or never consult a clergy member or religious leader, while only about a quarter do so at least some of the time.

“The church we go to is quite large, and we’re relatively new there,” said Buchanan, who lives with his wife in Bolivia, North Carolina. “We really haven’t established a relationship with a minister there. Going to larger churches, it’s nearly impossible now to get a relationship with a clergyman or woman.”

The lack of personal connection with ministers even includes people who identify with a specific religious faith, though those who are most engaged with their faith are more likely to have relationships with clergy.

The poll finds about a third of Americans saying they attend church or other religious services at least twice a month; roughly a quarter never go. Among religious adults who attend services at least twice a month, about half say they sometimes or often consult with a religious leader. That compares with 16% of religious adults who attend services less often.

(By the way, Religion News Service wrote about the same survey this week, presenting the findings in an equally negative light. “New poll shows growing view that clergy are irrelevant,” says the headline.)

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Friday Five: Wuerl resignation, freed American pastor, Tebow's J-word, Texas accused, Mormon identity

Friday Five: Wuerl resignation, freed American pastor, Tebow's J-word, Texas accused, Mormon identity

Among the religion news breaking today: Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.

As the Washington Post reports, Wuerl is a “trusted papal ally who became a symbol among many Catholics for what they regard as the church’s defensive and weak response to clerical sex abuse.”

But even in letting Wuerl go, Francis offered him a “soft landing,” as the Post described it.

Stay tuned for more GetReligion analysis of media coverage of that big story.

Another major religion story today: American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after being detained for two years in Turkey, as Christianity Today reports. Look for more commentary on that news, too.

In the meantime, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Tim Funk’s exceptional Charlotte Observer deep dive into the sordid history of a North Carolina pedophile — a former United Methodist pastor — is my pick for must-read Godbeat story this week.

As I noted in a post earlier this week, Funk’s 5,000-word report “is both conversational in tone and multilayered in terms of the depth of information provided.”

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Friday Five: RNS turmoil, Chick-fil-A (again), where would Jesus park and a prayer for OKC Thunder

Friday Five: RNS turmoil, Chick-fil-A (again), where would Jesus park and a prayer for OKC Thunder

I'm fresh back in the United States after a reporting trip to Haiti.

I'm out of the loop on the drama that has engulfed Religion News Service in recent days. However, I'm incredibly sad to learn of respected colleagues such as Jerome Socolovsky, Lauren Markoe and Kimberly Winston Ligocki losing their jobs.

Since March 2017, I've written a number of freelance pieces for RNS. I've always found both Socolovsky, who was editor in chief, and Markoe, the managing editor, to be extremely cordial, professional and helpful in making my stories better. While I don't know enough to assess the complicated inner turmoil at RNS, I can vouch for my positive personal experience with those two talented and experienced journalists/Godbeat pros.

I haven't worked with G. Jeffrey MacDonald, the newly appointed interim editor-in-chief, but I've admired and respected his religion reporting and writing for years. I wish him and the remaining RNS staff all the best. At the same time, I can't help but wonder what the ground will look like after this earthquake in the religion news world finishes shaking.

Let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Obviously, it's the RNS happenings. While GetReligion generally does analysis, not reporting, my colleague Julia Duin delved skillfully into the RNS situation in a must-read piece featuring interviews with key sources on "How America's one religion wire service melted down over a long weekend." That's Part 1 of a two-part package by Duin. Look for Part 2 as soon as later today.

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Passing the 'Shrek' test: USA Today peels back the Catholic layers on Boston bombing trial jury

Passing the 'Shrek' test: USA Today peels back the Catholic layers on Boston bombing trial jury

It's been a while since I quoted "Shrek." 

But every now and then, I like to recount one of my favorite scenes in the original movie. It's the one in which the title character explains that "there's a lot more to ogres than people think."

"Example?" Donkey responds.

“Example … uh … ogres are like onions,” Shrek says, holding up an onion that Donkey sniffs.

More of the dialogue:

Donkey: “They stink?”
Shrek: “Yes. ... No!”
Donkey: “Oh, they make you cry?”
Shrek: “No!”
Donkey: “Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.”
Shrek (peeling an onion): “No! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

I've used this analogy before, but too many news stories lack layers.

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