Who Shall Lead Them?
The Future of Ministry in America
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About the author
Larry A. Witham is a veteran Washington D.C. journalist who has won national awards for his coverage of religion and society. A former reporter for The Washington Times, he is a three-time winner of the Religion Communications Council's Wilbur Award and a recipient of the Religion Newswriters Association's Cornell Award. He is the author of numerous books, including Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America. He lives in Burtonsville, Maryland.
The clergy today faces mounting challenges in an increasingly secular world, where declining prestige makes it more difficult to attract the best and the brightest young Americans to the ministry. As Christian churches dramatically adapt to modern changes, some are asking whether there is a clergy crisis as well. Whatever the future of the clergy, the fate of millions of churchgoers also will be at stake.In Who Shall Lead Them?, prizewinning journalist Larry Witham takes the pulse of both the Protestant and Catholic ministry in America and provides a mixed diagnosis of the calling's health. Drawing on dozens of interviews with clergy, seminarians and laity, and using newly available survey data including the 2000 Census, Witham reveals the trends in a variety of traditions. While evangelicals are finding innovative paths to ministry, the Catholic priesthood faces a severe shortage. In mainline Protestantism, ministry as a second career has become a prominent feature. Ordination ages in the Episcopal and United Methodist churches average in the 40s today. The quest by female clergy to lead from the pulpit, meanwhile, has hit a "stained glass ceiling" as churches still prefer a man as the principal minister. While deeply motivated by the mystery of their "call" to ministry, America's priests, pastors, and ministers are reassessing their roles in a world of new debates on leadership, morality, and the powers of the mass media.Who Shall Lead Them? offers a valuable snapshot of this contemporary clergy drama. It will be required reading for everyone concerned about the rapidly shifting ground of our churches and the health of religion in America.
Oxford University Press
; July 2005
257 pages; ISBN 9780195347203Read online
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Title: Who Shall Lead Them?
Author: Larry A. Witham
In the press
"A perceptive and informative book on a part of the culture that is enormously consequential for believers and nonbelievers alike.... The volume sheds its most interesting light on the struggles and trends within Main Line and Evangelical Protestantism and, to a lesser extent, the epic battle shaping up over governance and practice in the nation's Roman Catholic churches."--Christopher Willcox, New York Sun
"A balanced and nuanced view of several key aspects of contemporary ministry: the 'call' to this life, the divergent roles of Protestant ministers, the Roman Catholic priesthood, Southern Baptists, and the influence of the 'born-again' and minorities. The direction ministry takes will have an effect on millions of church-goers, and so Witham's work is both valuable and timely."--Library Journal
"Over the last century, the clergy have been perhaps the most studied and analyzed of all professions or careers. Even so, Larry Witham's fine study still finds much to say that is new, fresh, and strictly contemporary. His perceptive and wide-ranging study of preachers, pastors and priests matters for anyone interested in the state of American Christianity today." --Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
"This wonderfully engaging book is about much more than the facts and figures of clergy life. Larry Witham uses the experiences and voices of clergy as a lens through which to interpret the main themes, controversies, and challenges facing American religion. One message comes through loud and clear: clergy are still important, not just in their congregations, but also in our communities and in the life of our nation." --Robert Wuthnow, author of America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity
"A fascinating compendium of facts and figures on contemporary Christian ministry. It is also much more than that. It is a vivid picture of where the leadership of the church has been and will be moving toward in the future." --William H. Willimon, Bishop, The Birmingham Alabama Area of the United Methodist Church