The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Female Senior Pastors Double in 10 Years
ne in 10 U.S. churches employs a woman as senior pastor, double the percentage from a decade ago, according to a new survey by the Barna Group.
Most of the women--58 percent--work in mainline Protestant churches, such as the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Episcopal Church; only 23 percent of male senior pastors are affiliated with mainline churches, the survey said.
The UMC and its forerunner has ordained women for five decades; the ELCA and its predecessor has for almost 40 years, and the Episcopal Church has ordained women since 1976.
Barna's survey found that female pastors tend to be more highly educated than their male counterparts, with 77 percent earning a seminary degree, compared to less than two-thirds of male pastors (63 percent).
But male pastors still rake in larger incomes. The average compensation package for female pastors in 2009 is $45,300, Barna says, while males earn $48,600. The compensation gap has closed in the last decade, though, with females earning 30 percent more than they did in 1999, according to the survey.
Barna says the difference in pay rates may be attributable to congregation size. Churches with male pastors average 103 adults at Sunday worship, compared to 81 for female pastors.
The median age of female pastors rose from 50 to 55 in the last decade; male pastors' median age rose from 48 to 52.
Barna conducted the study by interviewing 609 senior pastors and balancing the sample according to the distribution of Protestant churches in the continental U.S. The range of sampling error was between 1.8 and 4.1 percentage points, according to Barna.
Adviser Has Low Expectations For White House Faith-based Office
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said he doesn't expect much to result from the work of advisers to the White House's office dealing with faith-based and community groups.
"I believe that the policy recommendations that will come forth will be relatively innocuous, good, helpful," said Page, a member of the panel, on September 10 at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association. He expects results to be not much more than "low-hanging fruit."
Frank Page [Photo: Baptist Press]
"There will be good things, but nothing of great substance."
While Page has publicly disagreed with Obama on some issues, notably abortion, he nonetheless praised the president for his "responsible fatherhood" and poverty initiatives, as well as his commitment not to fund abortion under his proposed health care reforms.
The South Carolina pastor called himself the "resident fundamentalist" on the 25-member advisory panel that includes
Christians, Jews, Muslims and a Hindu as well as representatives of secular organizations. Despite "some serious disagreements" with Obama, Page said he prays for the president daily and is honored to be a member of the advisory council.
The White House did not immediately comment on Page's remarks; the director of the faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, had earlier canceled his scheduled appearance at the Minneapolis conference.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president-elect of the National Council of Churches and also a member of the advisory panel, said she thinks the work of the council is more than political expediency for the White House. "I don't think that this is primarily about political cover, but I think this is about affirming that the faith community's got something to offer," she said. "The nonprofit community is a huge and important sector in building the common good."
Asked if they saw any potential common ground being reached on abortion, both Page and Chemberlin expressed hopes that the White House might succeed in its work to reduce the need for abortion. "That's probably the only common ground that I can see coming forth on that issue," he said.
Poll Finds More Positive Views of U.S. Muslims
As the nation marks the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, almost six in 10 Americans believe Muslims are the subject of discrimination--more than other major religious groups-–a new survey shows.
According to a study released September 9 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 58 percent of U.S. adults think Muslims face "a lot" of discrimination. Only gays and lesbians were named by a higher percentage of respondents (64 percent) as victims of discrimination.
Certain sectors of society, including young adults (ages 18-29) and liberal Democrats, were especially likely to believe that Muslims face a lot of discrimination. In addition to views on discrimination of Muslims, the survey showed a recent change in how much Americans connect Islam and violence. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said Islam is no more likely than other faiths to encourage violence; 38 percent said it is. That's a small shift from two years ago, when 45 percent thought Islam encouraged violence more than other faiths.
Compared to two years ago, smaller percentages of almost every group surveyed said Islam encouraged violence, including a 13-point drop, to 55 percent, among conservative Republicans. The change was less dramatic among white evangelical Protestants, with 53 percent now saying Islam encourages violence, a drop of just 4 percentage points from 2007.
The results of the Pew Forum survey, conducted with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, are the first to be released from the annual Religion and Public Life Survey. Based on phone interviews with 2,010 adults, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Researchers also found that more Americans have a basic knowledge of Islam. Slightly more than half of those surveyed know that Allah is the name Muslims use for God, or that the Quran is the Islamic holy book. Forty-one percent can identify both as aspects of Islam, up from 33 percent in 2002.
In general, Americans who had some familiarity with Islam or knew someone who is Muslim were more likely to have positive views of the faith. Zahid Bukhari, director of the Muslim Studies Program at Georgetown University, said public perception of Muslims has changed as Muslims have become more visible, both in society at large and as neighbors next door.
"They are doing more social service activity," said Bukhari, whose program is part of the university's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. "They are doing more interfaith activity. They are inviting more of their neighbors to their mosque."
As Muslims become more visible in everyday American life, and in media that portray them positively, popular perception changes, too, he said. He compared the trend to people who may have low views of Congress but high praise for their own representative. "If they know any Muslim personally ... their opinion will be, relatively, much better," he said.
Judge: Homeless Shelter Exempt From Discrimination Laws
Anti-discrimination statutes do not apply to an Idaho homeless shelter run by Christians because it is not a "dwelling," a federal district judge has ruled.
Moreover, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries' right to hold Christian services and encourage participants in its drug and alcohol recovery program to accept Christianity, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge ruled September 10.
The 51-year-old non-profit says it runs three shelters that serve more than 28,000 meals and offers 8,000 beds to homeless persons each month. Lodge ruled that the shelters are not dwellings under the Fair Housing Act, but rather places of "temporary sojourn or transient visit."
At the same time, barring the Boise ministry from "teaching, preaching and proselytizing to individuals on its property, whether they be shelter guests, Discipleship program residents, or other individuals ... would substantially burden the Rescue Mission's ability to freely exercise its religion," Lodge wrote.
The Intermountain Fair Housing Council had sued Boise Rescue Mission Ministries on behalf of two individuals who said that guests who skip the shelters' worship services received inferior treatment, and that only Christians are allowed in its drug and alcohol recovery program.
"Most homeless people are desperately low in spirit," said the Rev. Bill Roscoe, executive director of the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries, "so we offer voluntary spiritual guidance to guests who desire to learn about Christianity."
Roscoe said the shelters do not discriminate on the basis of religion.