Clergy fleeing their ministries due to fights with parishioners over politics: report

Clergy fleeing their ministries due to fights with parishioners over politics: report
I did not turn my back on the church — it turned its back on me

According to a report from the Washington Post, religious institutions in the United States are seeing an exodus of clergy members who have grown weary of secular politics invading their conversations and counseling with parishioners.

As Michele Boorstein documents, churches are undergoing a "crisis" as pastors and clergy members abandon their posts and look for greener pastures with the past few years of political strife taking its toll.

As Boorstein writes, there has been an "exodus of clergy who have left ministry in the past couple years because of a powerful combination of pandemic demands and political stress. Amid fights about masks and vaccine mandates, to how far religious leaders can go in expressing political views that might alienate some of their followers, to whether Zoom creates or stifles spiritual community, pastoral burnout has been high."

Citing a recent poll that revealed 38 percent said of Protestant pastors claimed, "they’d considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year," the report notes that "stress levels are through the roof" for the clergy in recent years.

According to Matthew Manion, director of the Center for Church Management at Villanova University, "Clergy are meant to be there for all their people — so if their people are having more challenges, more stress — and what’s made it particularly challenging is they can’t be together in their normal ways of being together. Spiritual counseling and being present for people is very, very difficult."

Case in point, Joel Gustafson, a church youth leader who has butted head with his superiors in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gustafson, "was planning to make a career of ministry. Soon he was struggling with the segment of his 100-person church that saw mask-wearing as an issue of individual rights and refused to wear them. Gustafson found himself at odds with higher-ranking clergy... Then came fall 2020, and President Donald Trump’s comment in a presidential debate to right-wing extremists that they should “stand back and stand by.”

After taking his complaints to Facebook, he explained, "...he was getting pushback from some congregants and clergy. One told him, he said, that half the church members were Trump voters and that his problem was that he didn’t love them. He put in his notice at the end of 2020 and left in March."

"Since then he joined his fiancee’s church and is grateful leadership is encouraging of vaccines and what Gustafson sees as an active way to love one’s neighbors," Boorstein wrote. "He also reconsidered the ministry career path and is now working for a nonprofit with youth in the judicial system."

In an interview, he admitted, “I think I would have wound up leaving, but covid and a lot of stress exacerbated things and accelerated the timeline."

You can read more here.

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