• While priests and bishops in the United States overwhelmingly report that they are “flourishing” in ministry despite the pressures caused by two decades of clerical abuse scandals and church responses, a new survey also finds that priests’ relationships and attitudes to their bishops are problematic. The Pillar (October 19), a Catholic newsletter, reports on the study, which found that while U.S. priests report high levels of personal well-being, “they also have a widespread lack of confidence and trust in their bishops…Priests reported that they are less likely to seek personal support from their bishop than they are from any other source, and said they believe bishops regard priests as ‘liabilities’ and ‘expendable.’” The survey, issued by The Catholic University of America’s department of sociology, in conjunction with The Catholic Project, a university institute founded to facilitate collaboration between the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and laity over the sex abuse crisis, compiled data from 3,500 priests across 191 U.S. dioceses, as well as surveying bishops.

    The survey found that 77 percent of priests and 81 percent of bishops “can be categorized as ‘flourishing.’” But it did also note high rates of stress among priests, with 45 percent reporting at least one symptom of burnout, and nearly 10 percent showing “severe” signs. Asked to rate their faith in their own diocesan bishop’s leadership, fewer than half the priest respondents (49 percent) said they had “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of confidence in the bishop. As to whether they had high levels of trust in the bishops’ leadership of the church as a whole, less than a quarter (24 percent) agreed. In interviews, priests described bishops as “imperious,” “operating from hubris,” and “consider[ing] themselves above the law.”

    (The Pillar,


  • A new study finds that Canadian churches stricter in their beliefs and practices are more likely to embrace evangelistic behavior and attitudes, at the same time that such strict boundaries between insiders and outsiders in a congregation may limit members’ evangelistic efforts. The study, conducted by Joel Thiessen and Arch Chee Keen Wong and published in the journal Studies in Religion (online in October), is based on a survey of 9,100 Catholic, mainline, and conservative Protestant respondents from over 250 Canadian congregations, focusing on the levels of importance church members attach to evangelism as well as the frequency of their church attendance. Members of conservative Protestant churches maintaining strict beliefs and practices were found to embrace evangelism to a greater degree than members of the other churches, as well as to be more regular attenders of church services. In one way, the findings confirm theories that strictness in beliefs and practices leads to greater efforts to evangelize.

    Source: The Gospel Coalition, 2018.

    Yet the conservative Protestant respondents more frequently reported their evangelistic efforts in terms of passive witnessing to the faith than active forms of evangelism (such as inviting people to attend church with them). Thiessen and Wong note that the conservative congregants were more likely to report “too few non-believers as friends,” and to view Canadian society as hostile to Christian values, admitting that their fear of rejection was a barrier to evangelism. Previous research has shown that evangelism is most effective when Christians introduce members of their social networks to the faith, so that the strictness and resulting lack of secular contacts could be a barrier to effective evangelism.

    (Studies in Religion,


  • While rates of non-affiliation and non-Christian affiliation increased notably, Christian affiliation continued its downturn in Canada, according to the nation’s recent census. Statistics Canada (October 26) reports that in 2021, over 19.3 million people reported affiliation with a Christian religion, representing just over half (53.3 percent) of the Canadian population—a decrease from 67.3 percent in 2011 and 77.1 percent in 2001. With the exception of Orthodox Christians and those claiming just a “Christian” identity, the rate of affiliation for every Christian denomination decreased between 2011 and 2021. More than one-third of Canadians reported having no religious affiliation, a rate that has more than doubled in two decades, going from 16.5 percent in 2001 to 34.6 percent in 2021. The proportions of Canada’s Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh populations have more than doubled since 2001, increasing from 2 percent to 4.9 percent for Muslims, 1 percent to 2.3 percent for Hindus, and 0.9 percent to 2.1 percent for Sikhs.

    (The Canadian census report from Statistics Canada can be downloaded from:


  • The ties between believers and mainstream churches in Switzerland are becoming ever more fragile, making it easier for members to leave, with many Roman Catholics citing disagreements on various church positions as their first reason for departing.
    In an article published in both German and French on the website of the Swiss Pastoral Institute (October 28), a Roman Catholic research center, psychologist and theologian Urs Winter-Pfändler reports that by late 2021, there were 2.96 million Roman Catholics and 1.96 million members of the Reformed Church in Switzerland. More than 34,000 people reportedly left the Catholic Church and more than 28,000 left the Reformed Church that same year, although the numbers are actually higher, since there is no formal procedure for leaving one’s church in several cantons, and thus no statistics. Detailed analyses show that 1.5 percent of Roman Catholics in Switzerland left the church in 2021, following a pattern observed in previous years, with the yearly percentage drop on the increase. The level of people joining the church without being born into it, on the other hand, is low, with a ratio of 1 to 37 in comparison with people leaving. There are also other indicators of concern. Among newly married people who are both registered as Catholics, only 25 percent care to have a church wedding, compared to 44 percent 10 years earlier. A significant percentage of children born from Catholic parents are no longer baptized.

    According to data gathered by Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office, 36.8 percent of former Roman Catholics and 19.7 percent of former Reformed Church members cited disagreements with the positions of their religious body as their main reason for leaving. Additionally, 14.7 percent of former Roman Catholics and 21 percent of former Reformed Church members stated that they had merely been born into the church, but had never been believers. Around 15 percent in both religious traditions stated that they had lost their faiths. Interestingly, only 6.3 percent of former Roman Catholics and 11.3 percent of former Reformed Church members stated that they were no longer willing to pay the church taxes the government collects on behalf of the established churches. Church exit figures remain high and Winter-Pfändler concludes that there is no sign of a trend reversal. Reasons mentioned for leaving remain more or less the same over recent years.

    (The original article in German can be found here:; for the French translation, see:


  • Seventh Day Adventism’s center of gravity has shifted to Africa and is likely to remain there for the foreseeable future, writes church historian Gabriel Masfa in the International Bulletin of Mission Research (October). Using data from the General Conference, the organizational body of the SDA, Masfa reports that Adventists in Africa represented 44.57 percent of the global membership as of 2020. African Adventism has also set itself the goal of becoming the “greatest missionary-sending continent for spreading the Adventist faith around the globe.” The experience of African Adventism is spreading through “silent missionaries” who are emigrating to Europe, Australia, and America, Masfa adds. The growth of Adventism in such countries as Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana may also give them evangelistic access to many Muslims as well as Christians. But Masfa notes that Adventism has had low receptivity in such Muslim nations as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. Even the more receptive countries of Egypt and Sudan have seen only a little over 1,000 Adventists in a population of 145 million. Masfa concludes that the Adventist tradition of worshipping on Saturdays and its apocalyptic teachings complement the ethos of traditional African practices in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Nigeria to a greater extent than other churches.

    (International Bulletin of Mission Research,

    Source: First Ghana SDA Church.