Christian history may single out 1962 as the year in which the alarm was sounded.

It was the year in which concern over lack of virility in the Church broke into the secular press.

In a lead article in the September Reader’s Digest Dr. Norman Vincent Peale charged that “Protestantism is losing ground” in spiritual effectiveness.

Peale cited a Gallup poll which showed church attendance on the wane and which reported that the number of people who feel that religious influence is declining had more than doubled in the past five years.

In November, the Saturday Evening Post carried a provocative article by an anonymous writer who said he quit the ministry because of frustrations encountered in dealing with the laity of the church he pastored. A sub-heading asserted that there is an acute shortage of clergymen.

Look magazine, at about the same time, also reported that the shortage of clergymen is critical and that recruits are scarce.

Nine leading Protestant officialsDr. Theodore F. Adams, Dr. Edwin H. Dahlderg, Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, Dr. Ben Mohr Herbster, Dr. James A. Jones, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Lichtenberger, Bishop John Wesley Lord, Dr. Theophilus M. Taylor, and Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen. subsequently issued a joint statement disputing the seriousness of the problem of ministerial retention. They declared that there is “no evidence whatever of unprecedented resignations from the Protestant ministry.”

A few days later the Massachusetts Council of Churches got into the controversy with a startling report based on a poll conducted among 1,620 clergymen in the state. The poll indicated, said a council news release, that “nearly one out of every two Protestant ministers in the state may be retiring soon from the pastoral ministry.”

Public ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: