New Clerical Types

In an early essay in this space, Eutychus I categorized four types of midcentury Protestant ecclesiastics. His work was a significant new departure in the budding field of ecclesiasticology (sometimes called cleriosophy). At the time that Eutychus I did his pioneering work, CHRISTIANITY TODAY was still in its infancy. The ecumenical movement was just beginning to move full steam ahead; the American religious “revival” embraced everything generally religious; and the “mainline” denominations and their fashionable clergy still cut a smart figure in the media.

But now, almost twenty years later, liberal and ecumenical Protestantism is on the retreat. The types of clerics that Eutychus I noted are hardly to be found today—or, if they show themselves, are apt to be hounded from the spot with cries of ridicule. A “new breed” has come on the scene. Below we list a few of the species now in evidence, not necessarily the most prominent by their frequency, but always impressive wherever they appear.

Rhetor bombasticocombativus. Previously confined to the so-called Bible belt of the South and Midwest and to a few scattered locations on both coasts, but now seen throughout the country. Noted for his ability to gather a crowd of supporters and opponents on any occasion and for the infrequency with which he mentions God’s forgiveness and Christian charity.

Criticus aestheticus discriminans. A rare bird (so to speak), but can usually be identified by the fact that, professing orthodoxy, he evinces an interest in worldly thought, entertainment, and power structures that is altogether comparable to that of P. ecumenicus, the well-known ecumenical prelate of the 1950s and 1960s. ...

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