An extensive study on the social background of India's non-Catholic clergy over two decades has spelt out for the first time what the authors describe as "some of the most difficult and pressing problems of churches in India." The book, The Christian Clergy in India, Volume 1: Social Structures and Social Roles, which was published recently, was written by sociologists T. K. Oommen and Hunter P. Mabry.

The study of non-Catholic clergy, both Protestant and Orthodox, exposes deep imbalances within the nation's Christian community.

According to the study, Christianity in India (which represents 2.3 percent of India's one billion citizens) is primarily a "church of the oppressed" with Dalits (low-caste people) accounting for 40 percent of church members, under-developed communities 30 percent, and tribal people 20 percent.

Only 10 percent of Christians are from India's powerful upper castes. But the upper castes hold most positions of power in the churches, while the Dalits and under-developed communities are grossly "under-represented" among clergy.

The book also reveals a huge rural-urban gap in the ratio of clergy to congregations. While more than 70 percent of Christians in India live in rural areas, over 50 percent of pastors are in the cities, and Christian rural communities have insufficient clergy.

The authors of the book also found strong hostility to women's ordination. Even in churches that have women clergy, the hierarchy and lay people are often so strongly opposed to women's ordination that many women with theological training do not ask to be ordained.

Interviewed by ENI last week, one of the authors, T. K. Oommen, sociology professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that the book was based on data ...

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