Monday, August 07, 2006

Interesting Synthesis

I’ve been working on an interesting synthesis. There is a body of research about marriages, specifically traditional marriages verses egalitarian marriages with which I am fascinated. There is an article on line at here that examines some of the research that Drs. David H. Olson and Shuji G. Asai of the University of Minnesota, published in 2003 as well as some of the data gathered by Barna. Dr. Preato’s conclusion is that in egalitarian marriages people are happier, enjoy more intimacy and demonstrate less spousal abuse (by almost a 60% margin.) Preato backs his claims that the true model for a marriage and the Biblical model for a marriage is the egalitarian model with some very interesting exegesis.

I am aware of other research found here at Princeton that deals with congregational satisfaction. I remember looking at this body of research or the generation before and being shocked at basic “Methodist satisfaction” – that is the satisfaction of the church with their pastor and the satisfaction of the pastor with their church. It is lower than most others. Not too surprising, though, I thought in retrospect. After all, the Pastor has that prophetic edge that can be uncomfortable for most congregations. But it is also an artifact of the itinerancy system.

Third fact: there is a rise in most conference’s equitable compensation numbers. This is a matter of public record and can be found on the internet. Equitable comp is paid to a pastor from the conference when the church that she/he is pastoring is unable to make the salary. This could be because most of the rural congregations in American are aging and on a fixed income but another factor is most definitely pastoral competence. Once a Methodist minister is made a full elder, it becomes very difficult to put him/her out to pasture – or to force them to resign. But I wonder if some of this need for equitable comp is because the marriage between pastor and congregation is a dysfunctional one.

If we look at various and sundry liturgies of ordination, it’s evident that there is more “submission language” in the Methodist liturgy than, for instance, the Episcopalian liturgy. I begin to wonder if there are parallels between the research done by Preato in egalitarian marriages and what he calls “traditional” marriages (what I would call a submissive marriage) and the way that the Methodist system works.

I am sure that if I looked hard enough, I could find instances of a pastor being abusive to the congregation within this system, with the minister knowing that there is little that can be done by the congregation to remove him/her because the pastor is there appointed by the Bishop and is not there because of a call by the congregation. Likewise, I know I can find places that congregations have been abusive to pastors because this is basically an arranged marriage.

Then I wonder if there is evidence of DSs being abusive to pastors and Bishops being abusive to DSs.

All this is not definitive. I would need more research into the hard and fast numbers. Also, just because a marriage is traditional does not mean that automatically it is an abusive marriage, just that the possibility of abuse exists. There are definite beauties to the Methodist system – I believe that it was Friedman that observed that a congregation that knows their pastor will not be around “forever" – a congregation that is prepared to lose their pastor every year becomes a better differentiated congregation. It becomes stronger and much less dependent on the minister and thus, in the long run, happier.

But it does give me something to think about and mull over for a while.

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