Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Divorce rates among Christians pastors

A reader wrote and asked me about divorce rates among the clergy. I dug around a little bit and found this information on Hartford Seminary's website. It's interesting how much variation there is by denomination in pastoral divorce rates...

Question – Divorce rates by Denomination
[by a denominational researcher]

Has anyone seen any good, recent data about divorce rates by denomination? Someone submitted this question to our Research web site and I have been unable to find a reference. The person said he read that Baptists had the highest percentage and Lutherans and Catholics the lowest.

Answer 1 – [by an academic researcher]

In our fifteen denominational study, we have both present and "ever-divorced" rates of women and men Protestant clergy. Zikmund, Lummis, and Chang, Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling (Westminster/John Knox. 1998, see chart p. 143).

In doing the analysis of divorce trends -- and "ever divorced" is a much better measure of divorce rate than "currently divorced" because remarriage obscures the true divorce rate -- the Southern Baptist clergy had among the lowest ever-divorced rates (17% of the women, 4% of the men), and the American Baptists (19% women, 13% men) and Evan. Lutheran Church in America (19% women, 9% men) were about tied. The highest clergy divorce rate is found among the Unitarian Universalists (47% women, 44% men) with the other denominations in between.

Although as far as I know there are no reliable statistics of lay divorce by denomination, however, the average clergy ever-divorced rate (24% women and 19% men) is comparable to the total lay "ever-divorced" rate most recently reported by the Census (this comparison was provided us by staff at the Associated Press). Or in other words, generally and in most denominations the clergy divorce rate is the same (not double, not half) the lay divorce rate. In those denominations with married clergy where usually or in many parts of this country, divorce spells the end of the pastor's ministry, such as Southern Baptist, the clergy divorce rate is probably lower than the lay divorce rate.

Answer 2 – [from a denominational researcher]

Percent ever-divorced, of those ever-married, from a 1996 Presbyterian Panel (PCUSA) survey:

members, 18%
elders, 17%
pastors, 20%
specialized clergy, 30%


J. R. Miller said...

so what is the actual divorce rate of the General population vs. those who are Christian? Is there a difference? Or is there really any way of knowing?

Adam Copeland said...

Thanks for this. As a seminarian myself, I'm more interested in the marriage rate of pastors.

In the Presbyterian Church USA--my denom--there seem to be many young single female pastors whose job makes it very difficult to date and marry. I wonder if this is backed up statistically.

A Wee Blether

Brad Wright said...

Hello JR, turns out I posted a big series on that issue. You can find it on my links on the right side of the screen.

That makes sense, Adam, that single female pastors would have a hard time with dating and marriage because of their jobs. I'll keep my eyes open for any data on it. Good luck with seminary!