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Is U.S. Clergy Still Considered Honorable?

by Sim Lee  
12/28/2018 / Church Life

"You will recognize them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16 ESV

In a poll conducted by Gallup earlier this December, 2018, nurses were regarded as the number one most honorable profession in the U.S. and journalists made the largest gain in respectability, mainly voiced by Progressive respondents. Not many of the respondents held the clergy in very high regard, with only 37% of those saying that they had a "very-high, or "high" opinion of the general ethics within the U.S. Clergy.*

Breaking the responses down along religious affiliation lines, 47% of Protestants rated their clergy as being favorable, while only 31% of the Catholics rated their clergy as being favorable.

These results for the U.S. Clergy are the lowest given since 1977 and the public opinion upon the honesty of clergy has been falling since 2009. The highest confidence ever shown by the public in the clergy was a 67% "high" approval rating registered back in 1985.

The reasons given for the lack of confidence in the clergy by the U.S. Public every since 1985 mainly centers on topics such as sexual abuse and fraud.

Opinions like these are shaped by reports of such wrongdoing by our clergy, or worse, by personal experience. Whether it is the averaged 6% sexual abuse rate or the averaged 10% fraud rate among clergy, when investigated, a lack of oversight is a large reason such things occur. These are not desirable numbers, but they are not irreversible either.

Church members demanding more transparency in financial matters and more accountability on the part of clergy, leaders, volunteers and staff would greatly serve to lessen the frequency of sexual abuse and fraud within the church by acting to thin out the bad actors.

A statistic that everyone should be constantly aware of is that half of all women who attend churches regularly throughout the U.S. say they have been sexually assaulted, sexually abused, sexually harassed or sexually discriminated against by another church member at least once in their lifetime.

That statistic alone should move everyone of us to shake off our apathy and establish stricter oversight and accountability of all aspects of church and the personal conduct of all members. Hopefully, such increased oversight and enforcement would make church a better experience for all and eventually raise the opinion of the public concerning clergy back up to where it once was thirty years ago.

* "Americans' trust in honesty, ethics of clergy hits all-time low in Gallup ranking of professions", Christian Post, by Stoyan Zaimov - December 5, 2018

Sim Lee is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.

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