THE VANISHING PARSON by Laile E. Bartlett

THE VANISHING PARSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bartlett's book is not one more work -- its title to the contrary -- on the mass exodus of priests, minister and nuns from the various Christian churches. It is instead an attempt to discern the shape of a new ministry, both in the reasons for that exodus and in the activities of the parsons who have not yet vanished from their carved Sunday pulpits. In the reaction to the oppressiveness of the churches with regard to their ministers' marital status (for Catholic priests, that they must not marry; for Protestant ministers, that they must marry), Bartlett sees a ministry of the future where all ordained of all denominations will finally be free to follow the dictates of their own consciences. By delving into case histories of clergymen who are operating outside the formal framework of their churches, he perceives the shape of the congregations of the future -- in which authority is functional rather than hierarchical; in which the ""cluster"" approach to parishes will become increasingly popular (and necessary); in which lay leadership will come to the fore; in which the process of self-criticism and self-reform is continual and spontaneous rather than sporadic and ponderous. A thoughtful and provocative book whose hard-nosed empiricism will recommend it to realists of all Christian denominations.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1971
Publisher: Beacon