The Coming Generation of Clergy 

Excerpted from Cranach: The Blog of Veith, November 30, 2023 

Young and upcoming members of the clergy are overwhelmingly “conservative/orthodox,” with almost none of them describing themselves as “progressive.” At least that’s the case–and a big turnaround–among Catholic priests. I suspect that’s also true in other churches. 

The Catholic News Agency reports on what it describes as the largest survey of American priests in 50 years, polling 3,516 clergymen from across the country. Among priests ordained in the 1960s, after the liberalizing council Vatican II (1962-1965), nearly 70% describe themselves as either somewhat or very “progressive.” But among priests ordained after 2020, “fewer than 5%” considered themselves as “somewhat progressive.” And zero respondents said they were “very progressive.” Conversely, 85% of the young priests, ordained after 2020, said that they were “conservative/orthodox” or “very conservative/orthodox” theologically. The rest, 14%, described themselves as “middle of the road.” 

As the author of the CNA story, Jonah McKeown, says, this shows a “significant divide” between older priests and younger priests. And, of course, the older priests constitute most of the bishops, the Vatican, and the papacy, Pope Francis being 86 years old. But this coming generation of priests heralds a conservative resurgence in American Catholicism. 

McKeown says the survey data tallies with other studies and observations. He quotes Father Carter Griffin, the rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C., who sees this new orthodoxy in seminarians: “[T]he men coming forward for the priesthood now are men who really love the Lord and love the Church. They believe in her. They believe that he founded her. And so there’s not an instinct at all to believe anything other than what the Church believes, to teach what the Church believes,” Griffin continued. “I think many of them are reacting to the wreckage of secular materialism, and many of them have seen the effect of that materialism, that secularism, on their peers. They’ve seen people trapped in sin, and they want to make a difference in the world. They want to be people who are helping to bring light and joy and hope back into a world that seems to have lost them.” 

But, although I can’t quantify it, I have the sense that this phenomenon is also happening outside of Catholicism, among Protestant churches as well. In my Lutheran circles, the young pastors I know and the young seminarians I am meeting are rock solid theologically and liturgically. 

I have argued that a major factor in the secularization of society has been the secularization of the church. Perhaps a new generation of pastors will reverse that.

Cranach: The Blog of Veith is a blog that discusses wide-ranging issues of Christianity and culture with a Lutheran twist. 

The blog is written by Gene Veith, Jr., who is a writer and a retired literature professor.

Veith is Provost Emerius at Patrick Henry College, where he also served as Professor of Literature and Interim Provost. 

Bible Studies

Life Light: Genesis

Please mark your calendars for the start of the Life Light study on Thursdays at 7:00pm. The class will begin studying the book of Genesis. Genesis means "Beginnings". It tells us about the nature of things from the beginning and why things are the way they are today.  And it also provides us with the "beginning" of the Gospel proclamation to the world, and how God was bringing about that salvation through the people of His own choosing.

Sunday Morning: Hebrews

Please also mark your calendars for the start of our Sunday Morning Bible Class at 11:15am following Divine Service. The Book of Hebrews deals with the question of remaining in the faith while suffering persecution by the devil and the world, or if it would be better to take the easy road and abandoning the faith for the sake of a peaceful life. This was what the Jewish converts to Christianity asked themselves, and many abandoned Jesus. The writer patiently reveals the One who is far greater than all others as he encourages the faith and resolve of the people then, and now.

Wednesday Evening: The Smalcald Articles and the Treatis on the Power and Primacy of the Pope

Another calendar marker for you that I pray you will also take advantage this Fall. The start date depends on the conclusion to the current Adult Instruction Class, but it be on Wednesdays at 7:00pm. That sounds a bit like a course out of the seminary, however, the contents of the Smalcald Articles are down to earth and quite practical for us. Even the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope reminds us not only from where we have come, but also serves as a Lutheran "Theology of the Ministry". These documents, along with the others found in the Book of Concord, are what all our LCMS pastors and congregations declare to be their faith in the face of opposition to the Word of God.

Thursday Rotational Study

The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Thursday of each month offers the opportunity to participate in various studies on a variety of topics. The “Rotation” means that the study meets in three different locations with the pastor of the host congregation leading the worship time and leading the topic study. The locations, pastors and topic are:

  • 1st Thursday        Casey                 Rev Jeffrey Keuning           The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
  • 3rd Thursday        Des Moines       Rev. Michael Barnes           LSB: Companion to the Services
  • 4th Thursday        Carlisle               Rev. Kevin Johnson            Various Theological Documents

The day's schedule:

  • 9:00am     Fellowship
  • 9:30am     Worship
  • 10:30am   Study
  • Noon         Meal at local restaurant