Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting

Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting

Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting

Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting

Synopsis

More than 180 pastors exited the Seventh-Day Adventist ministry in Australia and New Zealand between 1980 and 1988--a loss that is equivalent to 40 percent of the total annual Adventist ministerial workforce in those two countries. This volume examines the processes whereby conservative and committed sectarian pastors began to entertain doubts concerning the sectarian cause, questioned their occupational calling, and turned their backs on the ministry. Using the data gathered from in-depth interviews with 43 expastors and from other sources, the author develops detailed case study profiles, which highlight the personal, organizational, and social factors involved in their decision and the types of experiences they associate with leaving the ministry. The first study of clergy fallout from a sectarian community, this volume makes a significant contribution to our understanding of exiting.

Excerpt

This book is about Seventh-day Adventist expastors. At one level it records the career crises and exits of ministers from a sectarian religious community; at a different level it is about failed expectations, loss of commitment, and the erosion of faith. The focus of the study is on the social processes that culminate with exit from the Adventist ministry, but indirectly it is also about a religious organization as depicted by former pastors whose lives have been radically transformed by it. The study endeavors to contribute to an understanding of what happened in the Adventist community that brought about the crises among its pastors by discussing how exit occurs, the social processes that mobilize action and bring about change, and the language expastors use to account for past action.

Leaving and membership loss are common experiences to most people in contemporary society--people leave home, shift neighborhoods, change jobs and marital partners. Exiting has become such a regular feature of everyday life that we think very little about what processes are involved. Some exits are routinely undertaken and thus are not pathological, like promotion at work and going on holiday. In other instances problems arise when individuals fail to undertake the anticipated exits, as with some youth who refuse to leave home when they reach adulthood, or hospital patients who become accustomed to the "sick role." The present study focuses on a different kind of exit, what Levine (1984) terms "radical departures."

Exits of this sort, like the collapse of a business, the ending of a close relationship, and exit from a high commitment status or even a voluntary association, may be accompanied by dramatic transformations and radical shifts in personal and social identity. These exits are more difficult to negotiate, are usually quite painful, and call for explanation and justification. While exiting the ministry of a . . .

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