Familiarity with the core beliefs of other faiths, among all Protestant clergy...

Study shows Protestant ministers often have limited

familiarity with the core beliefs of other faiths

(Original release date:  August 25, 2004)  Study results being released in the September/October edition of Facts & Trends magazine show large numbers of Protestant clergy have little familiarity with the core beliefs of numerous non-Protestant religious groups. 

 

Protestant ministers were asked by Grey Matter Research & Consulting to rate how familiar they are with the core beliefs of 13 different religious groups, using a scale of 1 (not at all familiar) to 5 (extremely familiar).  Not one of the 13 groups has a majority of Protestant ministers claiming to be extremely familiar with its core beliefs.  The groups most likely to be extremely familiar to Protestant ministers are Roman Catholicism (41%), Judaism (33%), Mormonism (21%), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (21%).   

 

If the top two levels of familiarity on the survey scale (ratings of 5 and 4) are grouped together, 85% of all Protestant clergy claim to be relatively familiar with the core beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, and 80% are familiar with the core doctrines of Judaism.  This decreases to 61% for Mormonism, and 60% for Jehovah’s Witnesses.  These are still the only four faith groups with which a majority of Protestant ministers are relatively familiar.  Forty-seven percent are familiar with the core beliefs of Islam, 43% with New Age beliefs, 31% with Satanism, 28% with Buddhism, 27% with Hinduism, 15% with Scientology, 13% with Wicca, 13% with Baha’i, and just 5% with Sikhism. 

 

On the other end of the scale, if the two lowest responses (1 and 2) are combined, large numbers of Protestant clergy show little or no familiarity with the beliefs of Buddhism (33%), Hinduism (35%), Satanism (45%), Scientology (54%), Baha’i (66%), Wicca (67%), or Sikhism (85%).  

 

Familiarity with different faith groups does not vary much by different areas of the country, but there are some differences denominationally.  On average, of five major denominational groups examined separately in the study findings, Methodists are the least likely to be familiar with the beliefs of other faith groups.  Methodist ministers’ familiarity with Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanism, and New Age beliefs is particularly low. 

 

Ministers in Pentecostal and charismatic denominations also tend to be less familiar than average with other belief systems.  Pentecostal clergy have a relatively high level of familiarity with Satanism compared to other denominations, but are average or below average on the other faith groups.  Pentecostal ministers are especially likely to be unfamiliar with the core beliefs of Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. 

 

Lutherans, on the other hand, tend to feel more familiar with non-Protestant groups than do pastors from other denominations.  Baptists tend to be about average on their familiarity with non-Protestant faiths. 

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, expressed surprise at the findings about Pentecostal and charismatic clergy.  “Evangelism and conversion are very strong influences in Pentecostal theology and practice, and Pentecostal clergy tend to have particularly strong beliefs that Christianity is the only path to salvation,” Sellers explained.  “Trying to reach people who hold other beliefs is more likely if you understand what those beliefs are.  Yet the study demonstrated that Pentecostal and charismatic clergy are sometimes below average in their familiarity with the beliefs of non-Protestant faith groups.  Given the importance these pastors often place on evangelism, one might expect just the opposite, so this is a surprise,” Sellers concluded.

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 700 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

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Familiarity with the core beliefs of other faiths, by denominational group

 

Faith Group

Extremely Familiar (5)

 

4

 

3

 

2

Not at All Familiar (1)

Roman Catholicism

41%

44%

10%

3%

3%

Judaism

33

47

13

5

2

Mormonism

21

40

28

8

4

Jehovah's Witnesses

21

39

28

9

3

Islam

13

34

34

13

5

New Age

10

33

30

17

10

Satanism

9

21

24

28

17

Buddhism

6

22

39

24

10

Hinduism

6

20

38

24

11

Scientology

5

10

31

33

21

Wicca

4

9

20

32

35

Baha'i

3

10

21

25

41

Sikhism

1

4

10

24

61

 

Faith Groups

All

Pastors

Southern

Baptist

Other

Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All

Others

Roman Catholicism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

85%

78%

77%

87%

97%

82%

90%

  -- moderately familiar

10

18

15

9

0

8

7

  -- little or no familiarity

5

4

8

4

3

10

3

Judaism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

80

72

77

91

85

69

84

  -- moderately familiar

13

22

13

6

13

15

11

  -- little or no familiarity

7

6

10

3

2

16

5

Mormonism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

61

69

67

50

70

53

61

  -- moderately familiar

28

26

23

28

20

38

29

  -- little or no familiarity

12

5

10

22

10

9

10

Jehovah's Witnesses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

60

64

68

44

63

54

60

  -- moderately familiar

28

30

24

33

26

33

27

  -- little or no familiarity

12

6

8

23

11

13

13

Islam:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

47

50

53

31

57

38

53

  -- moderately familiar

34

35

27

40

38

37

32

  -- little or no familiarity

18

15

20

29

5

25

15

New Age:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

43

45

47

28

47

38

46

  -- moderately familiar

30

33

25

37

18

34

32

  -- little or no familiarity

27

22

28

35

35

28

22

Satanism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

31

33

34

15

23

41

31

  -- moderately familiar

24

30

32

18

25

20

22

  -- little or no familiarity

45

37

34

67

52

39

47

Buddhism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

28

26

31

28

30

24

29

  -- moderately familiar

39

39

31

36

41

37

44

  -- little or no familiarity

33

35

38

36

29

39

27

Hinduism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

27

29

32

18

25

22

28

  -- moderately familiar

38

37

30

45

38

34

42

  -- little or no familiarity

35

34

38

37

37

44

30

Scientology:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

15

15

20

7

20

12

15

  -- moderately familiar

31

33

32

23

15

36

34

  -- little or no familiarity

54

52

48

70

65

52

51

Wicca:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

13

14

13

6

18

14

14

  -- moderately familiar

20

20

25

11

13

26

18

  -- little or no familiarity

67

66

62

83

69

60

68

Baha'i:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

13

9

10

11

22

7

18

  -- moderately familiar

21

19

19

22

25

22

20

  -- little or no familiarity

66

72

71

67

53

71

62

Sikhism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  -- relatively familiar

5

4

6

1

7

5

6

  -- moderately familiar

10

12

11

6

13

10

8

  -- little or no familiarity

85

84

83

93

80

85

86