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The Home of Evolutioneers

Most Protestant ministers lack understanding of other faiths

Ellison Research, a marketing research firm in Phoenix, conducted the poll for LifeWay Christian Resources’ Facts & Trends magazine. Ellison reported large numbers of Protestant clergy have little familiarity with the core beliefs of numerous non-Protestant religious groups.

Protestant ministers were asked to rate how familiar they are with the core beliefs of 13 religious groups, using a scale of 1 for not at all familiar to 5 for extremely familiar. Not o­ne of the 13 groups has a majority of Protestant ministers claiming to be extremely familiar with its core beliefs, Ellison found.

The groups most likely to be extremely familiar to Protestant ministers are Roman Catholicism at 41 percent, Judaism at 33 percent, Mormonism at 21 percent and Jehovah's Witnesses at 21 percent.

If the top two levels of familiarity o­n the survey scale—ratings of 5 and 4—are grouped together, 85 percent of all Protestant clergy claim to be relatively familiar with the core beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, and 80 percent are familiar with the core doctrines of Judaism.

This decreases to 61 percent for Mormonism and 60 percent for Jehovah's Witnesses, Ellison said. These still are 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 percent with New Age beliefs, 31 percent with Satanism, 28 percent with Buddhism, 27 percent with Hinduism, 15 percent with Scientology, 13 percent with Wicca, 13 percent with Baha'i and just 5 percent with Sikhism.

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

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison 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 said.

"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 often 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."

More complete data from these questions, including denominational detail, is available at www.ellisonresearch.com/PastorStudy.htm.

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