Pastoral Misconduct: The American Black Church Examined

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9781412847780: Pastoral Misconduct: The American Black Church Examined
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In the past, clergy malfeasance was mentioned only in passing by group members or adherents. The subject was invisible and those who studied it were often stigmatized as hostile to religion itself. Today clergy misconduct is acknowledged as a social problem with growing conceptual and theoretical implications.

In Pastoral Misconduct, Anson Shupe and Janelle M. Eliasson-Nannini argue that the history and traditions of black pastoral leadership, coupled with the close identity of many black congregants with their pastor, congregation, and racial subculture, creates opportunity structures that facilitate predatory behavior. Familiarity and mutual identity frequently leads victims to drop their normal levels of wariness.

Major denominations and minor sects have been studied, but this unique study by Shupe and Eliasson-Nannini pursues nuances of pastoral bad behavior in a new context. This book is not a tabloid treatment of the American black church. In fact, the black church becomes the vehicle for a major new sociological development: a theory of clergy misconduct in any minority religion.

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About the Author:

Anson Shupe is professor of sociology at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne. A prolific writer dealing with religious movements, clergy misconduct, violence, and inequality, he is the author of Agents of Discord; Rogue Clerics; Self, Attitudes, and Emotion Work (all Transaction); and Spoils of the Kingdom.

Review:

“Sociologist Anson Shupe finishes his series on clergy malfeasance and abuse with his new book Pastoral Misconduct: The American Black Church Examined. Written with Janelle M. Eliasson-Nannini, the book is likely to be controversial in its argument that certain features of the black church tradition and African-American clergy lend themselves to deviant behavior. The authors make it clear from the start that black clergy are not more prone to misbehavior than other clergy (there are far more cases of non-black clerical abuse and misconduct), but the particular structure of the black church and its clergy–parishioner relationships allow opportunity for particular kinds of misbehavior that also marks other minority religions. Shupe and Eliasson-Nannini focus on the way the minority status of black churches born of a history of prejudice tends to move members to seek to protect, and in some cases excuse, their clergy even in cases of misconduct.”

Religion Watch

“The book by Anson Shupe with Janelle M. Eliasson Nannini. "Pastoral Misconduct-The American Black Church Examined," just released by Transaction Publishers, does not come as expose or sensationalist literature but from the standpoint of a sociologist going into depth as to WHY these things happen and how the congregations often pave the way for corrupt clergy.... [A] fascinating read for all.”

—Rev. Austin Miles, blogs.christianpost.com

Pastoral Misconduct is not yet another exposé of scandalous clergy behavior. Rather, it is a rigorous, objective sociological investigation of a once taboo subject, violations of trust by religious leaders. The authors identify prophetic leadership style, a low level of accountability, and normalization of prior deviant behavior as pivotal factors in the emergence and perpetuation of such misconduct. The theory of pastoral misconduct they offer creates a valuable template for future scholarly research on this important topic.”

—David G. Bromley, professor of Religious Studies and Sociology and director of Partnership for Understanding World Religions and Spirituality, Virginia Commonwealth University

“The qualities of great research are the preservation of respect for the subject, honest and thorough examination, and a readable report. This book on Black religion in America fulfills all the requirements. It merits a wide readership because this page-turner forms the capstone of Shupes’ lifelong examination of clergy malfeasance across the board range of religious practice. It is a valuable contribution to the study of culture and religion. A great read, hard to put down.”

—A. W. Richard Sipe, author of Sex, Priests and Power: The Anatomy of a Crisis

“African-American churches often have powerful, independent pastors and few checks and balances on them—a dangerous combination. In this groundbreaking book, Anson Shupe and Janelle M. Eliasson-Nannini unflinchingly examine corruption in high places in black churches and explain how the distinctive contours of those churches have allowed a few miscreants to arise in institutions that for the most part provide vital, selfless service to their constituencies.”

—Timothy Miller, Religious Studies, University of Kansas

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