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The Cooperative Clergy Research Project

The Cooperative Clergy Research Project is an endeavor initiated and coordinated through the efforts of the Henry Institute. In June of 2000, a number of scholars working in the area of religion and public life were invited to come to Calvin College to consider working on the development of a common research project related to the role of clergy in American public life. Much of the time together was devoted to forging a common questionnaire that would be sent to clergy of the particular denominations of which, for the most part, each participant was part.

The basic agreement of the scholars participating in the project was this: First, each survey would contain room to have one page of denominationally specific questions that could be posed by the researcher, but the rest of the survey was to consist of the common core questionnaire items. Second, each participant would cover the costs of surveying his or her own denomination. And third, each participant would share their denominational data file with all the other participants in order to create one data file containing the responses of clergy from all of the denominations surveyed; this merged data file then would be made available to each of the participants in the study. Since June of 2000, several other scholars (and denominations) have become part of the project.

While this cooperative research effort builds on previous research related to the political role of the clergy, this effort is distinctively different. First, the number of scholars working on this cooperative project is somewhat unique, as 25 different scholars were engaged in this cooperative research project. Second, the scope of clergy surveyed was unique in that surveys were obtained from clergy within 22 different religious bodies. Third, the magnitude of the number of clergy surveyed made this project distinctive. In the end, the project entailed surveys from well over 7500 clergy.

Beginning in the summer of 2001, various panels were conducted at professional conferences to focus on some of the preliminary findings related to clergy of particular denominations surveyed in the project. Panels devoted to the project were held at the National Conference of Christians in Political Science in June, 2001; the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in August, 2001; the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in October, 2001; and the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association in November, 2001.

Reports for each of the denominational studies were presented at the Henry Institute's Symposium on Religion and Politics, held at Calvin College on May 3-4, 2002. The specific scholars involved in the project, and the specific denomination they studied, are as follows:

American Baptist Church
Sherrie Steniner and Donald Gray, Eastern College

Disciples of Christ
Sue Crawford, Creighton University; Melissa Gilbert, Washington College; Laura Olson, Clemson University

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Dan Hofrenning, St. Olaf University

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Beau Weston, Centre College

Reformed Church in America
Corwin Smidt, Calvin College

United Methodist Church
John Green, University of Akron

Assemblies of God
Margaret Poloma, University of Akron

Churches of Christ
Mel Hailey, Abilene Christian University

Christian Reformed Church
James Penning, Calvin College

Evangelical Free
Kedron Bardwell, Grand Valley State University

Mennonite Church
Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Jeff Walz and Steve Montreal, Concordia University, Wisconsin

Nazarene Church
Linda Beail and Greg Crow, Pt. Loma Nazarene University

Presbyterian Church in America
Brent Nelson, Furman University; Beverly Gaddy, Georgia Southwestern University

Southern Baptist Convention
James Guth, Furman University

American Rabbis
Paul Djupe, Denison University

Roman Catholic Priests
Ted Jelen, UNLV, and Mary Bendyna, Georgetown University

Churches of God in Christ and the African Episcopal Methodist Church
Eric McDaniel, University of Illinois and Khari Brown, University of Michigan

Unitarian Universalist
John Green, University of Akron

Non-Denominational Clergy
Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College

The 2004 book, Pulpit and Politics (edited by Corwin E. Smidt), includes extensive information gleaned in this extensive effort to examine and compare the role of clergy in American politics across the many denominations and religious faiths.