Forced termination among clergy: A study of experiences, processes and effects & their connection to stress & well-being outcomes
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Although forced termination has been a subject of interest to clergy for some time, social scientists have generally studied job loss as if it was the same phenomenon regardless of occupation. Ministry work has always been difficult and stressful, and termination from this occupation has been reported to be the result of a demeaning and systematic process of involuntary removal of paid and non-paid clergy-persons that includes psychological, socio-emotional, and spiritual abuse. This dissertation is comprised of three separate studies: first a pilot project sampling 227 active ministers from the Assemblies of God denomination; second, an online study among 39 Christian denominations in the United States. Both of these studies revealed a high incidence of forced termination among clergy, 41% and 28%, respectively. Forced termination was correlated with high levels of depression, stress, and health problems. Forced termination was also associated with low levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem, and family well-being. The third study, examined the mental health of those who had been forcibly terminated. In a convenience sample of 55 ministers who had been forcibly terminated, in general, participants scored above the accepted cut-off score for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and scored high on a measure of burnout and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This project provided an empirical link of PTSD and GAD to the forced termination of clergy. Issues surrounding forced termination significantly predicted the perceptions one would have which in turn predicted the levels of anxiety, burnout, and symptoms of PTSD.