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11% of Evangelical and Conservative Protestant pastors asked to perform same-sex marriages

11% of Evangelical and Conservative Protestant pastors asked to perform same-sex marriages

A survey of Evangelical, Pentecostal, and certain mainline Protestant pastors show that about 11% of these clergy have been asked to officiate at a same-sex wedding.

Looking closely at the survey, the surprise is really that so many have been asked given the fact that most of the traditions represented in the survey firmly oppose same sex marriage in the first place.

RNS describes the survey taken last March by Lifeway, an evangelical research firm based in Nashville, of 1000 evangelical and mainline pastors.

Mainline Protestant clergy were three times as likely as evangelical pastors to have been asked. Presbyterian or Reformed clergy are most likely — 26 percent — to have received a request to marry a same-sex couple, while Baptist pastors, at 1 percent, are the least likely.

Pastors 55 and older were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be asked to perform a same-sex ceremony.

“Most couples, if they want a church wedding, will ask a pastor they know or who they think will support them,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “For same-sex couples, this appears to be an older Presbyterian pastor.”

There is wide inconsistency between, and even within, denominations as to the role of LGBT persons in congregations.

Despite the stereotypes of evangelicals being anti-gay, researchers found that fewer than half of evangelical pastors actually forbid LGBT people from serving in their churches. And mainline pastors, often viewed as LGBT-affirming, were split on whether LGBT people can serve.

Forty-four percent of all pastors surveyed said LGBT people can serve in “helping or serving roles.” Fewer said they could hold more prominent public positions, such as leadership roles (33 percent), teaching (32 percent) or leading worship (32 percent).

While the Lifeway survey does ask about the participation of LGBT persons in leadership and the teaching of the participating congregations, there is only some attempt to correlate the teachings of the particular tradition to the frequency of requests for a marriage.  Christianity Today:

Baptist pastors (1%) are the least likely to say they were asked to perform a same-sex wedding. Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (26%) are most likely. Lutherans (19%), Methodists (9%), Christian/Church of Christ (7%), and Pentecostals (6%) fall in between.

Overall, pastors who identify as mainline were three times more likely to have been asked than evangelical pastors (18% vs. 6%). Pastors 55 and older (14%) are twice as likely to have been asked than those 54 and younger (7%).

And those who have a Master’s degree (13%) are twice as likely to be asked than those with a Bachelor’s degree (6%).

Pastors of majority-African American churches are less likely than those of other majority ethnicities to be asked (4%).

The survey was limited to a narrow band of evangelical and Protestant churches, including Baptist (evangelical and mainline), Pentecostal Churches and to a very narrow band of mainline traditions. Lifeway lists them as follows: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed. The report does not indicated which specific denominations within these broader groupings were approached. So, for example, “Presbyterian” does not differentiate between PCUSA and PCA. Similarly, Lutherans and Reformed are not defined in the report. Protestant denominations not part of the survey include the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, or Unitarian Universalist Churches, among others.

In 2015, Pew Research looked at the official stands of several major religious groups, and its own survey, taken after the Supreme Court ruling paving the way to marriage equality across the nation, showed…

…a solid majority of white mainline Protestants (62%) now favor allowing gays and lesbians to wed, with just 33% opposed, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. A similar share (63%) say there is “no conflict” between their religious beliefs and homosexuality.

So while the headlines seem to suggest that a majority of same-sex weddings don’t happen in churches (which may be true, but this survey doesn’t measure that), the real news here is that even in denominations and congregations that limit or bar full participation of LGBT persons, a significant number of gay and lesbian members will still approach their local pastor to perform their marriages.


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