Support the Café

Search our Site

The LGBT gap between religious leaders and members

The LGBT gap between religious leaders and members

Ordinary members of religious groups tend to be more accepting than their leadership when it comes to accepting gay and lesbians, but this gap varies among denominations and religions.

A new Pew Survey looks at the religious views of LGBT Americans. It also asked about the welcome of different traditions.

The new Pew Research survey asked LGBT respondents to rate six religions or religious institutions as friendly, neutral or unfriendly toward the LGBT population. By overwhelming margins, most rate all six as more unfriendly than friendly. About eight-in-ten LGBT respondents say the Muslim religion, the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church are unfriendly toward them, while one-in-ten or fewer say each of these religious institutions is friendly toward them. Similarly, about three-quarters of LGBT adults (73%) say that evangelical churches are unfriendly toward them, about a fifth (21%) consider these churches neutral and just 3% say evangelical churches are friendly toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. By comparison, fewer LGBT adults see the Jewish religion and non-evangelical (mainline) Protestant churches as unfriendly toward them, but more say each is unfriendly rather than friendly by a large margin. And about three-in-ten LGBT adults (29%) say they personally have “been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization,” as detailed in Chapter 2 on social acceptance.

Mark Silk looks at the gaps between the folks in the pews and their leadership in hisSpiritual Politics blog:

At the low end it’s 14 points for the Evangelicals and 18 percent for the Mainliners and the Mormons. In these cases, the membership is pretty much on the same page as the leadership.

In the middle come the Jews at 32 percent and the Muslims at 39 percent. In the case of the Jews, the 44 percent unfriendly number suggests that the Reform and Conservative movements have not done a very good job of getting their gay-friendly messaging out. As for the Muslims, the relatively large gap may be explained by the high number of well-educated professionals in the American Muslim community and the likelihood that the unfriendly number is based on pronouncements coming from Muslim leaders abroad.

By far the largest gap is in Catholicism — fully 59 points separate LGBT perception of Catholic unfriendliness from Catholics’ support for societal discouragement. Simply put, the bishops have gotten the message across very well that the Church looks with disfavor on homosexuality, but the laity isn’t buying it. Or at least, the laity isn’t buying the proposition that society as a whole should follow the lead of the Magisterium.

Those campaigns against same-sex marriage? It looks like the consensus fidelium is to forget about them, bishops.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jim Naughton

C Wingate, I don’t expect either of us has the time to go look up these votes, but I am just not sure you are right about this. I can tell you that as someone who has worked to get certain issues through convention during its last three meetings that in no case were my colleagues and I as worried about the House of Deputies as we were about the House of Bishops. And the signature setback of the LGBT movement in the church (B033 in 2006) was entirely the bishops’ initiative.

I don’t know that this actually argues that the laity and clergy are more liberal than the bishops. It may have more to do with the pace of change that each house is comfortable with. Also, deputies like to get things in writing, so to speak, because they aren’t the ones executing policy, whereas the bishops like to have as much discretion as possible.

Ann Fontaine

I don’t think you have examined the figures C. Wingate: in the last GC where I was a Deputy it was the lay deputies who were leading the way – the bishops were the most timid. My experience in churches I serve is that they support the outcome and are relieved to be able to issue invitations to all at last.

C. Wingate

JC, it is (or should be) the done thing to test one’s expectations against the data. And the thing to look at are the counts on the big votes. Generally these have passed easily in the bishops and with extremely close margins in the deputies. It may not be the case that the clergy are a lot more liberal than the laity in this church, but the votes record that the bishops are consistently so.


“Conversely, the LGBT rate in the atheists is twice that of the population as a whole, and of the irreligious it’s approaching three times.”

I’m not sure what you’re getting at, CW. This is exactly what one would expect, isn’t it, given the negativity of (too) much religion to LGBTs (particularly partnered ones)? Given that LGBTs feel unwanted by religion, the feeling has become mutual!

“Anyone who doubts that our hierarchy is more liberal/progressive than the laity on this subject need only consult GC votes.”

Really? I don’t recall any recent “Passed by the HofB/Failed in the HofD” votes on this topic lately (I could be mistaken). Or are you specifically splitting HofD votes in to clergy and lay? (There are figures on that?)

It just seems to me that “The Clergy vs The Average Pew-sitter” has been a popular meme re Mainline churches for years—particularly popular among those w/ a certain agenda. In churches w/ democratic governance, it seems like a case of put-up-or-shut-up: if there’s no real change in policy, despite the many opportunities, over the years, to do so, it seems the Meme Is Just a Meme.

JC Fisher

C. Wingate

Some numbers crunched out of the Pew results: the number of responses gives a 4% LGBT respondents, which is not an out-of-line number. Back-calculating the same percentage out of each group, however, shows that every religious group except the Jews and possibly the Orthodox (too few of the latter for statistical significance) has a smaller percentage of LGBT respondents. Conversely, the LGBT rate in the atheists is twice that of the population as a whole, and of the irreligious it’s approaching three times.

Anyone who doubts that our hierarchy is more liberal/progressive than the laity on this subject need only consult GC votes.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café