Protestant Ministers Differ Over Views of Homosexuality, Survey Finds

Danielle Gillespie | Correspondent | Monday, July 7, 2003

Protestant Ministers Differ Over Views of Homosexuality, Survey Finds

( - A national survey shows that a clear majority of Protestant church ministers oppose homosexual couples being given the legal right to adopt children or marry. However, the Protestant clergy are sharply divided over whether homosexuality is sinful and whether they would accept homosexuals as members of their church, according to the poll.

Ellison Research conducted the survey following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Lawrence et al v. Texas case, in which the high court struck down Texas' law that prohibited homosexual sodomy. The survey was released in order to provide context about what ministers really think, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, said Ron Sellers, president of the Arizona-based Ellison Research.

"We hear so much information about the individual denominations or individual church leaders who are celebrating the (Lawrence et al v. Texas) decision, who are protesting the decision and who are fighting for homosexual rights or fighting against homosexual issues," Sellers said. "We see a lot of those things on an individual level, and it's really hard to have a perspective."

According to the report, 10 percent of Protestant ministers from all denominations believe the United States government should recognize homosexual marriage, compared to 90 percent who oppose such recognition. Sixteen percent said they think homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt children, but 84 percent disagreed, according to the sample of 568 Protestants clergy.

Controversy about the issue of homosexuality has long divided some Protestant denominations and churches. Although there is little debate in evangelical churches that are generally opposed to homosexuality, the so-called "mainline" churches - Presbyterians, United Methodists and Episcopalians - are conflicted about the issue, Sellers said.

The "mainline churches are the liberals," said Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst at the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. "These churches have gotten away from the Bible. The Bible teaching is quite clear."

Among the ministers from churches identified as mainline, 48 percent said homosexuality was not sinful because it was genetic. Fifty-two percent thought homosexuality was sinful and a matter of choice, the Ellison survey indicated.

"This is sad. It's because of the influx of all the propaganda about a gay gene," LaBarbera said. "This has had an effect, and now, a lot of people think that homosexuals can't change and aren't responsible for their behavior."

Even though the "mainline" ministers are divided over whether homosexuality is a sin, 72 percent think homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry, and 60 percent don't think they should be allowed to adopt, according to Ellison Research survey. Those conclusions make no sense to Sellers.

"I don't know what's causing some of those ministers to say it's perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with it, but [homosexuals] shouldn't be allowed to do all these things," he said. "I would have to assume it is just one of the reasons for all of the controversy in the mainline churches. A lot of these ministers don't have a consistent belief system."

While one in five ministers indicated that homosexuals attend their church, the Protestant ministers are sharply divided over whether homosexuals should be allowed to become members. Forty-nine percent said they would not knowingly let a homosexual become a member of the church, while 51 percent say they would.

However, this information may be deceiving, Sellers said.

"Just from my experience with working with these churches, I would say in some cases there are some pastors, especially among the conservative pastors, a feeling that they want (homosexuals) to come to church because they can reach out to them," he said. "They want to try to help them change by becoming straight or at least avoiding homosexual activity by leading a life of celibacy."

Despite the fact that "mainline" churches tend to be more liberal, LaBarbera said the Ellison survey reveals that even the more liberal pastors are uncomfortable with the idea of giving homosexuals "rights," especially following the Supreme Court's decision.

"This is going to be a political war," he said. "The tidal wave is coming."

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