Nearly half of mainline pastors say they back same-sex marriage, although support among evangelical pastors remains low, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.
The poll of 1,000 pastors found that 47 percent of mainline pastors say they “see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married.” That’s an increase from 2010, when 32 percent of mainline pastors answered that way.
Among evangelical pastors, though, only 8 percent support same-sex marriage – the same percentage from 2010.
When combining the two groups, 24 percent of Protestant pastors back same-sex marriage, according to the survey.
“More than four years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, most Protestant pastors still see a moral problem with it,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
Presbyterian or Reformed pastors (49 percent) are the most likely to support same-sex marriage, followed by Methodist (47 percent), Lutheran (35 percent) and Christian/Church of Christ pastors (20 percent). Baptist (3 percent) and Pentecostal pastors (1 percent) are the least likely to support same-sex marriage.
“The stability in the views of evangelical pastors means either there has been no growth in acceptance of same-sex marriage among them or the pastors that no longer have moral reservations about it no longer identify as evangelical,” McConnell said.
The change in pastors’ “views of same-sex marriage,” McConnell added, “has less to do with their denominational tradition than their view of the Bible.”
“An evangelical distinctive is the ultimate authority the Bible has over one’s beliefs despite changing cultural perspectives,” he said. “It is not surprising then that evangelical pastors across different denominations continue to view same-sex marriage as wrong through this lens.”
The survey, released Feb. 11, also uncovered a small racial divide: Twenty-seven percent of white pastors but 15 percent of African American pastors support same-sex marriage.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.