Jewish Journal

Most liberal Protestant clergy don’t support gay marriage

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 21, 2009 | 3:31 pm

Interesting news from Dan Gilgoff’s God & Country blog:

Mainline Protestantism is usually depicted in the news media as the politically liberal analogue to the conservative evangelical movement. But it’s more complicated than that.

For instance, mainliners split their support evenly between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004, a year when nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals pulled the lever for Bush. Last November, Obama got only 44 percent of the white nonevangelical Protestant vote—mainliners, mostly—the same share Kerry got.

Source: Public Religion Research
And USA Today’s Cathy Lynn Grossman blogs about a new survey of mainline Protestant clergy, the most comprehensive ever conducted, that finds that most do not support legalizing same-sex marriage, even if they wouldn’t be required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

This division helps to explain why mainline denominations like the Episcopal Church—and let’s not forget the Methodists and the Lutherans—have been so torn up by a disagreement over the biblical treatment—acceptance, condemnation or ambivalence—of homosexuality.

The study was performed by Public Religion Research. Here are some highlights:

On a range of policy issues, Mainline Protestant clergy are generally more supportive of LGBT rights than the general population, and mostly in line with Mainline Protestants overall. Two-thirds of Mainline clergy support hate crimes legislation (67%) and workplace protections for gay and lesbian people (66%), and a majority (55%) supports adoption rights. Same-sex marriage is the only major LGBT public policy issue that does not enjoy majority support from Mainline clergy; on this issue, one-third supports same-sex marriage and nearly a third (32%) supports civil unions.

Support for same-sex marriage increases significantly when clergy were provided with an assurance that no church or congregation would be required to perform same-sex marriage services against its beliefs. With this religious liberty assurance, support among clergy jumped from one-third support to nearly half (46%), a movement of 13 points.

There are significant and sometimes stark differences across denominational lines.  Generally speaking, clergy in the UCC and Episcopal Church are more supportive of LGBT rights, while clergy in UMC and ABCUSA are less supportive. Clergy in the other three denominations in the study—DOC, PCUSA, and ELCA—cluster in the middle but lean supportive on all of these issues with the exception of same-sex marriage.

In case you were confused by the alphabet soup: UCC is the ultra-liberal United Church of Christ, derisively called Unitarians Considering Christ; UMC is the United Methodist Church; ABCUSA is the American Baptist Church, not to be confused with its conservative Southern cousin; DOC is Disciples of Christ and PCUSA is the Presbyterian Church, to which I belong; ELCA is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, but they’re not those evangelicals.

Note how the perspectives on same-sex marriage differ from mainline support for acceptance of homosexuality.

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