News (USA)

New study finds religious congregations are more accepting of gays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Overall acceptance of gays and lesbians in U.S. religious congregations rose significantly between 2006 and 2012, but it declined in Catholic congregations, according to new data released Thursday.

AP (File)
AP (File)

Duke University’s National Congregations Study is derived from interviews with representatives — usually clergy — of 1,331 U.S. churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other houses of worship.

Overall, the study found acceptance of gay and lesbian members in American congregations increased from 37 percent to 48 percent over the six-year period. Acceptance of gays and lesbians as volunteer leaders increased from 18 percent to 26 percent.

Growth was especially strong among black Protestant churches, white liberal Protestant churches and non-Christian congregations.

Carl Greene has lived through those changes as the openly gay leader of St. Mark’s Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. St. Mark’s is part of the United Methodist Church, whose official position is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

Because he is gay, Greene is not allowed to be ordained, although he is a certified lay minister and leads his church with the blessing of local Methodist authorities.

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When he took over the church in 2012, it had declined to about 20 members and was on the verge of closing. Today, it has about 150 members, both gay and straight. Greene said many people come to the church because of that diversity.

“I always hear, ‘We want our children to see the way the kingdom of God should look like,'” he said.

The study also found that acceptance of gay and lesbian members in white conservative Protestant churches increased from 16 percent to 24 percent during the period covered by the survey. Their acceptance of gay and lesbian volunteers was unchanged at 4 percent, however.

Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. While Southern Baptist Churches are independent, they subscribe to a statement of faith that says homosexuality is immoral…

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