Support or oppose laws defining marriage as only between one man and one woman...

Study shows an overwhelming majority of Protestant

clergy soundly oppose same-sex marriage

(Original release date:  October 26, 2000)  The definition of marriage has become a politically sensitive issue.  Vermont has already legalized "civil unions" for same-sex couples, granting them all of the rights and privileges of marriage at the state level, while Nebraska residents are voting on an amendment to the state constitution that would recognize as valid only marriage between a man and a woman.

 

Although Protestant ministers are often divided over other social and political issues, such as Affirmative Action or legalizing medical marijuana, most are strongly united in support of a traditional definition of marriage.

 

A national study of Protestant clergy conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona, asked pastors whether they would support or oppose “laws defining ‘marriage’ as ‘only between one man and one woman.’”  Eighty-five percent of all ministers strongly support such laws, and another 6% somewhat support this position.  Four percent are somewhat opposed, and another 4% strongly oppose laws similar to the proposed Nebraska legislation.

 

The study shows support for traditional marriage laws is strong among most types of Protestant ministers.  There is no difference in the likelihood of supporting laws such as this according to the pastor’s age or the size of the church the pastor leads.

 

Regionally, support for traditional marriage laws is weakest in the Northeastern United States – but even there, 79% of all ministers strongly support these laws (compared to 86% in the Midwest, 88% in the West, and 89% in the South).

 

The primary influencing factors in whether a pastor supports or opposes traditional marriage laws are the pastor’s political views.  Among pastors who describe themselves as politically conservative, over 99% strongly support defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Among political moderates, 85% support such laws.  It is only among pastors who call themselves politically liberal that there is much opposition to these laws:  21% of all liberal ministers strongly support traditional marriage legislation, 26% somewhat support it, 24% somewhat oppose it, and 29% strongly oppose it.

 

Among Republican ministers, 99% strongly support these laws.  Strong support was at 84% among registered independents, and 55% among Democrats.

 

Most ministers who do speak out in favor of legalizing homosexual marriage come from traditional mainline denominations, rather than evangelical groups.  Yet the study found that even among the mainline denominations, most pastors support the traditional definition of marriage.

 

Among pastors from denominations that are members of the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, 96% strongly support traditional marriage laws.  But even among pastors from denominations that are part of the National Council of Churches of Christ, which encompasses many traditional mainline denominations, 67% strongly support laws that define marriage traditionally.  Just 20% of pastors from NCCC-member denominations oppose such legislation.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that this is one of the first studies to explore an overall view of how ministers feel about homosexual marriage.  “Many individual ministers or groups speak out on this subject, either opposing homosexual marriage or supporting it, but there’s been very little study of how large a proportion of ministers hold beliefs from each side of the issue,” Sellers pointed out.  “What this study shows is that the pastors speaking out in support of allowing homosexual marriage represent a very small minority of all Protestant ministers nationwide.  Ministers are pretty united on this issue, unlike many other political issues.”

 

Sellers was also quick to point out that the study did not explore how pastors feel about ordaining homosexuals, welcoming gay and lesbian couples into church, or other issues related to homosexuality, which are subjects being raised with frequency within many denominations today.  “The study dealt with support or opposition to legislation that would define marriage as between one man and one woman – period,” Sellers said.  “Other issues related to pastors’ views of homosexuality may be very different, and it would be a mistake just to assume how pastors must feel on these other topics because of their overwhelming support for traditional marriage legislation.”  Sellers noted that Grey Matter Research hopes to explore these topics further in upcoming studies.

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  Although Grey Matter Research has numerous clients, this study was funded and conducted independently by the company. 

 

The sample of 518 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively pastoring churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±4.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level with a 50% response distribution.  The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

The only thing the world believes is behavior, because we all see it instantaneously.  None of us may preach anymore.  We must behave.

Max DePree, CEO, Herman Miller

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Type of Pastor/Church

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

All Protestant ministers

85%

6%

4%

4%

Under age 45

84

8

4

3

Age 45 to 59

86

5

4

6

Age 60 or older

86

5

5

3

Northeast U.S. location

79

9

6

7

Midwest U.S. location

86

6

3

5

Southern U.S. location

89

6

5

0

Western U.S. location

88

3

4

5

Democrats

55

14

17

14

Independents

84

8

3

5

Republicans

99

1

0

0

Self-described political liberals

21

26

24

29

Self-described political moderates

85

9

4

1

Self-described political conservatives

99

0

0

0

From an NAE-member denomination

96

2

1

1

From an NCC-member denomination

67

12

11

10