Churches now more accepting of gays and lesbians as members, less so as leaders

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This graphic is not offered for republication.

A report on a national survey churches finds churches have grown more accepting of gays and lesbians. Just under half of local churches would welcome gays and lesbians as members. Only one-in-four churches would allow gays and lesbians to assume positions of leadership.

The National Congregations Study is the most rigorous survey of local religious congregations in the United States. The NCS surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,300 local congregations. This the third wave of the NCS.  A report by Mark Chaves (Duke University) and Shawna Anderson (NORC) includes key findings from the 2012 NCS, including the changing place of gays and lesbians in American churches since the last wave in 2006.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

In 2012, 48 percent of local congregations said they would “permit gays and lesbians to be full-fledged members.” This is up from from 37 percent just six years earlier.

Being a “full-fledged member” does not mean that someone is qualified for leadership. Three-quarters of American churches do not allow LGBT persons to take a voluntary leadership position. This is higher than in 2006, when only 18 percent of churches reported that gays and lesbians could be leaders.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

These changes are not the same across all religious traditions.

  • The increases were largest among black Protestant and liberal Protestant (mainline) churches.
  • Catholic parishes actually reported a decline in acceptance of gays and lesbians as “full-fledged members” (74% to 56%) and as leaders (39% to 26%).
  • White conservative (evangelical) churches are more likely to accept gay and lesbian members (16% to 24%), but continued to deny LGBT members to be in leadership (only four percent).


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  • Billysees

    Tobin writes —

    “A report on a national survey churches finds churches have grown more accepting of gays and lesbians.”

    That’s great news.

    Man’s ways are of the Lord, how can we understand our own ways…………Proverbs 20:24

    It’s slowly beginning to be realized that LGBT’s are included here.

  • Franken

    Homosexual behavior is still a sin. No changing that.

  • ben in oakland

    Human existence is sin, Frank. Original sin, needing Christ’s redemption, and all that?

    remember that next time you point your fingers at gay people. “There is none righteous. no, not one.”

  • Anon

    Can you discuss the high percentage of Black Protestants who would accept gay members? I’m curious as to the differences among Black churches, given the theological diversity of these groups. In general, I question the analytical value of the category.

  • Frank

    I am glad you finally admit homosexual behavior is sinful.

  • Rev. James (UCC)

    It would be interesting to see if these same trends held for congregations’ acceptance of openly gay and lesbian clergy, leaders presumably called by God to their work. Obviously, conservatives wouldn’t hire gay clergy, but is there a greater acceptance among progressives?

  • I confirmed UCC at age sixteen at an excellent church west of Minneapolis who have recently added Spanish immersion day school classes to their routine in the building. That particular church voted yes to gay rights including marriage. I feel alienated from churches due to bipolar diagnosis that began for me at 29. The strength of the gay positions in culture is that those are not regarded as illnesses or disorders, whereas depression, as one common example, is. Illness is regarded as undesirable in almost every way, while GLBT are associated with loving relationships and justice and equality. UCC has provided useful information about feelings and well-being on its web sites, yet I am left feeling there is no place to go, even though I confirmed. UU is not Christian, yet it comes from the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. It shuns mental cases. I wish it would ask a few more questions before doing so, to discover who it is shunning. There was a 6’4″ tran woman who glowered at me each Sunday, as if she were in a stare-down contest to be most important woman in the room. After a while, I left without establishing friendships and while vaguely wishing for a more spiritual service. Comments welcome, in particular denominational suggestions. Judaism, UU, and UCC are most akin to my religious inklings.

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  • Rev Joel

    I am gay, a UCC member, on the Leadership Team/Board and oversee a ministry. God crested me, God called me to do his work, and so it is. Anybody who has issue with that, take it up with God.

  • Rev Joel

    Created me……..not crested. Sorry for the typo

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