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How do Methodists view homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Some poll results

About 150 protestors shut down the afternoon plenary session on May 16, 2016, during the United Methodist General Conference for about 20 minutes as the quadrennial conference started its second week. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

The United Methodist Church is meeting for its quadrennial general conference. The most contentious issue facing the church is the role of LGBT members. Despite protests, the denomination is holding to its positions prohibiting LGBT clergy and same-sex weddings. The division is raising the possibility of a split within the denomination.

But how does the typical United Methodist view these issues?

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has over 12 million members worldwide. About 7.2 million of these are in the USA. While we can’t say much about UMC members globally, a recent poll gives us a snapshot of how the typical UMC member in America views LGBT issues.

The Pew Religious Landscape Study polled more than 35,000 Americans in 2014. This large sample resulted in over 1,600 Methodists being asked about their religious beliefs and their political views. The result is a snapshot into how the UMC is divided over issues of sexuality.

Pew chart

Sample size for 2014 = 1,637. Source: Pew Religious Landscape Survey 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/

 

A majority of the UMC now views homosexuality as something that should be accepted (or at least not discouraged). Sixty percent of Methodists say that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” Only 32 percent say it should be”discouraged.” Acceptance of homosexuality has risen by 10 points since Pew conducted its first survey seven years ago.

 

Pew chart

Source: Pew Religious Landscape Survey 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/

 

Compared to other mainline denominations, however, the UMC remains less supportive of LGBT acceptance. Eight-in-ten members of The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ are supportive of LGBT inclusion. The UMC is also less accepting than the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Luthern Church in America. Of course, the UMC is far more accepting than the typical evangelical. Just over a third of evangelicals think society should be accepting of homosexuality.

 

Source: Pew Religious Landscape Survey 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/

Source: Pew Religious Landscape Survey 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/

 

But acceptance of homosexuality in society does not mean that members believe that it should be accepted in the church.

We can get a glimpse into this by looking at same-sex marriage. Across all denominations, there is less support for same-sex marriage. In the UMC, the membership is split with 49 percent favoring same-sex marriage and 43 percent opposing it.

While most Americans do not distinguish between civil and religious weddings, some do. In those cases, we would expect less support for same-sex weddings in the church.

The poll did not ask about the ordination of LGBT clergy. But based on the other questions, I would assume that the membership would be evenly divided or lean against ordination.

The poll shows that the division at the general meeting reflects a division within the church membership. Unlike other mainline denominations, Methodists are not solidly in favor of accepting homosexuality and they are split over same-sex marriage. Yet, the UMC is more liberal than evangelical denominations that remain opposed to LGBT acceptance.

The question that now faces the UMC is whether to remain united amidst the tension or allow its liberal and conservative congregations to part ways.

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About the author

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

40 Comments

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  • Since most main line churches are more than 50% in favor of being supportive of our LBGT sisters and brothers, do you not agree that the UMC should give full acceptance and inclusion a try? Let us not disenfranchise any of God’s people due to personal prejudices, as we have in the past when it came to our African American sisters and brothers.

  • ” …do you not agree that the UMC should give full acceptance and inclusion a try? ”

    ” Let us not disenfranchise any of God’s people due to personal prejudices, as we have in the past… ”

    Good points.

  • Nope, the bible does not condemn homosexuality in any form. Poor translations coupled with deliberate distortions have led to many scriptural inaccuracies.

  • any Christian worth his salt would treat non-Christian people with respect,and compassion, it all boils down to one thing-do you believe that Gods word condemns not believing that Jesus died for your sins as sinful,and harmful to the eternal souls of those who partake in non-Christian beliefs..

  • we believe in Jesus Christ who taught us that he was God in human flesh and that the only thing that separates us from him at death is our sin and that is why he came to earth -to take upon himself our sins,which he did on the cross on Calvary

    Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the barrier of sin that we had erected of our own free will, that separated ourselves from the Father -he tells us that sinful people cannot survive in heaven, Jesus himself said to the Pharisees….. ch 8 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins…..everyone who sins is a slave to sin, but if the Son sets you free,you will be free indeed!!–the fact is that God loves each and every one of us so much that he took upon himself all the badness that we have done in our lives so that,after death our souls will not be held back by our sin,but will be able to ascend to him to be with him forever

    it is a bit like a parent who sees his child suffering in some way,that parent would do anything within his power to take away what was troubling his / her child, and would if at all possible take the childs suffering upon his / herself, so that the little one could be free, this is exactly what God has done for us,because of his infinite love for us

    the fact is that it is not Jesus rejecting them, but THEY OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL REJECT HIM !

  • Do you mean like he failed to get the Christian memo to them? or he sent a fear monger like Franklin Graham? OR a grifter like Osteen or Dollar?

  • It’s based on ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic translations by widely accepted biblical experts in those languages. But you are certainly welcome to believe what you wish too.

  • saint John who wrote the fourth gospel also wrote in the book of Revelation- After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (who is Jesus Christ ) praise and glory, wisdom and thanks,honour and power and praise be to our God for ever and ever amen

    the fact is in our own human wisdom,nobody can know the human soul—but the truth is, that anyone in heaven, are all there because Jesus died and took upon himself their sins so that they could be with him……….

    as for the people that never had the chance to know of God at all-just trust them to gods infinite wisdom and mercy -there is not anybody separated from God and his kingdom who did not deserve to be

  • The truth is, that the Bible has not been rewritten. Take the New Testament, for example. The disciples of Jesus wrote the New Testament in Greek, and though we do not have the original documents, we do have around 6,000 copies of the Greek manuscripts that were made very close to the time of the originals. These various manuscripts–or copies–agree with each other to almost 100 percent accuracy. Statistically, the New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. That means that there is only 1/2 of one percent of all the copies that do not agree with each other perfectly. But, if you take that 1/2 of one percent and examine it, you find that the majority of the “problems” are nothing more than spelling errors and very minor word alterations. For example, instead of saying, “Jesus,” a variation might be “Jesus Christ.” So the actual amount of textual variation of any concern is extremely low. Therefore, we can say that we have a remarkably accurate compilation of the original documents.

  • Consider I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:8-10, Romans 1:26-27 and judge how we ought to behave within the circle of a family, the society and church…….

  • you’ve obviously never taken an academic course on the scriptures. Nearly every single book in the canon was first, passed around orally for a period of years–decades or even centuries–before being written down. And ever since their first writing, most of the biblical books have been chopped, diced, edited, re-edited, translated, interpolated , retranslated and edited again. We know the actual names of the authors of very few of the books in the canon; and even the canon itself has been disputed since the idea of agreeing upon a canon was first floated in the Fourth Century, and is *still* not agreed upon in either the West, the East or in the African churches. We haven’t even agreed on which manuscripts or families of manuscripts are to be accepted as “authoritative.” And the discoveries at Qumram beginning in the late 1940s and continuing in the present have further complicated the issue with each discovery of a new cache of manuscripts. Meanwhile, we have fought, tortured and killed people over whichtexts are and aren’t canonical and what makes them so; how they’re to be interpreted, and have even killed one another over who has the right to interpret them.

    Every one of these disputations I’ve mentioned continue to this day–meaning they’ve continued for a good seventeen centuries. To say “the bible has not been rewritten” rather trivializes the issues, to say nothing of believers’ blood that has been shed by other believers.

  • It does, however, seem not to care for same-sex rape (at least in the case of Sodom) or for temple prostitution. But you’re right: unless you count the relationship between David and Jonathan or the Centurion and his valued slave, the bible is remarkably silent on same-sex love.

  • any Christian worth his salt would treat homosexual people with respect,and compassion, it all boils down to one thing-do you believe that Gods word condemns homosexual acts as sinful,and harmful to the eternal souls of those who partake in them,

  • the very early Church Christians , the early Church fathers,some of whom were alive when the apostles were still preaching who wrote letters,and sermons (which we have in archives today) to the faithful,which were totally in accordance with scripture as it is today, would find your modern interprolations, misunderstandings, and revisionisms, very worrying,
    as would many modern day respected scripture scholars

  • Christianspeak for “I do not respect your views and think badly of you as a person, but don’t want to argue the point”

  • Do you believe “love thy neighbor” is a conditional statement?

    Evidently you think there are unspoken escape clauses from trying people as human beings. From acting directly as Jesus commanded his flock.

  • I’m not sure what you mean about ” a conditional statement” I do know that Our Lord asks us to love God, love our neighbour,love our enemies,and love one another as he has loved us,so that all people will know that we are his disciples,-we can only really achieve this by the gift / power of his Spirit

    and I don’t understand what you mean about “unspoken escape clauses”,

    I do know that he requires of us to speak his truth in love and humility and to love and respect others whatever their beliefs,and whether they accept his truth or not

  • “that is your belief, God bless you”
    – when I wrote this statement in reply to her leftness, there was no hidden meaning, I meant exactly that I respect you for your faith, I may or may not agree with you, but I do ask the Lord to bless you,grant you his Grace and peace and his Spirit to lead you in your walk with him in life.

  • Anti-gays always tell us they would prefer we ignore the fact that the Bible never shows Jesus saying, “Attack LGBT people and deprive them of the ability to protect their spouses the way all others can,” but rather that Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Instead, they demand we only tune into a deranged misogynist who never met Jesus, but whose political agenda matches their own. Does this mean anti-gays are not Christians, but are really Paulines?

  • Please avoid using the epithet above to name LGBT Americans. The New York Times and AP suggest avoiding that epithet because it has the effect of reducing LGBT Americans to a sex act.

  • There never was an anti-gay who didn’t post hidden meanings, what the media now calls “dog whistles.”

  • On a related note, today is the 46th anniversary of the date that uber-Christian and arch-homohater Anita Bryant filed for divorce from her husband Bob. It was not because of adultery, either his or hers, which was the only reason that divorce was not sinful, according to Jesus. He was god, and he should know.

    It was because, according to Bryant’s statement, which the AP reported she released “from her 25-room Miami Beach home” (Who said, ” It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich woman to enter the kingdom of heaven?” No one important.)……….

    She charged that Good Ol’ Bob cooperated “with certain hired staff members who conspired to control me and to use my name and reputation to build their personal careers instead of my ministry.” Her statement brought to a close their twenty year marriage. She even went so far as to claim that her divorce was “against everything I believe in.”

    Well, almost everything. But convenience is a harsh mistress.

    For those who think that I am just an anti-Christian “homosexual”, perverted by my perverted perversions of perverted lust,. No, I’m not. I just wish you would all attend to your own sins, rather than trying to find excuses for them, and stop attacking my life, my love, my family, my friends, my faith, and my children…

    …under the guise of loving me. Because I find your attacks completely indistinguishable from hate, and your moralizing completely indistinguishable from hypocrisy. As in “Scribes! Pharisees! Hypocrites!”
    And again, who said that?

    No one important.

  • Modern Biblical scholars have proven the Bible was intentionally mistranslated relatively recently in order to provide “Biblical cover” for then-rising levels of homophobia. For example, the word “homosexual” didn’t even exist until 1870. Many major Christian and Jewish denominations condemn misusing the hate-based mistranslations to attack their fellow Americans and are marrying same gender American couples now. About 400 years ago, a group of religious authorities (sanctioned by King James I of England), secretly manipulated the English version of the Bible to reflect their own heterosexual attitude; they opposed the King kissing other men in public. But in revised versions, religious authorities re-defined the Greek word “arsenokoites” of 1 Corinthians 6:9. The most accurate translation, abusers of themselves with mankind [KJV], was pretty vague. Nevertheless, they replaced this vague 5-worded text with the not so vague and purposely targeted 1-word text, “homosexual(s).” Either way you cut it, this text does not describe loving, committed same gender couples. This campaign gave those who were looking for a reason to justify their own homophobia a license to openly express their bigotry.

  • But the new “freedom of religion means forcing my beliefs onto others” laws demonstrate Christianists (as opposed to Christians) have a complete lack of respect for the beliefs of others as well as genuine Freedom Of Religion.”

  • I wasn’t aware that anyone was forcing their beliefs on anybody -this forum seems to me to be one that promotes exchanges of,ideas and schools of thought, but done respectfully,

  • Thank you for your support. You are protecting your own Freedom and Equality. Anti-gays attacked our Constitution. Who would anti-gays attack next?

  • You don’t remember the 32 state anti-gay Hate Votes that deprived LGBT Americans of the right to legal marriage, accompanied by deceptive political ads television stations could not turn down that demeaned, demonized and dehumanized LGBT Americans? You aren’t aware of the current spate of fake “freedom of religion” bills in state houses that seek to provide a special right to anti-gays to attack their intended LGBT victims?

    These are just the most recent and egregious attempts by anti-gays to force their “beliefs” onto normal, non-homophobic Americans by misusing the force of the Law.

  • I’ve posted that previously on this thread. Modern Biblical scholars have proven the Bible was intentionally mistranslated relatively recently in order to provide “Biblical cover” for then-rising levels of homophobia. For example, the word “homosexual” didn’t even exist until 1870. Many major Christian and Jewish denominations condemn misusing the hate-based mistranslations to attack their fellow Americans and are marrying same gender American couples now. About 400 years ago, a group of religious authorities (sanctioned by King James I of England), secretly manipulated the English version of the Bible to reflect their own heterosexual attitude; they opposed the King kissing other men in public. But in revised versions, religious authorities re-defined the Greek word “arsenokoites” of 1 Corinthians 6:9. The most accurate translation, abusers of themselves with mankind [KJV], was pretty vague. Nevertheless, they replaced this vague 5-worded text with the not so vague and purposely targeted 1-word text, “homosexual(s).” Either way you cut it, this text does not describe loving, committed same gender couples. This campaign gave those who were looking for a reason to justify their own homophobia a license to openly express their bigotry.

  • I think that the pope got it right when he said -: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” he further expanded on this statement with this- there may be some things that you may find hard to take -but it puts to bed the lie that all other Christians that do not agree with you are to be labelled as homophobes!

    http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2016/01/10/3737836/pope-francis-explains-who-am-i-to-judge/

    the RC Cathechism states… They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties that they may encounter

    we are to defend hold on to the truth and pattern of sound teaching of the gospel you have heard , with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.…

  • Then again two different people writing up two different versions, one saying “Jesus” and the other “Jesus Christ,” might be expressing diametrically opposite views on a major, central point of doctrine.

    -dlj.

  • There is ample manuscript Evidence. There are way more copies of the biblical manuscripts, with remarkable consistency between them, than there are for any of the classics like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.” F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

    Also there is Archaeological Evidence. Again and again archaeological discoveries have verified the accuracy of the historical and cultural references in the Bible. The more they dig, the more it confirms the Bible. “It is important to note that Near Eastern archaeology has demonstrated the historical and geographical reliability of the Bible in many important areas.

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