The Rev. Jennie Barrington, left, performs the marriage ceremony of Amanda Boyd and Narkisha Scott at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., on May 12, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jacob Slaton

Pastors rarely asked to wed same-sex couples

(RNS) After the long debate before gay marriage was made legal in 2015, a survey shows that since then Protestant pastors have rarely been asked to officiate them.

More than 100,000 same-sex weddings have occurred since the Supreme Court ruling. But only 11 percent of senior church pastors, both mainline and evangelical, report having been asked to perform such a rite, according to a poll by LifeWay Research.

Mainline Protestant clergy were three times as likely as evangelical pastors to have been asked. Presbyterian or Reformed clergy are most likely -- 26 percent -- to have received a request to marry a same-sex couple, while Baptist pastors, at 1 percent, are the least likely.

“Have you been asked to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony?” Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research

“Have you been asked to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony?” Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Pastors 55 and older were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be asked to perform a same-sex ceremony.

“Most couples, if they want a church wedding, will ask a pastor they know or who they think will support them,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “For same-sex couples, this appears to be an older Presbyterian pastor.”

Researchers for the Nashville, Tenn., evangelical research firm also found that fewer than half of Protestant senior pastors say their churches permit LGBT people to serve, even in limited ways.

Despite the stereotypes of evangelicals being anti-gay, researchers found that fewer than half of evangelical pastors actually forbid LGBT people from serving in their churches. And mainline pastors, often viewed as LGBT-affirming, were split on whether LGBT people can serve.

“Where can an LGBT person serve in your church?” Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research

“Where can an LGBT person serve in your church?” Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Forty-four percent of all pastors surveyed said LGBT people can serve in “helping or serving roles.” Fewer said they could hold more prominent public positions, such as leadership roles (33 percent), teaching (32 percent) or leading worship (32 percent).

The findings, based on a phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors from March 9-24, 2016, had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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