Support for same-sex marriage among Protestant pastors has surged in the last decade, driven almost entirely by pastors from mainline denominations. In 2010, about a third of pastors who self-identified as Mainline said they supported same-sex marriage. Today, that number has jumped to 47 percent.
That’s according to a new study from Lifeway Research, which found that support for same-sex marriage has grown among all Protestant pastors across the last decade, though a majority still disapprove. All told, 24 percent of pastors say they approve of same-sex marriage, while 72 percent disagree — with 67 percent saying they “strongly disagree.” That’s a shift from a decade ago when just 15 percent of pastors approved of same-sex marriage.
“More than four years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, most Protestant pastors still see a moral problem with it,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “More pastors are protective of marriage itself, but legal civil unions also are seen as wrong by most pastors.”
Statistically speaking, evangelical pastors have seen almost no change in their support. In 2010, 8 percent of evangelical pastors said they supported same-sex marriage — the same percentage do today. The study suggested that stability is likely because most evangelical pastors who decide to affirm same-sex marriage would stop identifying as evangelical.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage has the support of 49 percent of Presbyterian or Reformed pastors, 47 percent of Methodist pastors, 35 percent of Lutheran pastors and 20 percent of Christian/Church of Christ pastors. On the other end of the scale are Baptist (3 percent) and Pentecostal pastors (1 percent).
In addition, the study found that white pastors (27 percent) are more likely to support same-sex marriage than black pastors (15 percent), and pastors with a doctorate (27 percent) or a master’s degree (32 percent) or more likely to approve than those with bachelor’s degree (9 percent) or no college degree (6 percent).