August 2008 Issue
Split on If Homosexuality is a Sin
by Mark Kelly
Americans hold differing opinions
on the issue of homosexuality, including whether homosexual behavior
is sinful. A similar percentage of Americans consider homosexual
behavior sinful to those who do not, and neither view gains a
majority, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The study
also found that Americans' views of homosexuality affects their
openness to participation in a church.
A telephone survey of 1,201 American adults conducted in April
revealed that 48 percent of all Americans believe homosexual behavior
is sinful, while 45 percent believe it is not sinful, almost a
statistical tie when considering the margin of error.
The percentage is slightly different when the respondent indicates
he or she knows someone with same-sex attraction, with 49 percent
indicating it is not sinful. Among those who have a religious
affiliation, 55 percent of Catholics and 31 percent of Protestants
said they do not believe homosexual behavior is sinful. That number
dropped to 17 percent among born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist
Holding opposing views, 39 percent of Catholics, 61 percent
of Protestants, and 79 percent of born-again, evangelical, or
fundamentalist Protestants said they do believe homosexual behavior
Twenty-nine percent of Americans said their decision to visit
or join a church would be positively affected if that congregation
taught homosexual behavior is a sin. Among Catholics, that number
dropped to 23 percent. Thirty-eight percent of Protestants and
50 percent of born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Protestants
said they would be more likely to visit or join a church if it
taught homosexual behavior is sinful.
Thirty-two percent of Americans almost one in three
said their decision to visit or join a church would be
negatively affected if that congregation taught homosexual behavior
is sinful. Among Catholics and Protestants, that number is 27
percent. It dropped further to 21 percent among born-again, evangelical,
or fundamentalist Protestants. Among those who never attend any
place of worship, 49 percent said this teaching would negatively
affect their decision to visit or join a church.
Those statistics should give church leaders pause and lead
them to strike an important but delicate balance between demonstrating
Christ's love for all people while still presenting a biblical
teaching about homosexual behavior, LifeWay Research director
Ed Stetzer said.
"It's surprising to see how
many Catholics disagree with the clear teaching of their church
or, for that matter, the percentage of Protestants who consider
themselves born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist who do not
believe homosexuality is a sin," Stetzer said. "Seventeen
percent in that latter category may seem low compared to the others,
but considering these people consider themselves born-again, evangelical,
or fundamentalist, it reminds us of the need for clear biblical
teaching on the issue in our community."
The trajectory in Western culture is toward greater acceptance
of homosexuality, Stetzer noted, but evangelical Christians cannot
base their convictions about homosexuality on what polls say or
the values portrayed in the media.
"We did not develop our views of sexuality because we
flipped a coin or took a poll," he said. "We believe
the teaching of Scripture is clear that monogamous, heterosexual
marriage is God's best for people, culture, and society."
Stetzer also pointed to the challenge in the data. "Almost
a third of Americans and almost half of those who do not attend
a place of worship the people we are trying to reach
say our view of sexual morality would negatively impact their
decision to visit our churches," Stetzer said. "It's
clear we have a challenging but essential task. We need to strive
to show the love of Christ, while upholding the standard of Scripture,
to those who struggle with same-sex attraction."
The survey also asked participants which factors they thought
contributed to same-sex attraction and gave them six options:
choice, determined at birth (inevitable), influenced at birth
(but not inevitable), childhood abuse, lack of bonding with parent,
and lack of same-sex parent role modeling.
Among the sample of all Americans, 51 percent selected choice.
Fifty-three percent of Catholics and Protestants and 60 percent
of born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Protestants picked
Among the sample of all Americans, 38 percent said same-sex
attraction was determined at birth, while 47 percent of Catholics,
33 percent of Protestants, and 25 percent of born-again, evangelical,
or fundamentalist Protestants selected that option. About one-quarter
of adult Americans indicated that childhood abuse, lack of same-sex
parent role modeling, lack of bonding with parent, and influence
at birth were contributing factors to same-sex attraction.
According to the survey, 66 percent of Americans are personally
acquainted with someone who is attracted to people of the same
sex. That percentage held among Protestants and 68 percent of
Catholics answered in the affirmative.
The size of the survey sample provided a 95 percent confidence
that the sampling error did not exceed 2.9 percent for questions
asked of the entire sample. More detailed breakdowns of the data,
as well as responses to questions not included in this report,
may be found at lifewayresearch.com.
Mark Kelly is a member of Peace Community
Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, and is an assistant editor with
Southern Baptist Ministry to Homosexuals
by Dwayne Hastings
After a year in his role as national strategist for gender
issues for the Southern Baptist Convention, Bob Stith told messengers
at the SBC's annual meeting in Indianapolis that much has been
accomplished in one year, yet much remains to be done.
"This issue isn't going way," said Stith, who works
with the Convention's Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force.
Stith officially began his new role last June after thirty-seven
years as pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas.
Few church leaders have received training for ministering to
those in the homosexual lifestyle, Stith said, adding that homosexuality
is a "defining issue for the church" in the 21st century.
"We need to be driven by a passion to make men and women
whole in Jesus Christ," Stith said.
Citing results from a survey commissioned by LifeWay Research,
a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, Stith said only 26
percent of SBC pastors polled said they had received such training.
The survey revealed only 9 percent of church staff and laity had
been trained to reach out to homosexuals with the love of Christ.
"This reveals a radical disconnect between what we say
we know and what we are teaching our people," Stith said
on the first day of the June 10-11 SBC meeting at the Indiana
He noted that four hundred church leaders recently were invited
to a one-day workshop to aid churches in this area of ministry.
Stith said approximately fifteen representatives from those churches
showed up for an informational breakfast about the conference,
which was to be held at the church in Southlake, Texas, where
Stith is a member.
Yet, on the day of the conference, only one church was represented.
"People are dying for a lack of knowledge," Stith
said. "We have to do better."
Only 22 percent of SBC pastors agreed with the statement "Southern
Baptists are sufficiently ministering to persons with same-sex
attractions," he said of the LifeWay survey.
Again citing the LifeWay survey, Stith said 91 percent of young
adults view the church as "anti-homosexual."
"We must become known as a people of redemption, as people
who hold out hope," Stith said, encouraging Southern Baptists
to visit www.sbcthewayout.com for more information.
"We need to communicate to people how they can come alongside
those who are struggling," Stith said, adding that otherwise,
"Our silence will be a death threat to many people."
It was Stith who introduced the motion at the 2001 Southern
Baptist Convention meeting that called on the SBC to "establish
a task force to inform, educate, and encourage our people to be
proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle
with unwanted same-sex attractions."
Dwayne Hastings is a member of Clearview
Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and is vice president of
editorial and print communications for the Southern Baptist Convention
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
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