SBC Life Articles

Poll: U.S. Split on If Homosexuality is a Sin

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 Protestants.

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 is sinful.

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 that option.

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.



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 Convention Center.

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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