Pastors appear to be much better informed than Christians generally, especially among mainstream Christian denominations, and particularly on issues of science. They understand better that creationism shouldn’t be taught in public school science classes.
On a broad range of issues, mainline clergy affirm equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Roughly two‐thirds of mainline clergy support some legal recognition for same‐sex couples (65%), passing hate crime laws (67%) and employment nondiscrimination protections for gay and lesbian people (66%). A majority (55%) of mainline clergy support adoption rights for gay and lesbian people. Mainline Protestant clergy are strong advocates of church state separation.
A majority (65%) of mainline clergy agree that the U.S. should “maintain a strict separation of church and state.” Mainline clergy are more worried about public officials who are too close to religious leaders (59%) than about public officials who do not pay enough attention to religion (41%).
Mainline clergy are more likely to publicly address hunger and poverty and family issues than controversial social issues. More than 8‐in‐10 clergy say they publicly expressed their views about hunger and poverty often in the last year, and three‐quarters say they addressed marriage and family issues often. Only about one‐quarter (26%) say they often discussed the issues of abortion and capital punishment.
But where is the Methodist church falling down in getting clergy who understand science? If 54% of Methodist pastors don’t think evolution is the best explanation for diversity of life (the question got muddled in the questionnaire, alas), no wonder their congregations are so misinformed. You’d think they’d know better. You’d think the denomination would be truer to its roots of making the minister the best-informed guy in town.
I’m looking at Clergy Voices: Findings from the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey, released in March. Public Religion Research conducted the poll. More details from PRR, here.
Mainline clergy views of evolution and its place in public school curriculum are complex. On the one hand, the majority of mainline clergy (54%) do not support the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public school biology classes. On the other hand, mainline clergy are more evenly divided in their views about the theory of evolution itself. Forty‐four percent of mainline ministers say that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of life on earth, and a similar number disagrees (43%). United Methodist clergy and American Baptist clergy are most likely to disagree. Seven‐in‐ten American Baptist clergy (70%) and a majority (53%) of United Methodist clergy say that evolution is not the best explanation for the origins of life on earth.
One question glaringly missing: Should Christians stick to the facts about science?
Tip of the old scrub brush to Bruce Tomaso at the Dallas Morning News Religionblog.