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Overview On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court made a historic decision when it ruled 5-4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live. No longer may states reserve that right for heterosexual couples only.

METHODOLOGY

The study’s methodology mirrored that of the previous study to ensure consistency. United Methodist Communications contracted with Customer Research International (CRI), a fullservice marketing research firm located in the Austin-San Marcos, Texas, metropolitan area to According to Pew Research, the court’s ruling conduct a telephone survey with 800 pastors and didn’t really sway Americans’ opinions about same- church leaders randomly selected from a United sex marriage either way. “Currently, 54 percent Methodist church database. of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 39 percent are opposed. In Likewise, the agency worked with Corporate May, before the court’s ruling that made same-sex Research, a full-service marketing research firm marriage legal nationwide, 57 percent favored and located in Jamestown, N.C., to conduct an online 39 percent opposed same-sex marriage,” says a survey of 400 United Methodists who were already Pew report. part of an outside consumer panel. 100 Don't Know 100 Don't Know WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHURCH, WHAT WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVENESS 80 Strongly Disagree society is one in which INFLUENCE DOES 80 THE SUPREME COURT HAVE? “The mark of an inclusive Strongly Disagree open, welcoming, Somewhat Disagree fully accepting, United Methodists’ beliefs don’t appear to have all persons are 60 Somewhat Disagree and supporting of all other persons, enabling been affected60by the decision very much either. Neither Agree or Disagree in the life or of Disagree the church, That’s according to a survey by United Methodist them to participate fully Neither Agree 40 the community and the world.” Communications Somewhat Agree 40 that looks at pre- and postSomewhat Book Agreeof Discipline – United Methodist decision attitudes among pastors, church leaders 20 Strongly Agree and members about key issues affecting the church 20 Strongly Agree – including same-sex marriage, sexual orientation When asked if The United Methodist Church and 0statements in the United Methodist Book of should welcome and include all persons in worship Pastors Leaders Members 0 and church membership, the answer appears to be Discipline. Pastors Leaders Members a resounding “yes.” United Methodist Communications utilized comparison data from a study conducted in Pastors had the strongest opinions about this topic, November-December 2014 (“What it Means to be while members tended to be a little more likely not United Methodist”) among 1,250 pastors, church to take a stance, but there was little disagreement. leaders and members in the United States to see how attitudes changed over time. 100

85% 80 60 40 20 0

WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVENESS

100

85% 80

74%

Strongly Agree Strongly Agree

74%

57%

60

57%

Somewhat Agree Somewhat Agree

Neither AgreeNeither or Disagree Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree Strongly Disagree

40

19%16% 19% 16% 20 7% 7% 6% 3% 6% 3% 3% 1% 3% 1% 1% 1% 4% 2% 1% 1% 4% 2% 3% 1% 3% 1% 0% 0% 0 Pastors Leaders Members Members Pastors Leaders 19%

19%

2

Don't Know Don't Know


Should the law of the church be consistent with the law of the land? “THE FIRST AMENDMENT ENSURES THAT RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONS ARE GIVEN PROPER PROTECTION AS THEY SEEK TO TEACH THE PRINCIPLES THAT ARE SO FULFILLING AND SO CENTRAL TO THEIR LIVES AND FAITHS, AND TO THEIR OWN DEEP ASPIRATIONS TO CONTINUE THE FAMILY STRUCTURE THEY HAVE LONG REVERED.” – EXCERPT FROM THE SUPREME COURT’S DECISION ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE The Supreme Court’s ruling does not require churches to allow same-sex marriage or obligate clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The United Methodist Church’s position on samesex marriage remains the same as before the decision.

Pastors were most likely to say “no,” with 48 percent who “strongly disagreed,” 9 percent who “somewhat disagreed,” 23 percent who “strongly agreed,” and 9 percent who “somewhat agreed.”

Church leaders were mostly aligned with pastors, with 40 percent who “strongly disagreed,” 9 percent who “somewhat disagreed,” 26 percent Memb who “strongly agreed,” and 16 percent who Leade “somewhat agreed.”

“This Supreme Court decision calls attention to the difference between Strongly the lawsAgree of the United States and the policy of our church. The law does not require anyone to violate their conscience Strongly Strongly of what God has Agree called themDisagree to do, or their theological understanding,” said Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., president of the United Methodist Disagree Agree CouncilStrongly of Bishops, in a Strongly statement following the decision. “But, if we seek to be an inclusive church that serves all of our parishioners and all of our Strongly Agree Strongly Disagree neighbors, we will have to consider how we treat all people equally.”

Members

Church members were more evenly split, with 27 Pastor Leaders percent who “strongly disagreed,” 16 percent who “somewhat disagreed,” 27 percent who “strongly Pastors agreed,” and 15 percent who “somewhat agreed.”

When asked if they supported making changes to The Book of Discipline in order to be consistent, respondents answered in a similar fashion, with 0 30 60 90 120 150 56 percent of pastors who disagreed (strongly or Strongly Disagree The poll asked respondents whether The United somewhat) vs. 34 percent who agreed; 52 percent Methodist Church’s policies should of leaders who 0 and practices 30 60 90 120disagreed 150compared to 42 percent be consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision. who agreed; and 43 percent of members who agreed while 38 percent disagreed.

HOW STRONGLY DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT DECISION? THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH POLICIES AND PRACTICES SHOULD BE CONSISTENT WITHAgree THE SUPREME COURT DECISION. Strongly I SUPPORT MAKINGDisagree CHANGES TO Strongly THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE TO BE CONSISTENT WITH THE SUPREME Agree COURT DECISION. Strongly Disagree Strongly

Agree Strongly

Pastors

23% 26% 27%

Disagree Strongly

48%

40%

Leaders

27%

Members

26% 26% 24%

Agree Strongly Disagree Strongly

48% 0

20

3

46% 40

60

31% 80

100

120


Have attitudes changed post-decision? Overall, 44 percent of members agreed with the statement, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” in 2014. The 2015 poll also found that 44 percent of members agreed with the statement, although the number who strongly agreed dropped by 7 points (see chart below).

Regarding the statement, “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as ministers,” 44 percent of members agreed in 2014, compared to 36 percent in 2015. The percentage who disagreed rose from 38 to 44, while strong disagreement went from 22 to 30 percent. Concerning the statement, “Homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches,” 59 percent of pastors and 50 percent of leaders agreed in 2014 compared to 54 percent of pastors and 54 percent of leaders in 2015. Members’ agreement declined from 46 percent to 41 percent.

The change in pastors’ responses was similar to that of members in that strong agreement dropped by 6 points. The percentage of leaders who strongly agreed went the reverse, up from 39 to 44 percent.

BOOK OF DISCIPLINE STATEMENTS Pre or Post Supreme Court Decision

Pastors Leaders Members Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post

The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

49% 43% 39% 44% 30% 23%

Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as ministers. Homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

49% 43% 42% 43% 30% 26%

We affirm God’s grace is available to all and we seek to live together in Christian community.

94% 98% 95% 94% 77% 53%

Percent Agree Strongly

Nearly all pastors and leaders agreed with the statement, “We affirm God’s grace is available to all and we seek to live together in Christian community.” Ninety-one percent of members agreed in 2014, but the percentage fell 10 points to 81 percent in 2015, and the percent who strongly agreed dropped from 77 to 53 percent.

51% 46% 42% 46% 33% 25%

The survey’s results were similar across all groups regarding their likelihood of attending a church with a gay or lesbian pastor, though members displayed the highest willingness, with a little more than half saying they probably or definitely would attend. Data from 2014 were not available for this question. 4


30

29%

28%

LIKELIHOOD OF ATTENDANCE

28% 25%

25

22%

21%

22% 20%

20

16% 15

10

13% 14%

13%

14%

15%

10%

Definitely Would Attend Probably Would Attend Undecided Probably Would Not Attend Definitely Would Not Attend

5

0

Pastors

Leaders

Members

Support for local churches Should individual local United Methodist churches have the right to decide whether they support same-sex marriages? Forty percent of church pastors and leaders strongly disagreed, while another 12 percent of pastors and 10 percent of leaders somewhat disagreed.

to perform same-sex marriages. This is likely due to their role in the church. About half strongly agreed they would support local churches facing civil law suits brought against them if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages and about twothirds were in agreement overall.

Twenty-nine percent of members also strongly disagreed that it should be an individual local church decision, and 15 percent somewhat disagreed. However, more respondents from this group neither agreed nor disagreed (18 percent).

A majority of church leaders were also supportive, with 39 percent strongly agreeing and another 13 percent who somewhat agreed. Members who held opinions were split down the middle with support having a slight edge (40 percent vs. 38 percent), but 22 percent either had no opinion or didn’t know.

Pastors were the group most supportive of local churches that might face civil law suits for refusing

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Pastors

Leaders

Members

% % % % % % agree disagree agree disagree agree disagree strongly strongly strongly strongly strongly strongly

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the Supreme Court Decision?

I support the right of individual local United Methodist churches to decide whether they support same-sex marriages or not. I would support local churches facing civil law suits brought against them if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

19% 40% 21% 40% 15% 29% 50% 17% 39% 24% 26% 28% 5


Approaching General Conference 2016 IN ADDITION TO LOOKING AT ATTITUDES RELATED TO HUMAN SEXUALITY ISSUES, THE POLL ALSO ASKED PARTICIPANTS TO WEIGH IN ON HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH TO INCLUDE VARIOUS OTHER ISSUES IN DISCUSSIONS AT GENERAL CONFERENCE AND TO TAKE AN OFFICIAL STANCE. For pastors and leaders, data from 2014 enabled a comparison of how respondents’ concerns had changed over time. Since these questions were not asked in the members’ poll in 2014, no comparison could be made.

to 2015, reflecting concerns over heightened tensions in race relations in the United States. Many mass shootings in the news this year may have influenced increased concerns over gun control and Second Amendment issues.

The issues of sexual orientation and same-sex marriage ranked higher following the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015. Other issues that were ranked higher in importance than they were last year may be seen to reflect current events in the news.

Other headlines in 2015 proclaiming terrorist attacks, ongoing armed conflicts around the world, the growing European migrant crisis and more have, perhaps, fueled increased interest in those topics as well. Pastors and leaders are the groups most likely to say it is important for the denomination to speak out on these issues.

Discrimination against ethnic minorities ranked highly among all groups and increased from 2014

KEY ISSUES

HOW IMPORTANT TO YOU IS IT THAT THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH INCLUDE THESE ISSUES IN ITS DISCUSSIONS AT GENERAL CONFERENCE AND TAKE AN OFFICIAL STAND ON THE FOLLOWING? Pastors

Percent Very Important

Leaders

Members

Pre or Post Supreme Court Decision

Pre

Post

Pre

Post

Pre

Post

Discrimination against ethnic minorities

60%

71%

60%

69%

27%

-

Sexual orientation and same-sex marriage

54%

67%

50%

64%

31%

-

Refugees from war, poverty and religious persecution

48%

58%

45%

57%

18%

-

Comprehensive immigration reform

39%

49%

46%

46%

19%

-

Income inequality

37%

47%

28%

34%

16%

-

Conflict around the world

37%

51%

40%

55%

22%

-

Environmental responsibility

33%

44%

38%

48%

22%

-

Death penalty

25%

34%

25%

30%

13%

-

Climate change

25%

29%

22%

26%

11%

-

Gun control/2nd amendment issues

21%

36%

28%

38%

18%

-

Legalization of marijuana

8%

12%

12%

23%

13%

-

6


10 0

A favorable outlook for the denomination’s Pre Post Pre Postfuture Pre Post DESPITE APPARENT CONTRASTS IN OPINIONS ABOUT SEXUALITY ISSUES, ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF ALL RESPONDENTS REMAIN QUITE HOPEFUL ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WITH A RATING OF 7 OR HIGHER ON A SCALE OF 10. When asked, “How hopeful are you about the future of The United Methodist Church?”, leaders were most likely to see the future as very bright, with 42 percent giving a ranking of 9 or 10 in 2014 and 43 percent citing a 9 or 10 in 2015. Another 43 percent cited a 7 or 8 in 2014 compared to 28 percent in 2015.

In contrast, members’ hopefulness downshifted, going from 43 percent who said 9 or 10 in 2014 to 29 percent in 2015. Still, they remained very much in the upper half, with 42 percent citing 7 or 8 in 2015 compared to 35 percent in 2014. Only about 5 percent of members gave a hopefulness score of less than 5.

Largely, pastors also remained optimistic, with 30 percent in 2014 and 33 percent in 2015 rating the future at a 9 or 10. Another 37 percent in 2014 and 31 percent in 2015 placed the denomination’s outlook at 7 or 8.

Pastors were the group most likely to cite a very low ranking (1 to 4), both in 2014 and 2015.

HOPEFULNESS FOR THE FUTURE 50

42 43 37

40

30

33

30

33

43

43

36

42 35

31

29

28 29

29

22 20

15 9-10 7-8 0-6

10

0

Pre

Post

PASTORS

Pre

Post

LEADERS 7

Pre

Post

MEMBERS


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Profile for United Methodist Communications

Did the Supreme Court's decision affect United Methodists' attitudes?  

A new survey from United Methodist Communications found that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in June to allow same-gender couples...

Did the Supreme Court's decision affect United Methodists' attitudes?  

A new survey from United Methodist Communications found that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in June to allow same-gender couples...

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