Mainline Clergy Support Church/State Separation May 23, 2009

Mainline Clergy Support Church/State Separation

The 2008 Clergy Voices Survey involved surveying senior clergy from the seven largest Mainline denominations of Christianity — United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) — on a variety of issues.

The findings are not what you might expect:

  • On a range of policy issues, Mainline Protestant clergy are generally more supportive of LGBT rights than the general population, and mostly in line with Mainline Protestants overall.
  • Overall, close to half (45%) of Mainline Protestant clergy support the ordination of gay and lesbian people with no special requirements.
  • Mainline clergy believe strongly in separation of religious institutions and the state and are willing to differentiate their religious beliefs from their public policy opinions.
  • Strong majorities of clergy in most Mainline denominations, and a slim majority overall, believe that the church should not oppose efforts to make homosexuality acceptable in society.

Here’s a great visual:



So what does all this mean?

Ilana Stern at Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains:

These results are interesting because for so many years, it seems the public discourse has been dominated by fundamentalist religious leaders who oppose church-state separation. Last year, a band of clergy, prodded by the Alliance Defense Fund, went so far as to deliberately violate federal tax law by endorsing U.S. Sen. John McCain from their pulpits.

The Religious Right labored hard to make it appear that most clergy support pulpit politicking and are view the church-state wall as oppressive. In fact, while the voices that parrot this perspective are often loud, that does not mean they speak for the majority of U.S. religious leaders.

(via The Wall of Separation)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • SBC wasn’t included? I think you would have gotten different results if they had.

  • I think that’s encouraging news. Now I’d like to see clergy in those churches start speaking out about fundamentalists. They are hurting reasonable people of faith by associating Christianity with the worst of intolerance and the mixing of politics and religion.

  • medussa

    If this majority would grow some balls and stand up and challenge the abusers of power among christian clergy, we wouldn’t be needing atheist ad campaigns, lawsuits, and protests.
    I would have no issue living side by side with people who choose to believe silly superstition, but have no intention of foisting that nonsense onto me, mine, or our legal and educational system.

    But for them to stand silently by and allow the christian fundamentalists to hijack the entire american religious community is to silently accept those terms and to be guilty by association.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Gosh, if all the clergy support separation of church and state, why does all my money say “In God We Trust,” and why are school children made to recite the God-awful pledge of allegiance?

    I think use of the word “mainline” is questionable. As the official position of these churches has become more liberal, customers have flocked to the more conservative Evangelical/Fundamentalist brands. As Robert Madewell has already noted, exclusion of the SBC tells a story. Catholics not counted as well? That’s a large fraction of U.S. christians right there (unless you accept the position that Catholics are not Christians, which I have heard from some Southern Baptists).

  • It did say mainline Protestants which automatically excludes Catholics, that whole Protestant Reformation thingy. I also wonder why the SBC wasn’t included? I think their answers would have been significantly different.

  • mkb

    Mainline churches is a term of art. It goes back to the Philadelphia Mainline with its very waspy churches. Evangelical churches are not mainline. Catholics are not either. Mainline churches, I think, all belong to the National Council of Churches. They used to run the country but now only represent 18% of it.

  • Caitlin

    I’m proud of the UCC. I was a scout at one of their churches, and of the three rotating pastors they had, two were openly gay

  • Meta

    How weird is it that after five or six years of being an atheist, I still feel like I have a stake in the church I grew up in? I was looking at that graph and thinking, “Rock on, Episcopalians.”

    Caitlin sounds like she’s doing the same thing – anyone else?

  • Heh. I grew up in the UCC. Can’t say I’m surprised.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I grew up Catholic, was not sexually abused, and had no grudges. But with the current leadership, i.e. Pope Indulgence, I cannot maintain any sense of connection with the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and actually think less of anyone who still calls themself Catholic.

  • Brett Davis

    Actually, most churches do not believe in separation of church and state because they have received tax-exempt status from the government. It is this state funding which allows the government to tell a church what can or cannot be said in the pulpit. If a church does not pursue exemption from paying taxes, they can legally say anything they want about politics, or anything else for that matter. As long as they are exempt, they are not separate.

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