Support for same-sex marriage stalls among both evangelical and mainline Protestant pastors

Church Front

A new study by Lifeway Research revealed a trend among Protestant pastors in the United States in the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. The report, released in June 2024, shows that only 21% of surveyed pastors currently approve of same-sex marriage, marking a slight decline from the 24% who expressed approval in 2019.

This stability is particularly noteworthy because earlier trends indicated a rise in support, especially among mainline Protestant denominations. However, even within these more liberal branches, acceptance for same-sex marriage has stagnated, with less than half (46%) of mainline pastors voicing approval in both 2019 and 2023.

As one of the reasons for this trend, the study suggests a potential link to ongoing theological debates within denominations. Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, points out that “Debates continue within denominations at national and judicatory levels on the morality of same-sex marriage, yet the overall number of Protestant pastors who support same-sex marriage is not growing.”

A generational difference is also evident. Younger pastors (aged 18-44) are more than twice as likely (27%) to support same-sex marriage compared to pastors over 65 (15%). This suggests a potential shift in attitudes within Protestant denominations in the future.

The study also highlights a clear divide between mainline and evangelical denominations. Evangelical pastors remain steadfast in their faith, with only 7% expressing approval for same-sex marriage. In contrast, mainline pastors show a tendency with nearly half (46%) showing support.

While most pastors haven't been asked to perform a same-sex ceremony, the issue remains a significant one, reflecting broader cultural and religious debates about LGBTQ+ in the United States.