Acceptance of LGBTQ Clergy and Same-Sex Marriage Increases While Religious Practice Decreases


Several Factors Contribute to Changing Religious Practices and LGBTQ Acceptance

The acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the USA has increased over the years, and this trend correlates with a decline in traditional religious practice among Americans. Several factors contribute to this:

  1. Secularization: As American society has become more secular, there has been a shift towards liberal values, including greater acceptance of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity. A decrease in religious affiliation, often referred to as the rise of the “nones” (those who identify with no religion), has paralleled a growing tolerance for LGBTQ+ rights.
  2. Changing Religious Attitudes: Within religious communities, there has also been a shift. Many religious groups that previously held negative views toward LGBTQ+ individuals are now reevaluating their interpretations of religious texts. This has led to more inclusive attitudes within some churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions.
  3. Generational Shifts: The internal shifts within religious groups are further complemented by generational changes. Younger generations, who are generally less religious than older ones, tend to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ rights. As these younger generations age and become more prominent in society, their values significantly influence social norms and policies.
  4. Legal and Political Changes: These evolving attitudes across generations are mirrored in the legal and political arenas. Significant legal milestones, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, reflect and reinforce changes in social attitudes. Political advocacy by LGBTQ+ groups and their allies has also played a crucial role in shifting public opinion and policy.
  5. Media and Cultural Representation: Beyond the realms of law and politics, the media and cultural sectors play a pivotal role in shaping public perception. Increased visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in media and popular culture has contributed to normalization and acceptance. This visibility helps reduce stigma and misinformation.

These factors interact in complex ways, contributing to a society where acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is increasing even as traditional religious observance becomes less central for many Americans. As secularization influences societal norms, it’s also reshaping the internal dynamics of religious communities.

United Methodist Church Repeals LGBTQ Ban

The broad cultural acceptance is reflected within specific religious institutions as well. A landmark decision by the United Methodist Church illustrates how far some denominations have come in aligning with modern societal values. In 1972 the United Methodist Church added language to its social principles that said homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. In the past 50 years the church’s general conference has debated the issue, and in 1984 it banned homosexual clergy.

But when it met in April, 2024 the ban on LGBTQ clergy was repealed, as was the prohibition on same-sex marriage ceremonies, and the language condemning homosexuality was removed. In past years the church refused to enforce the ban, causing 7,600 congregations to exit the denomination – with nearly half of those joining the Global Methodist Church. Conservative members of the general conference left along with their congregations, allowing the repeal vote to succeed. The United Methodist Church is left with about 30,000 members in the United States.

Besides the United Methodist Church, What Other Denominations Allow Same-Sex Marriage?

While the United Methodist Church has made significant strides, it is not alone. Various other denominations have also navigated the complex terrain between tradition and inclusivity. Several denominations in the United States now permit or perform same-sex marriages or bless such unions.

  1. The Episcopal Church allows clergy to perform same-sex marriages. This decision aligns with broader acceptance within the Anglican Communion in the U.S., although it has sparked varied reactions internationally.
  2. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) permits ministers and congregations to decide whether to perform same-sex marriages. This flexibility reflects the denomination’s broader stance on supporting inclusivity​​.
  3. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally sanctions same-sex marriages, marking a significant policy shift within mainstream Protestant denominations in the U.S.​.
  4. The United Church of Christ has been a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage rights and continues to perform such ceremonies across its congregations.
  5. The Metropolitan Community Church has a primary focus on providing spiritual support to the LGBTQ+ community and performs same-sex marriages​​.
  6. Unitarian Universalist congregations also perform same-sex marriages, upholding a long-standing commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity​​.
  7. Some Baptist congregations, particularly those associated with the Alliance of Baptists and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, support and perform same-sex marriages, although this varies significantly within the broader Baptist community​​.

Which Denominations Still Ban LGBTQ Clergy and Same-Sex Marriage?

Contrasting with the inclusive policies of some denominations, others remain steadfast in their traditional stances. The major denominations in the U.S. that still maintain prohibitions against same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexual clergy include the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church).

The Southern Baptist Convention is one of the largest Protestant denominations, and along with the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest single denomination in the U.S., they represent a significant portion of the U.S. Christian population. Therefore, the denominations banning homosexual clergy and same-sex marriages represent a significant majority of the Christian population in the U.S.

Why Do Some Christians Condemn LGBTQ People?

Some Christians condemn LGBTQ+ practices based on their interpretations of biblical texts, particularly passages in the Old and New Testaments that they believe speak against same-sex relations. These interpretations often arise from a literal or traditional reading of the Bible, which has historically shaped the doctrines of many Christian denominations.

Below is a list of the biblical passages often cited regarding homosexuality, grouped by the Old and New Testaments:

Old Testament

Leviticus 18:22

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”

Leviticus 20:13

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Genesis 19:1-13

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah where the men of Sodom demand to have relations with two angelic visitors.

Judges 19:22-24

Similar to the story of Sodom, men of the city demand to have sex with a male guest, and his concubine is offered instead.

A concubine refers to a woman who lives with a man but has a lower status than his wife or wives. Concubines have legal and social recognition, but their children often have different rights compared to those of the wife’s children. In many ancient societies, including those depicted in the Bible, powerful men, especially kings and patriarchs, had concubines in addition to their wives. These relationships were sometimes economic or politically motivated, providing alliances with different family groups without granting the full status of a wife. In the Bible, notable figures such as Abraham, Jacob, and King David had concubines.

Deuteronomy 23:17

“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute.”

1 Kings 14:24 and 1 Kings 15:12

These verses discuss the removal of “male cult prostitutes” from the land, which were part of religious rituals.

A “cult prostitute” in the biblical context refers to individuals associated with religious rituals that involved sexual acts. These figures are mentioned primarily in the Old Testament, where they are often called “qedeshim” in Hebrew, which translates to “holy ones” but is used in the context to refer to those engaged in ritualistic prostitution. In ancient Near Eastern religions, including some that surrounded the early Israelites, sex was sometimes part of worship practices and was thought to promote fertility or appease certain deities. Male and female cult prostitutes were believed to represent or embody deities and their sexual union with worshippers was seen as a form of communion with the divine.

New Testament

Romans 1:26-27

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

1 Timothy 1:9-10

“We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers.”

How Do Some Christians Use the Bible to Accept LGBTQ People?

However, there are also many Christians and denominations that support LGBTQ+ rights and do not condemn LGBTQ+ individuals. These groups interpret the Bible in a more inclusive way, emphasizing messages of love and acceptance, and arguing that historical contexts of biblical passages differ significantly from modern contexts. This inclusive perspective is increasingly prominent, reflecting broader changes in societal attitudes toward LGBTQ+ communities.

What Bible Verses are Used to Accept LGBTQ Individuals?

Several Bible verses are cited by some Christian communities to affirm LGBTQ individuals and support inclusivity. These verses form the theological basis for many Christians who advocate for the acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals within their communities and churches, focusing on the broader biblical themes of love, acceptance, and unity.

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse is often cited to emphasize the equality and unity of all people in the eyes of God, regardless of gender or other societal distinctions.

1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” These verses highlight the centrality of love as a reflection of knowing God, suggesting that love transcends all boundaries, including those of sexual orientation.

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus discusses the greatest commandments, summarizing them as love for God and love for one’s neighbor as oneself. This summary is used to argue that love is the highest Christian calling and should be extended to all people.

Acts 10:34-35

“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.'” This passage is seen as a declaration of God’s inclusivity and acceptance of all who seek Him, regardless of their backgrounds or life circumstances.

Luke 6:37

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” This teaching by Jesus is used to caution against judgment and to promote a more accepting and compassionate approach towards others, including those from the LGBTQ community.

Less Church Attendance Correlates with More LGBTQ Acceptance

The relationship between religious practice and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights is also evident in church attendance patterns. Among Americans who identify as Christian, approximately 24% attend religious services either virtually or in person at least once a week. A further 21% report attending services once or twice a month or a few times a year. This suggests that less than half of American Christians attend church more than three times a year​​.

Among those Americans who identify as Christian but do not attend church more than three times a year, support for LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage is quite substantial. According to recent data, about three-quarters (75%) of those who seldom or never attend religious services are in favor of same-sex marriage. This is significantly higher compared to those who attend services more frequently, indicating that less frequent church attendance correlates with more progressive views on these issues​.

Embracing Inclusivity Means a Hopeful Future for Faith and Society

As society evolves, so too does its embrace of diversity. The acceptance of LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage within various religious denominations illustrates a significant cultural shift towards inclusivity. This trend is bolstered by younger generations who prioritize equality and love over traditional doctrines. Although resistance remains within certain factions, the trajectory is clear: compassion and understanding are paving the way for a more accepting and unified future. This movement reflects a broader, progressive transformation in how we interpret religious teachings and understand human rights, signaling a hopeful direction for both religious communities and society at large.