Evangelicals Moving Toward Support for Marriage Equality

Time magazine has a cover story about the changing views among Christian evangelicals toward same-sex marriage. To the surprise of no one who has studied history, now that it appears all but inevitable, support for equality is growing even among the group most likely to oppose it.

Every day, evangelical communities across the country are arriving at new crossroads over marriage. My magazine story for TIME this week, “A Change of Heart,” is a deep dive into the changing allegiances and divides in evangelical churches and communities over homosexuality. In public, so many churches and pastors are afraid to talk about the generational and societal shifts happening. But behind the scenes, it’s a whole different game. Support for gay marriage across all age groups of white evangelicals has increased by double digits over the past decade, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, and the fastest change can be found among younger evangelicals—their support for gay marriage jumped from 20% in 2003 to 42% in 2014.

Here are few of the topline findings of my reporting. (To read the full story, click here.)

This winter, EastLake Community Church outside Seattle is quietly coming out as one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to support full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people. It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of this move. EastLake is in many ways the quintessential evangelical megachurch–thousands-strong attendance, rock-music worship, Bible-preaching sermons. But pastor Ryan Meeks, 36, is on the front wave of a new choice. “I refuse to go to a church where my friends who are gay are excluded from Communion or a marriage covenant or the beauty of Christian community,” Meeks tells me. “It is a move of integrity for me—the message of Jesus was a message of wide inclusivity.”…

Then there’s the growing slew of evangelical LGBTQ activists pushing for change. Matthew Vines, 24 and founder of the Reformation Project, represents new momentum to change the evangelical tide. He hopes to raise up affirming evangelicals in every evangelical church in the country. He holds conferences and training sessions for evangelicals, has staff in three states and representatives in 25, and has raised a projected $1.2 million for 2015 to press ahead. Brandan Robertson, 22, is the national spokesperson for Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, an effort started by millennials to help evangelicals support civil gay marriages, if not marriages in churches. Justin Lee, 37, of the Gay Christian Network hosted his 11th annual conference last week in Portland, Ore., and 1,400 people attended, double the number who came last year. Lee’s friendship with Alan Chambers, the former head of the ex-gay organization Exodus International, was one of the key factors that led Chambers to apologize for the hurt his organization caused, and the organization shut down.

This fits quite well the patterns of history, only it’s happening considerably faster than it has in the past. While pretending to have the One Eternal Truth, religions evolve in response to shifting societal attitudes and beliefs and they always have. Texts are simply reinterpreted, then everyone moves on as though there were no such reinterpretation at all, as if they had believed that all along. It happened with separation of church and state, with slavery, with women’s suffrage and with civil rights for blacks. There are still holdouts on all those things, of course, and there always will be. But the patterns are clear.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • skinnercitycyclist

    So, eventually, they will always have been at war with Eastasia?

  • tvoyumat

    The opposition they were so sure was the Moral, Right thing to do must be costing them money now.

    Fuck ’em, they are still stupid, and they still waste my time with their godbothering and yammer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.rhetts Chris Rhetts

    The same thing is going to happen to evangelicals on the issue of global warming.

  • dugglebogey

    In 30-50 years, equal rights for homosexuals will have been the christians idea all along.

  • raven

    Some of them might be dragged kicking and screaming into the 12th century.

    Many of them will never give up a hate. Hate is what they are, hate is what they do. They still hate Darwin, science, and scientists because two pages of Genesis are wrong. In the South, large numbers still oppose racial mixing, miscegnation AKA people who look different getting married.

    What they do is shuffle the Hate deck. The fundies are going to have to upvote another target. The betting is that the new gays will be…atheists and Moslems.

  • tvoyumat

    @Raven

    Agreed and endorsed.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    dugglebogey #4: In 30-50 years, equal rights for homosexuals will have been the christians idea all along.

    Why wait? Some are already making that claim.

    Christianity and LGBT Equality

    Since the advent of the modern gay rights movement, Christians have raised their voices for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. We have long looked at discrimination in our culture and wondered how is this injustice consistent with Jesus’ message to love our neighbors as ourselves?

  • eric

    The opposition they were so sure was the Moral, Right thing to do must be costing them money now.

    And votes; don’t forget votes. I’ve talked to a couple of conservative friends and family, and what they’ve said is mirrored in a NYT op-ed today: the mainstream GOP strategy for dealing with SSM at this point is to hope the Supremes find for SSM as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t become a 2016 election issue. That would allow candidates to just dispense with it the way Warner and Christie already have: by saying the decision is over and its time to move on. They don’t want it to be a general election issue, they’ll get crucified by either the mainstream public or their own right wing if SSM legality is still up for debate at that point. Sure, someone like Santorum could play spoiler and try and win the primary by saying he’ll elect judges to turn it over etc. But nobody really expects him to win the primay race even with that advantage over mainstream contenders. So they’ll just take that hit from Santorum and maybe Huckabee, and beat them out for the GOP nomination anyway.

  • grumpyoldfart

    If they are easing up on the gays then it won’t be long before they find another minority group to demonize. I wonder who it will be?

  • jaybee

    the message of Jesus was a message of wide inclusivity

    Yeah, that is why even the founders of Christianity fought whether Gentiles could be Christians, and if so, did they have to get circumcised ( a Very Important moral issue of the day).

  • John Pieret

    The fundies are going to have to upvote another target. The betting is that the new gays will be…atheists and Moslems.

    And transgendered people … don’t forget them. They are already viciously attacking any laws or local policies accommodating transgendered kids in schools. They claim that straight boys will dress as girls so they can go into the girls bathroom and peep at them. Another is that boys will take away girls playing time on sports teams and maybe keep them from getting scholarships.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Us Conservative Christians have always fought for rights for The Gays. While you Liberals have spent decades trying to force them in to your box, we’ve been out on the front lines fighting for their right to marry a person of the opposite sex!

  • raven

    And transgendered people

    You have a point. The new gays will be atheists, Moslems, and Transgendered.

    UCLA Study Estimates Approximate 700,000 Transgender …

    The minorities they are attacking are getting smaller and smaller.

  • tvoyumat

    Well hell, they were already attacking me. Bring it on, Religious people.

    Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam

  • Michael Heath

    If this trend is true and will continue to rise, that’s an incredible change. I point this out because millions of children who attend fundie and evangelical churches are now abused for merely being gay, even those children who effectively hide their sexual identity.

    While the increase in the equal protection of gay adults’ individual rights is an incredible accomplishment, it doesn’t immediately translate into the end of fundie and evangelical churches abusing gay congregants that are children. We should never forget that. So this is promising.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Exposure to lots of porn in general reduces icky reaction to s-s-s. I’m sure evangelical men are watching lots and lots of porn. It’s far from the only factor, but I think it’s easy to ignore or underestimate the effects of the massive increase in consumption of porn over the past 10-15 years. Reduce the ickiness factor and you may reduce the abstraction into sin. That is, if something doesn’t feel viscerally bad, it doesn’t seem as morally bad. Of course, other factors are in play, so many people being out (exposure to gay people who aren’t ick, gay/lesbians you like or love) and hamering away at the fairness and care themes, but I think porn doesn’t get enough of its due.

  • Anne Fenwick

    And the next step in marriage equality: all couples are free to reproduce as and when they want to. Let’s hope so.

  • hunter

    ” . . . only it’s happening considerably faster than it has in the past.”

    Everything is happening faster. I even walk faster.

  • D. C. Sessions

    The rate that evangelicals adopt broader moral positions varies a lot. If I had to generalize, I’d say that it mostly follows the guidance of their leadership. At one extreme you have abortion, where the typical evangelical Protestant had no problem with it until their leaders promoted it as a political wedge issue. At the other, you have equal rights for n****rs, which is still not accepted even after more than 150 years.

  • vereverum

    re John Pieret #11

    Another is that boys will take away girls playing time on sports teams and maybe keep them from getting scholarships.

    Considering the fundie take on educating women and their role in society, this would be considered a plus, imho.

  • =8)-DX

    dugglebogey says

    In 30-50 years, equal rights for homosexuals will have been the christians idea all along.

    Didn’t the Christians invent homosexuality? I mean without them, it would just be a case of everyone doing what they wanted to..