More American Christians are accepting LGBT people, even if their churches strongly oppose gay and lesbian relationships, according to a Pew Research Center report of U.S. religious beliefs and practices released Friday. While more non-Christians accept gay relationships than Christians, the number of Christians who say LGBT relationships should be accepted and not discouraged has grown by 10 percentage points since 2007, the study found.
Overall, 54 percent of Christians say gay people should be accepted, compared with 76 percent of non-Christians and 83 percent of religiously unaffiliated people. Across the general U.S. population, 62 percent accept gay relationships, up from 50 percent in 2007. Most churches teach gay relationships are an act of sin or “intrinsically disordered," the Pew study said.
The shift among Christians can be attributed to young church members who generally embrace gay relationships compared with older churchgoers. Only a third of evangelical baby boomers and a fifth of evangelicals in the silent generation say gay people should be accepted by society while 51 percent of evangelical Protestants in the millennial generation were OK with LGBT relationships. The same was true among Catholics, mainline Protestants and members of the historically black Protestant tradition.
But even some older Christians are becoming more accepting of gay relationships. Roughly 32 percent of evangelical Protestant baby boomers, for example, back gay rights, up from 25 percent in 2007.
Not all Christians are shifting their attitudes on gay rights, however. Most Mormons and evangelical Protestants still say homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Jehovah’s Witnesses were perhaps the most fervently opposed to gay relationships, with just 16 percent saying LGBT people should be accepted.
Some gay Christians have argued church opposition to LGBT rights can hurt believers who want to pursue same-sex relationships. Matthew Vines, author of the book "God and the Gay Christian," has argued the Bible does not denounce gays.
"Some modern Bible translations say that 'homosexuals' will not inherit the kingdom of God, but neither the concept nor the word for people with exclusive same-sex attraction existed before the late 19th century. While the Bible rejects lustful same-sex behavior, that’s very different from a condemnation of all gay people and relationships," he wrote last year.