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Southern Religion

Fire in the streets, quiet in the pews

Public conflict between those who view homosexuality as a path to hell and civil liberties activists who reject that view has apparently not built a fire in the pews of U.S. churches.

The 2006-07 National Congregations Study (Wave 2), a major survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,506 congregations from all over the United States, found:

Even though conflicts within American religion over ordaining homosexuals have received a lot of attention in recent years, and seem to be tearing some denominations apart, the overall level of conflict within congregations is about what it was in 1998, with 26 percent of congregations experiencing a conflict in the last 2 years that led some people to leave. (Interestingly, only 2 percent of congregations in the NCS-II reported a conflict over homosexuality.)

That does not mean little is happening in the average church.

Congregations have changed a great deal since the initial, 1998 snapshot (Wave I), as Mark Chaves of Duke University explained:

A second snapshot of U.S. religious congregations reveals four trends in American worship: a growing informality in worship practices, a graying of congregations and clergy (on average), churches becoming less white and more ethnically diverse, and an ever-increasing use of technology.

Change proceeds at a rapid pace — just not the kind and direction of change implied by the pitched political battles of the past two decades.

Clerical zealots who seek to bar gay church membership, forbid homosexual marriages, keep women out of the pulpits and so on down the culture warriors’ list of imponderables may be doomed by a lack of the broad, underlying support required to keep those barriers in place.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Religion | | Comments Off on Fire in the streets, quiet in the pews