Review of Religious Research

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 297–317 | Cite as

Religious Organizations and Homosexuality: The Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians in American Congregations

Original Paper

Abstract

The participation of gays and lesbians in all aspects of society is continually disputed in the United States. Religion is one of the key battlegrounds. The extent to which religious congregations include lesbians and gays in congregational life is vital to the wider debate over homosexuality because congregations consistently influence more Americans than any other voluntary social institution reported by Putnam (Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2000). Using nationally representative data from the 2006–2007 National Congregations Study this analysis investigates the level of acceptance of gays and lesbians within congregations as well as which congregations are most likely to allow lesbians and gays to become involved. I find that religious tradition, theological and political ideology, location, and demographic composition of congregations all influence the degree to which gays and lesbians are included into congregational life.

Keywords

Homosexuality Congregations Religion United States Gays Lesbians 

References

  1. Ammerman, Nancy Tatom. 2005. Pillars of faith: American congregations and their partners. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ammerman, Nancy Tatom, Arthur E. Farnsley, et al. 1997. Congregation and community. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Andersen, Robert, and Tina Fetner. 2008. Cohort differences in tolerance of homosexuality: Attitudinal change in Canada and the United States, 1981–2000. Public Opinion Quarterly 72(2): 311–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartkowski, John. 1996. Beyond biblical literalism and inerrancy: Conservative Protestants and the hermeneutic interpretation of scripture. Sociology of Religion 57(3): 259–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Becker, Penny Edgell. 1999. Congregations in conflict: Cultural models of local religious life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beuttler, Fred W. 1999. Making theology matter: Power, polity and the theological debate over homosexual ordination in the Presbyterian church (USA). Review of Religious Research 41: 239–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beyerlein, Kraig, and Mark Chaves. 2003. The Political activities of religious congregations in the United States. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42: 229–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burdette, Amy M., Christopher G. Ellison, and Terrence D. Hill. 2005. Conservative Protestantism and tolerance toward homosexuals: An examination of potential mechanisms. Sociological Inquiry 75: 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burgess, John P. 1999. Framing the homosexuality debate theologically: Lessons from the Presbyterian church (USA). Review of Religious Research 41: 262–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Button, James W., Barbara A. Rienzo, and Kenneth D. Wald. 1997. Private lives, public conflicts: Battles over gay rights in American communities. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.Google Scholar
  11. Cadge, Wendy. 2002. Vital conflicts: The mainline denominations debate homosexuality. In The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism, ed. Robert Wuthnow and John H. Evans, 265–286. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Cadge, Wendy, and Christopher Wildeman. 2008. Facilitators and advocates: How mainline Protestant clergy respond to homosexuality. Sociological Perspectives 51(3): 587–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cadge, Wendy, Heather Day, and Christopher Wildeman. 2007. Bridging the denomination-congregation divide: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations respond to homosexuality. Review of Religious Research 48(3): 245–259.Google Scholar
  14. Cadge, Wendy, Laura R. Olson, and Christopher Wildeman. 2008. How denominational resources influence debate about homosexuality in mainline Protestant congregations. Sociology of Religion 69(2): 187–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cadge, Wendy, Jennifer Girouard, Laura R. Olson, and Madison Lylerohr. 2012. Uncertainty in clergy’s perspectives on homosexuality: A research note. Review of Religious Research. doi:10.1007/s13644-012-0058-1.Google Scholar
  16. Chaves, Mark. 2004. Congregations in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Chaves, Mark. 2011. American religion: Contemporary Trends. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Chaves, Mark, and Shawna Anderson. 2008. Continuity and change in American congregations: Introducing the second wave of the National Congregations Study. Sociology of Religion 69(4): 415–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chaves, Mark, Mary Ellen Konieczny, Kraig Beyerlein, and Emily Barman. 1999. The national congregations study: Background, methods, and selected results. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38: 458–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cochran, John K., and Leonard Beeghley. 1991. The influence of religion on attitudes toward nonmarital sexuality: A preliminary assessment of reference group theory. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30: 45–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Comstock, Gary David. 2001. A whosoever church: Welcoming lesbians and gay men into African American congregations. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.Google Scholar
  22. Davis, Nancy J., and Robert V. Robinson. 1996. Are the rumors of war exaggerated? Religious orthodoxy and moral progressivism in America. American Journal of Sociology 102: 756–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Djupe, Paul A., Laura R. Olson, and Christopher P. Gilbert. 2006. Whether to adopt statements on homosexuality in two denominations: A research note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 45(4): 609–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ellingson, Stephen, Nelson Tebbe, Martha Van Haitsma, and Edward O. Laumann. 2001. Religion and the politics of sexuality. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 30(1): 3–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ellison, Christopher G., and Marc A. Musick. 1993. Southern intolerance: A fundamentalist effect? Social Forces 72(2): 379–398.Google Scholar
  26. Finke, Roger, and Rodney Stark. 2006. The churching of America, 1776–2005: Winners and losers in our religious economy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Finke, Roger, and Kevin D. Dougherty. 2002. The effects of professional training: The social and religious capital acquired in seminaries. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41(1): 103–120.Google Scholar
  28. Finlay, Barbara, and Carol S. Walther. 2003. The relation of religious affiliation, service attendance, and other factors to homophobic attitudes among university students. Review of Religious Research 44(4): 370–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frenk, Steven M., Shawna L. Anderson, Mark Chaves, and Nancy Martin. 2011. Assessing the validity of key informant reports about congregations social composition. Sociology of Religion 72(1): 78–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Froese, Paul, Christopher D. Bader, and Buster Smith. 2008. Political tolerance and God’s wrath in the United States. Sociology of Religion 69: 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gay, David A., and Christopher G. Ellison. 1993. Religious subcultures and political tolerance: Do denominations still matter? Review of Religious Research 34: 311–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greeley, Andrew, and Michael Hout. 2006. The truth about conservative Christians: What they think and what they believe. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haider-Markel, Donald P., and Mark R. Joslyn. 2008. Beliefs about the origins of homosexuality and support for gay rights: An empirical test of attribution theory. Public Opinion Quarterly 72: 291–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hartman, Keith. 1996. Congregations in conflict: The battle over homosexuality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Herek, Gregory M. 1988. Heterosexuals attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. The Journal of Sex Research 25: 451–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Herek, Gregory M. 2002. Gender gaps in public opinion about lesbians and gay men. The Public Opinion Quarterly 66: 40–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Herek, Gregory M., and John P. Capitanio. 1995. Black heterosexual’s attitudes toward lesbians and gay men in the United States. The Journal of Sex Research 32: 95–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hill, Terrence D., Benjamin E. Moulton, and Amy M. Burdette. 2004. Conservative Protestantism and attitudes toward homosexuality: Does political orientation mediate this relationship? Sociological Focus 37: 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hunter, James Davison. 1992. Culture wars: The struggle to define America. New York, NY: BasicBooks.Google Scholar
  40. Kapinus, Carolyn A., Rachel Kraus, and Daniel R. Flowers. 2010. Excluding inclusivity: Protestant framing of homosexuality. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 6 (Article 4). Available at http://www.religjournal.com/pdf/ijrr06004.pdf.
  41. Koch, Jerome R., and Evans W. Curry. 2000. Social context and the Presbyterian gay/lesbian ordination debate: Testing open-systems theory. Review of Religious Research 42(2): 206–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. LaMar, Lisa, and Mary Kite. 1998. Sex differences in attitudes toward gay men and lesbians: A multidimensional perspective. The Journal of Sex Research 35(2): 189–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Linclon, C. Eric, and Lawrence Mamiya. 1990. The black church in the African American experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  44. McDaniel, Eric L., and Christopher G. Ellison. 2008. God’s party? Race, religion, and partisanship over time. Political Research Quarterly 61(2): 180–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moon, Dawne. 2004. God, sex, and politics: Homosexuality and everyday theologies. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. Olson, Laura R., and Wendy Cadge. 2002. Talking about homosexuality: The views of mainline Protestant clergy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41(1): 153–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Olson, Laura R., Wendy Cadge, and James T. Harrison. 2006. Religion and public opinion about same-sex marriage. Social Science Quarterly 87: 340–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pampel, Fred C. 2000. Logistic regression: A primer. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  50. Putnam, Robert D., and David E. Campbell. 2010. American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: NY: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  51. Rogers, Jack. 1999. Biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality in the recent history of the Presbyterian church (USA). Review of Religious Research 41: 223–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Roof, Wade Clark, and William McKinney. 1987. American mainline religion. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Rubin, Donald B. 1987. Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rubin, Donald B. 1996. Multiple imputation after 18+ years. Journal of the American Statistical Association 91(434): 473–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scheitle, Christopher P., Stephen M. Merino, and Andrew Moore. 2010. On the varying meaning of open and affirming. Journal of Homosexuality 57: 1223–1236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schwadel, Philip, and Kevin D. Dougherty. 2010. Assessing key informant methodology in congregational research. Review of Religious Research 51: 366–379.Google Scholar
  57. Sherkat, Darren E., Kylan Mattias de Vries, and Stacia Creek. 2010. Race, religion, and opposition to same-sex marriage. Social Science Quarterly 91(1): 80–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sherkat, Darren E., Melissa Powell-Williams, Gregory Maddox, and Kylan Mattias de Vries. 2011. Religion, politics, and support for same-sex marriage in the United States, 1988–2008. Social Science Research 40: 167–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith, Christian, Michael Emerson, Sally Gallagher, Paul Kennedy, and David Sikkink. 1998. American evangelicalism: Embattled and thriving. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  60. Stark, Rodney, and Roger Finke. 2000. Acts of faith: Explaining the human side of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  61. Steensland, Brian, Jerry Z. Park, Mark D. Regnerus, Lynn D. Robinson, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Robert D. Woodberry. 2000. The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces 79(1): 291–318.Google Scholar
  62. Stroope, Samuel. 2011. Education and religion: Individual, congregational, and cross-level interaction effects of biblical literalism. Social Science Research 40: 1478–1493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thomas, Jeremy N., and Daniel V.A. Olson. 2012. Beyond the culture war: Managing sexual relationships inside a congregation of gay Evangelicals. Review of Religious Research. doi:10.1007/s13644-012-0051-8.Google Scholar
  64. Van Geest, Fred. 2007a. Changing patterns of denominational political activity in North America: The case of homosexuality. Review of Religious Research 49(2): 199–221.Google Scholar
  65. Van Geest, Fred. 2007b. Research note: Christian denominational political action on the subject of homosexuality. Review of Religious Research 48(4): 401–419.Google Scholar
  66. Wald, Kenneth D., Dennis E. Owen, and Samuel S. Hill, Jr. 1988. Churches as political communitites. The American Political Science Review 82(2): 531–548. Google Scholar
  67. Wald, Kenneth D., James W. Button, and Barbara A. Rienzo. 1996. The politics of gay rights in American communities: Explaining antidiscrimination ordinances and policies. American Journal of Political Science 40(4): 1152–1178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Warner, R. Stephen. 1995. The Metropolitan Community Churches and the gay agenda: Power of Pentecostalism and essentialism. In Religion and the social order: Sex, lies, and sanctity: Religion and deviance in contemporary North America, ed. D.G. Bromley, M.J. Neitz, and M.S. Goldman, 81–108. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  69. Wellman, Jr., James K. 1999. Introduction: The debate over homosexual ordination: Subcultural identity theory in American religious organizations. Review of Religious Research 41: 184–206.Google Scholar
  70. Whitehead, Andrew L. 2010. Sacred rites and civil rights: Religion’s effect on attitudes toward same-sex unions and the perceived cause of homosexuality. Social Science Quarterly 91: 63–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wood, James R., and Jon P. Bloch. 1995. The role of church assemblies in building a civil society: The case of the United Methodist general conferences debate on homosexuality. Sociology of Religion 56(2): 121–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wuthnow, Robert. 1988. The restructuring of American religion: Society and faith since World War II. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Behavioral ScienceUniversity of MobileMobileUSA

Personalised recommendations