- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2022

Nearly 3 in 4 U.S. Protestant pastors say it’s morally wrong to “identify” as a gender different than that one is biologically born with, a Lifeway Research survey reported Friday.

A total of 77% say it’s morally wrong to change biological gender via hormonal therapy or surgery, the evangelical research group added.

In each case, pastors in evangelical churches were more than twice as likely as those in “mainline” Protestant churches to declare such steps as immoral, Lifeway reported.

“American culture increasingly views morality differently than historic Christianity,” Scott McConnell, the firm’s executive director, said in a statement. “When pastors articulate Christian teaching, it often sounds very different from the cultural narrative because it rejects a basis for morality centered on the individual.”

The high numbers of Protestant clergy rejecting so-called “gender fluid” approaches are not necessarily matched by their congregants. A 2016 Lifeway survey found that only 44% of Protestants and 35% of Americans overall said transgender identification was “morally wrong,” but by 2020, the firm found that 79% of American adults agreed with the statement, “God created male and female.”

According to Mr. McConnell, this shows a clear demarcation between pulpit and pew.

“While most Americans accept the biblical narrative of God designing male and female, pastors take changing that design much more seriously,” he stated.

Lifeway cited research from Gallup stating that only 0.6% of American adults identify as transgender, a number that includes 1.2% of millennials and 1.8% of Generation Z.

Nearly half of pastors surveyed, or 48%, said they know someone who is transgender. Another 41% said they don’t know any transgender individuals, Lifeway reported. 

Mainline Protestant pastors (63%) are more likely than evangelical clerics (45%) to say they know a transgender individual. Methodist pastors, at 63%, top the list of clergy who are more likely to know a person who identifies as transgender, versus 40% of Pentecostal clergy.

The Lifeway Research executive believes such statistics may come into play as state legislatures and the U.S. Congress debate measures concerning transgender individuals in various aspects of American life, including competitive collegiate sports and medical issues.

“Despite close to half of pastors saying they personally know someone who identifies as transgender, most still view identifying as a different gender as immoral,” Mr. McConnell said. “As lawmakers debate establishing protections for those who identify as a different gender from their biological sex at birth, it waits to be seen if Congress will seek to force pastors and their churches to implement changes contradictory to their religious convictions.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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