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Talking about Homosexuality: The Views of Mainline Protestant Clergy

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Homosexuality is one of the most divisive issues within mainline Protestantism today. In this article we portray the many sides of mainline Protestantism’s debates about homosexuality through the lens of statements clergy made about the issue in early 2000. In interviews with 62 mainline Protestant clergy across the United States, 40 volunteered their views on homosexuality without being prompted. We describe the frames through which clergy understand and articulate issues related to homosexuality in the midst of contentious denominational debate about the subject. The majority of clergy who discussed homosexuality focused on the issue in their churches instead of in society at large, and in their denominations rather than in their own congregations. Moreover, virtually none of the clergy interviewed took hard and fast stands on the issue of homosexuality. Most approach the issue in a pragmatic, rather than prophetic, way. Our interviews also show that pastors who choose to speak on homosexuality tend to frame the issue in terms of the diffuse notion of “homosexuality,” rather than talking about gay men and lesbians as people.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Clemson University 2: Department of Sociology, Princeton University

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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