Protestant Pastors Not Convinced of Global Warming - Opposing Views

Protestant Pastors Not Convinced of Global Warming

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- Though many people insist global
warming is real and man-made, Protestant pastors aren’t entirely convinced,
according to a new study from LifeWay Research.

The telephone survey of 1,002 randomly selected Protestant pastors, conducted in
October 2008, discovered that pastors are evenly split about whether global
warming is real and man-made. It also found that views of pastors vary widely
by denomination, location and even the individual pastor’s ideologies.

Asked
to indicate their level of agreement with the statement, "I believe global
warming is real and man-made," pastors split down the middle: 47 percent
agree either strongly or somewhat, while 47 percent disagree either strongly or
somewhat. The remainder indicate "don’t know."

The
differences of opinion, however, are seen more sharply when analyzed in
relation to a pastor’s denominational affiliation and geographic location.
Fully 75 percent of pastors in mainline denominations agree global warming is
real and man-made, but only 32 percent of pastors in evangelical denominations
agree. Pastors in rural areas are less convinced than large-city pastors.
Forty-three percent of rural pastors and 55 percent of large-city pastors agree.
Pastors in the Eastern and Western United States are more persuaded, 60 percent
and 53 percent respectively, than pastors in the South (45 percent) and Midwest
(40 percent).

When
the pastors’ personal beliefs are factored in, the differences grow even more
pronounced. Among pastors who consider their political ideology liberal or very
liberal, 93 percent agree that global warming is real and man-made, and 79
percent of self-perceived moderates agree. Among those who identify themselves
as conservative or very conservative politically, however, agreement is only 37
percent and 16 percent respectively.

Additionally,
while 75 percent of pastors in churches affiliated with mainline denominations
agree global warming is real and man-made, only 67 percent of those who
consider themselves mainline agree. In comparison, 32 percent of pastors in
evangelical-affiliated congregations agree, but 41 percent of those who
consider themselves evangelical agree.

"Not
all pastors who consider themselves mainline serve in churches in denominations
that are traditionally considered mainline," explained Scott McConnell,
associate director of LifeWay Research. "Similarly, not all pastors who
consider themselves evangelical serve in denominations that are traditionally
considered evangelical. Yet these denominational roots provide a strong
indication of what a church’s pastor believes about global warming."

Addressing the environment

The
majority of Protestant pastors (52 percent) address environmental issues once a
year or less, according to the research, but 25 percent say they speak on the
subject several times a year. Eleven percent say they never speak to their
church members about the environment, but 12 percent say they address the issue
at least once a month.

These
differences in frequency are also seen more sharply when analyzed in relation
to a pastor’s denominational affiliation and geographic location. In mainline
denominations, 61 percent of pastors speak on the environment several times a
year or more, but only 23 percent of evangelical pastors say they address it
that often. Fewer rural-area pastors (34 percent) than large-city pastors (45
percent) speak on the subject that often. Forty-eight percent of pastors in the
Eastern United States and 41 percent in the West say they address the
environment several times a year or more, while pastors in the South and
Midwest speak about it less often, 32 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Again,
when the pastors’ personal beliefs are factored in, the differences are more
pronounced. Among pastors who see their own political ideology as liberal or
very liberal, 75 percent say they speak to their congregations about the
environment at least several times a year, and 62 percent of moderates say they
address the subject that often. Among those who identify themselves as
conservative or very conservative politically, however, only 25 percent and 18
percent respectively indicate they speak about it that often.

Sixty-one
percent of pastors in churches affiliated with mainline denominations say they
speak on the environment several times a year or more, but only 53 percent of
those who consider themselves mainline say they do so. In another reverse
twist, while 23 percent of pastors in evangelical-affiliated congregations
indicate they speak that often on the environment, 32 percent of those who
consider themselves evangelical say they address the issue at least several
times a year.

Perhaps
not surprisingly, pastors speak to their congregations about the environment
more frequently if they are convinced global warming is a real and man-made
danger.

Sixty-nine
percent of pastors who strongly agree that global warming is real and man-made
speak to their churches about the environment several times a year or more.

Far
fewer pastors who are less inclined to agree global warming is a real and
man-made issue speak about the environment frequently. Speaking to their church
on the environment several times a year or more occurs among 36 percent of
pastors who somewhat agree that global warming is real and man-made and among
fewer pastors who somewhat disagree (26 percent) or strongly disagree (17
percent).

"Protestant
pastors are split on the issue of man-made global warming and their views
impact their communication," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay
Research. "Mainline clergy answer the question with similar numbers to
self-identified Democrats and liberals in surveys of the general public.
Evangelical clergy answer the question in similar percents to Republicans and
conservatives. At the end of the day, Protestant pastors are as divided as
Americans are on the issue of global warming."

The
phone survey sampled randomly selected Protestant churches. Each interview was
conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called and
responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution of Protestant
churches. The completed sample of 1,002 phone interviews provides a 95 percent
confidence that the sampling error does not exceed 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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