Evangelical Churches Refine Message On Gay Issues
The Rev. Robert Jeffress has changed the way he talks about homosexuality from the pulpit. The pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Dallas hasn't stopped preaching that homosexual sex is sinful, but he no longer singles it out for special condemnation. Now, Jeffress says he usually talks about homosexuality within "a bigger context of God's plan for sex between one man and one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage." "It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblical divorce," he said, explaining that the Bible allows divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion. He also includes premarital sex on that list. The pressure to change the way homosexuality is addressed in evangelical churches is increasing as mainstream support for gay and lesbian issues increases. This support is especially strong among young adults, and researchers say they don't expect this group to become more conservative on the issue as they get older. In a 2011 survey by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, 62 percent of adults between 18 and 29 years old said they supported gay marriage and 71 percent supported civil unions. Among adults 65 and older, those numbers were 31 percent in favor of marriage and 51 percent for civil unions.