NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A new poll of United Methodists in the United States shows that issues related to human sexuality rank significantly lower than other concerns, and members want the church to engage on this issue and bring a positive perspective to the discussion.
Creating disciples of Christ, spiritual growth and youth involvement are among the top priorities for U.S. church members, according to the survey, commissioned by United Methodist Communications. The research is based on a May 30-June 1 survey of United Methodist members in the United States. The research was conducted by Corporate Research of Greensboro, N.C., and Research Now of Dallas. It had a 4.4 percent margin of error.
“We found that regardless of a person’s position on homosexuality, members felt strongly that the church could offer a positive and different voice to the broader conversation occurring in society today,” said John Deuterman, president of Corporate Research. “They overwhelmingly reject the idea that the disagreements over this issue were justification for splitting the church.”
Seventy-six percent of members said the church “should engage and bring positive perspective” to society’s discussion of issues related to sexuality.
More than 90 percent of respondents said The United Methodist Church should not split over issues related to human sexuality. Sixty-three percent said the issue of sexual orientation and same-gender marriage is “diverting the church from more important things.” They ranked it 8th in importance among issues facing the church today.
The most important issues, according to members, are creating disciples of Christ (39 percent of respondents ranked it as first or second in importance); youth involvement (27 percent); members’ spiritual growth (24 percent); decline in membership (19 percent); poverty (17 percent); children at risk (17 percent); and social injustice (16 percent). Sexual orientation and same-gender marriage drew 11 percent.
“This poll shows what really matters to the members of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. “It also clarifies that the people in the pews are more concerned about faithful living and changing lives for Christ than they are about some of the other issues that we hear so much about.”
The poll is helpful as The United Methodist Church looks ahead to its legislative assembly in 2016, Hollon said. “As the church wrestles with issues related to human sexuality leading up to 2016, this is a hopeful reminder that our connection is strong and that people in the pews are neither ignoring this discussion nor letting it distract from our effort to answer Christ’s call.”