|Photo Credit: Chris Freeland
"A new Baylor University study has found a growing segment of evangelicals who, while opposing homosexuality, are no longer strongly against gay rights.
Dubbed the "Messy Middle," these evangelicals may have a voice in the gay marriage debate, the Baylor researchers said.
"As a moral issue, we predict that the opposition to gay civil rights will not have the same staying power as the abortion debate," said study co-author Brandon Martinez, a sociology researcher in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
The recent apology to the gay community by Exodus International -- an evangelical parachurch ministry that had long championed the "gay cure" movement -- and its disbanding shortly after that are evidence of the shift within the evangelical community, says Lydia Bean, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor. Exodus International's leader stated that the group's previous worldview was "neither honoring our fellow human beings, nor biblical."
In their study -- "How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence toward Gays and Lesbians" -- researchers found that 24 percent of evangelicals fit into the ambivalent category, supporting gay civil unions even though they are morally opposed to homosexuality.
"We've known that moderate and ambivalent evangelicals are there, but now they are actually starting to have a voice and beginning to be more political," Martinez said.
The "Messy Middle" -- which researchers refer to as "Ambivalent Evangelicals" -- has differing views from evangelical "Gay Right Opponents," who oppose civil unions, and also from "Cultural Progressives," who support homosexual behavior and civil unions.
But when it comes to religion, "The Ambivalents have the same level of belief, church attendance, prayer life, Bible reading and friends in church as Gay Rights Opponents do," Bean said. "They're enmeshed, not peripheral. You have these people in the pews and serving as Sunday School teachers who are supportive of civil unions."For more information on the Baylor University study please click here.