Survey of Religious Progressives is a groundbreaking study of progressive clergy in the Religious Institute’s national network. The report is based on a survey assessing clergy attitudes and congregational action regarding LGBT inclusion and other sexual justice concerns. The report concludes with the Religious Institute’s recommendations for increased attention to sexual health and justice in congregations and denominations.
Summary of Findings
This report refers to the clergy in the Religious Institute’s network as “progressives” because
that is how most refer to themselves (Fig. 1). Sixty-nine percent of the survey respondents self-identify
as “progressive” and 68% as “liberal.” Both terms are more than twice as popular as “mainline
Protestant” (33%) or “ecumenical” (28%), and much more common than terms such as “emerging
church” (11%), “evangelical” (6%) or “born again” (3%). When asked where they lie along the political
spectrum of conservative to liberal, most identify as “very liberal” (54%) or “extremely liberal” (30%).
Thirteen percent identify as “somewhat liberal,” 3% as “moderate” and none as conservative.
Clergy in the Religious Institute’s national network are strong advocates for full inclusion of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in faith communities. Virtually all embrace a
theology of social and sexual justice. They overwhelmingly support civil rights, marriage equality,
adoption rights, ordination and other tenets of LGBT inclusion.
Although progressive clergy are speaking out on LGBT issues, there are gaps between attitudes
and actions when it comes to preaching, advocacy and other clergy activities, and to congregational
programs as well. For example, four in 10 progressive clergy have not preached on sexual orientation
issues in the last two years; nearly half have not been active in their denominational work on LGBT
concerns; and only a third of their congregations have organized for LGBT rights or offered study
groups on LGBT issues.
Attention paid to LGBT issues and ministries exceeds other areas of sexual justice. The clergy in
the Religious Institute’s network devote more of their preaching, public advocacy and congregational
programs to LGBT concerns than they do to reproductive justice, sexuality education and other
sexuality-related issues. A quarter of these progressive clergy have not preached on any sexual justice
issue in the last two years, and the majority of their congregations do not provide sex education, AIDS
ministries, marriage enrichment programs or pregnancy counseling.
Most of the clergy (64%) believe their congregations should be doing more on LGBT issues.
Among the various resources required to do this, clergy emphasize a need for congregational leadership