March 31, 2017: A survey of Adventists in the United States indicates that 86 percent support women serving as pastors and agree that these women should be ordained in the same way that men are. Less than 9 percent oppose the idea. Asked if they would support “having a female pastor in my own church,” 88 percent agreed and less than 8 percent disagreed with 4 percent indicating they were “not sure.”
The anonymous, random sample survey had a total of 1,605 responses which means the standard allowance for sampling error is less than three percentage points, plus or minus. It was conducted by three scholars from Washington Adventist University and Andrews University, using lists of Adventist Today readers, members of the Association of Adventist Forums and other groups that are part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.
An article reporting the responses to questions about how Adventists voted in the national election in the United States was published by Adventist Today last fall here: https://atoday.org/survey-report-how-adventists-voted-in-the-united-states-presidential-election/ This week the responses to questions about some current issues in the denomination have been released.
Asked about their general religious views, 23 percent indicated they are Fundamentalist or Conservative and 26 percent that they are Liberal, with the largest share (46 percent) indicating a middle ground or Moderate position. This is very similar to the responses to the same question in several previous surveys that have used official Church membership lists or questionnaires handed out on Sabbath in a sample of local churches. This means that the sample in this survey is a representative slice of Adventists and not skewed toward more liberal or more conservative believers.
Respondents were also asked their opinions on the doctrine of creation and about homosexuality. The first of these items included five statements describing a range of views and respondents were asked to select the one closest to their view.
On creation the majority (55 percent) indicated that they took the position closest to the official teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination: “God created the earth and humans pretty much in their present form in six literal days with the last 6,000 years or so.” A more moderate view was selected by 28 percent; “God created the earth and humans pretty much in their present form, but many thousands of years ago.” Three views closer to contemporary theology and science were selected by a total of 16 percent of the respondents.
Twelve percent selected, “Life has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.” Two percent selected, “Life has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process except to begin the process of life.” Another two percent selected, “The universe was spontaneously created by the Big Bang or a similar event and there is no God.”
There were also five statements related to homosexuality, but these do not necessarily describe a range of options and respondents were asked to respond to each statement in terms of whether they agreed, disagreed or were not sure. A majority disagreed with three of the five statements.
A total of 55 percent disagreed while 18 percent agreed that, “Same-sex attraction can be cured through prayer, counseling and a strong commitment to change.” Another 55 percent disagreed while 24 percent agreed that, “Read in its full context, the Bible does not condemn same-sex unions.” Some 54 percent disagreed while 25 percent agreed that, “Same-sex unions are not sinful if they take place with marriage.”
A total of 51 percent agreed while 32 percent disagreed that, “It is not sin to be same-sex attracted, but it is sin to engage in same-sex sex.” Only 35 percent agreed while 47 percent disagreed that, “Same-sex attraction is deviant and sinful and is condemned by Scripture.”
More than 84 percent of the respondents said that they have a friend, colleague or family member who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Clearly this is an issue which is close to home for the vast majority of Adventists in North America.
A total of 58 percent of the respondents were over 50 years of age and 75 percent were married; 57 percent were men and 43 percent women; 75 percent indicated that their primary ethnic background was white, while 25 percent were part of an ethnic minority group. A total of 22 percent indicated they were denominational employees and another 25 percent were lay leaders in congregations.
The three scholars who conducted this survey were John Gavin, director of the social work program at Washington Adventist University; William Ellis, a senior social scientist and professor of public policy at Washington Adventist University; and Curtis VanderWaal, chair of the department of social work at Andrews University.