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Survey: Mainline Clergy Are More Liberal Than Their Congregants

The mainline clergy surveyed were highly educated, with 89% holding a seminary degree or a post-seminary graduate degree.

“In many of these seminaries, there’s that socialization — you go through seminary and you meet people with different perspectives,” Deckman said.

Evangelical pastors often have less seminary education.

Both groups of Protestants — mainliners and evangelicals — each make up about 14% of the U.S. population. They are both overwhelmingly white.

"Frequency of Discussing Political Topics" Graphic courtesy PRRI

“Frequency of Discussing Political Topics” Graphic courtesy of PRRI

While less likely to discuss abortion, election fraud or Donald Trump, the vast majority of mainline clergy say they sometimes or often discuss poverty and inequality (89%) and racism (80%) with their congregations.

Many of their congregants, however, aren’t listening. Only 68% of white mainline Protestant churchgoers say they hear sermons about poverty and inequality in their churches and only 37% said they heard discussions of racism in their churches.

On a battery of questions about Christian nationalism, mainline clergy, predictably, indicated they were opposed to the ideology. Only 12% of mainline clergy, for example, agree with the statement “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.” Among their congregants, three times as many, or 37%, agreed with the statement.

Unlike evangelical churches where there is broad unity on issues, mainline churches may be one of the few spaces in society where disagreement and difference are tolerated, and in some cases embraced.

“Mainline churches are places of grace in the sense that the majority of clergy indicated that their congregants are accepting of them, even if they have political differences,” said Deckman. “That’s an interesting point to consider as we think about the health of our democracy.”

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

This article originally appeared here