Evangelicals less accepting of female pastors than other denominations, says Barna survey

(Wikimedia Commons/Kasper Kamuk/Funen diocese)Tine Lindhardt, Bishop of Funen diocese in Denmark.

A new survey conducted by the Barna Group has revealed that evangelicals in the U.S. are less accepting of female leadership in the church compared to other Protestants and Catholics.

The survey results indicated that only 39 percent of evangelicals approve of women leading the church. The percentage of those who embrace the presence of female leadership in church is highest, at 80 percent, among Catholics, who have an all-male priesthood.

The acceptance rate was 74 percent among Protestants and 62 percent among practicing Christians.

Overall, 79 percent of Americans are accepting of women serving as priests or pastors. Women are more comfortable with female clergy at 84 percent, compared with men at 75 percent.

A previous study by the Barna group has indicated that the nine percent of Protestant senior pastors are women, which is triple the percentage of 25 years ago.

Barna Group editor in chief Roxanne Stone said that having women in leadership roles is a complicated issue for many evangelicals.

"There is a long history among evangelicals of emphasising motherhood and family as a woman's primary calling," she said.

"While the broader culture, and much of the Christian Church, has shifted away from this, evangelicals seem more reluctant to do so. This reluctance is often tied to a scriptural reading that insists men are to occupy primary leadership positions within the family and church and, by extension, society," she added.

Most of the female senior pastors lead mainline congregations rather than evangelical churches that are least comfortable with female ministers. Only 44 percent of non-mainline pastors said that their congregation, church network or denomination ordains women, compared with mainline pastors at 99 percent.

Stone pointed out that more than half of most congregations are women, and many of them are part of the workforce.

She further noted that since most Christians, apart from evangelicals, are more comfortable with having a woman in the pulpit, many would attend churches where they disagree with the stance against women in leadership.

Stone asserted that churches which have chosen to continue to uphold the traditional position on women in leadership will have to emphasize their theology to their members.

"Women and men in their congregations deserve to know what their church believes and why they believe it. Because such a stance will feel increasingly irrelevant and outdated, churches and members need to understand why such a theology still exists," she explained.

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