(CP) A new poll suggests that most Evangelical pastors serve in churches that don't allow women to serve as senior pastors but are open to letting females serve in other leadership roles.
Lifeway Research released a survey based on responses from 1,000 Protestant pastors Tuesday, inquiring about their views on the role of women in the Church. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus +3.2%.
The poll, conducted from Sept. 1-29, 2021, revealed near-unanimous support among senior or sole pastors at Protestant churches for allowing women to take on some leadership roles within their churches, while support was much more divided regarding the ability of women to serve as senior pastors.
Scott McConnell, the executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a statement that "the reason some pastors make a distinction between women leading as pastors or deacons or even teaching men compared to other leadership roles is because of how they interpret the Bible."
"In the Apostle Paul's letters, he gives instructions to churches regarding these specific roles. But Protestant churches disagree on his intent," McConnell said.
Overall, 94% of respondents reported that their churches allow women to minister to children, 92% said that their church permits women to serve as committee leaders and 89% of those surveyed indicated that women can minister to teenagers at the church.
Most pastors responded that women at their churches may teach coed adult Bible studies (85%) and serve as deacons (64%). In comparison, a slight majority (55%) stated that women can become senior pastors at their churches.
Only 1% of the sample led churches that forbid women from serving in all of those roles.
Forty-four percent of Evangelical pastors and 14% of Baptist pastors answered in the affirmative when asked if their church permitted women to serve as senior pastors.
Like Baptists, less than half of pastors affiliated with the Church of Christ (25%) and the Lutheran Church (47%) and 43% of non-denominational pastors serve at churches that allow female senior pastors.
Majorities of Methodists (94%), Pentecostals (78%) and Presbyterian/Reformed Pastors (77%) come from churches that allow women to serve as senior pastors.
The overwhelming majority of Baptists noted that their churches allowed women to minister to children (90%) and teenagers (81%) and let them lead committees (87%).
Still, the survey found that Baptist churches were less likely to allow women to minister to children than Pentecostals and Methodists. Almost all (99%) of pastors in both traditions asserted that women can serve in that role.
Lutherans (89%) and members of the Church of Christ (88%) were just about as likely as Baptists (90%) to permit women to minister to children.
Pentecostals (98%) and Methodists (97%) were also more likely than Baptists (81%) to enable women to serve their churches by ministering to teenagers. A slightly higher share of Lutherans (87%) allowed women to minister, while the Church of Christ was the least likely to do so (74%).
When asked if women can lead committees at their churches, nearly all Methodist pastors (98%) said that they could, followed by 92% of Lutherans and 90% of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors.
Only 84% of pastors affiliated with the Church of Christ serve at churches that permit women to lead committees, a slightly smaller share than the 87% of Baptists.
Twenty-nine percent of Baptist pastors come from churches that allow women to serve as deacons, making them the least likely to allow women to obtain such a role.
About half of respondents affiliated with the Church of Christ (49%) say their churches permit female deacons, along with 60% of Lutherans, 83% of Pentecostals and 88% of Methodists.
All Methodist pastors surveyed let women lead coed adult Bible study groups, followed by 92% of Pentecostals, 88% of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors, 77% of Lutherans, 74% of Baptists and 62% of those leading congregations affiliated with the Church of Christ. While most non-denominational pastors represented churches that do not allow female pastors, 93% of them say their churches let women lead coed adult Bible study groups.
The ability of churches to appoint female pastors has emerged as a source of contention within the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
When megachurch Pastor Rick Warren of California's Saddleback Church ordained three women last year, others within the SBC wanted to expel his church from the association.
Prominent SBC theologians released a statement affirming the declaration in Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 that "the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
The survey noted variances based on the geographic location of the church, the degree of educational attainment obtained by the pastors, their ages and the sizes of their churches.
Pastors in the Northeast (75%) were most likely to serve at churche that let women serve as pastors, along with 60% of pastors with a master's degree, 60% of pastors aged 65 and older, 59% of pastors between the ages of 55 and 64 and 66% of pastors leading churches with less than 50 members.
On the other hand, less than half of pastors between the ages of 18 and 44 (49%), pastors with a bachelor's degree (46%), pastors leading congregations with attendance ranging from 100 to 249 (46%) and those with more than 250 congregants (41%) say their churches allow women pastors.
Similarly, pastors in the Northeast (77%) and Midwest (69%) are more likely than their counterparts in the South (56%) to say their churches allow female deacons.
Pastors with a master's degree (69%) were also more likely than those with a bachelor's degree (68%) or no college degree at all (56%) to represent churches permitting women to serve as deacons. Leaders of small churches with less than 50 attendees (71%) were also more inclined to say their churches allow women to serve as deacons than pastors of churches with 100 or more attendees (59%).
Ninety-one percent of pastors with master's degrees represent churches allowing women to minister to teenagers compared to 85% of pastors with bachelor's degrees. At the same time, 92% of pastors leading congregations between 50 and 99 members say their churches permit women to serve in such roles compared to 85% of pastors with congregations of 250 or more.
Older pastors were more likely than their younger counterparts to lead churches allowing women to serve as coed adult Bible study teachers, with 89% of pastors between the ages of 55 and 64, 87% of pastors aged 65 and older and 80% of pastors between the ages of 18 and 44 leading churches allowing women to serve in that role. Pastors in the Northeast (89%) were likelier than those in the Midwest (81%) to say the same.
The survey also identified pastors between the ages of 55 and 64 as the most likely group to say their churches allow women to minister to children (97%) and pastors without a college degree as the least likely group to say their churches permit female committee leaders (82%).