One third of UK churchgoers hide support for gay people

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A poll of 1,300 Christians has found 37% are too scared to tell people they support gay relationships.

Oasis Trust polled regular churchgoers from a variety of Christian denominations across Britain, and found that acceptance has been increasing in the last ten years. 68% said their views on LGBT people had become more positive in the last decade. Nearly half now do not believe it is wrong to be gay.

Church leaders were ten times less likely to support same-sex relationships than their congregations – but many of those who did also said they felt afraid to say so openly. Churchgoers said they feared negative reactions for speaking out, and church leaders also feared losing their job or funding.

Oasis Trust director Steve Chalke – who is a Baptist minister and has written about his support for LGBT inclusion in the church – told Christian Today: “I totally understand why they’re scared, but this is one of those funny situations where everyone is afraid of one another. Leaders are scared they’ll be rejected by the people, and the people are scared they’ll be rejected by their leaders, so this dishonesty develops.”

Churchgoers were also asked whether it was acceptable for gay people to hold leadership roles within the church. All Quakers surveyed said they would accept gay leaders, along with 88% of Methodists and 57% of Anglicans. Only 1% of all respondents thought gay people should not be allowed to attend church at all, and 5% objected to same-sex weddings or blessing ceremonies being held in churches. 8% objected to marriage, but not blessing ceremonies.

Mr Chalke said: “A huge number of church leaders, both local and national, have come to me and said ‘Steve, we’re with you, but we don’t want to stand up and take the shots for this.

“We as Christians should be intolerant of intolerance. I think that we should be on the front line of human and civil rights, and I think it’s a tragedy that so often, as history has recorded, we drag our feet…The church is supposed to be standing up for faithfulness, integrity and family.”

“Whatever the stereotype, it’s clear that attitudes in the church toward loving, committed and faithful same-sex relationships are changing. It’s crucial that we keep talking about it.”

The Oasis Trust were kicked out of the Evangelical Alliance because of Mr Chalke’s views on gay people.