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April 18, 2011

New Research: Protestant Pastors & the Environment, Shifting on Global Warming and Teaching on the Environment

Pastors often influence the views of the congregation... so we decided to ask them about Global Warming. Here are the results of our poll released a few minutes ago:

Protestant pastors are more skeptical about global warming today than they were two years ago.

That is the finding of a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 randomly selected Protestant pastors conducted in October 2010. The survey also found that pastors' views on the subject vary widely by denomination, education, location and political ideology.

When asked to respond to the statement, "I believe global warming is real and manmade," 41 percent of pastors strongly disagree, up from 27 percent in a similar survey conducted in 2008. That marks an increase of more than 50 percent.

According to the 2010 survey, 19 percent of pastors somewhat disagree with the statement, 13 percent somewhat agree and 23 percent strongly agree.

Twenty-five percent strongly agreed in 2008 that global warming is real and manmade.

According to the Pew Research Center, this trend among pastors parallels a trend among Americans in general. Between 2008 and 2010, the percentage of Americans who said there is no solid evidence that the earth is warming increased from 21 percent to 32 percent. In addition, in 2010, 34 percent said the earth is warming because of human activity, down from 47 percent in 2008.

"Pastors' sentiments on global warming have shifted right in step with Americans in general," noted Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "The number of pastors who are firmly convinced global warming is manmade has not changed much, but many who were beginning to agree during the 2008 election cycle now strongly disagree."

The language in the environmental movement has recently shifted from "global warming" to "climate change," but we asked the question to compare with the term used in years past. It appears that most people still use the term "global warming" when referring to the phenomenon.

I was surprised at the frequency of pastors who talk about environmental issues. About half of the pastors talk about the environment at least once a year or less. So, a little less than half talk about it more than once a year. Again, from the story:

Half of Protestant pastors (52 percent) address the issue of the environment to their churches once a year or less - virtually unchanged compared to 2008 (50 percent).

Earth Day is Friday. which is a time when many people talk about the environment. It is also Good Friday, so I am guessing not many pastors will do so this week. But, I wonder, how often do you talk about the environment and what your views are? Are such conversations appropriate in church? Does this poll surprise you?

Feel free to weigh in...

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