In a recent press release, the flagrantly anti-gay Family Research Council claimed:
As more churches move away from biblical authority, their attendance suffers. Just ask the Episcopal Church, whose pews are virtually empty after the decision to endorse homosexuality. It’s time to push back on the spin that’s feeding our weak brethren who say that compromising truth in pursuit of love is the way to reach the lost.
Is any of this factually accurate? As usual, no.
First, the Episcopal Church has experienced an overall decline in attendance (PDF) of 3.7% from 2000 to 2010 – hardly “virtually empty” pews.
Second, the idea that churches have lost followers due to “compromising truth” is wholly contrary to reality. A series of studies of young Christians and ex-Christians found that three out of five of them will leave their churches for a lengthy period, often permanently, after age 15. Why? Were their former faiths just too accepting of gay people? Were they driven away by churches that prized love over “truth”, and compromised their doctrines in order to appeal to more people?
No. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Those who left their churches offered several reasons for leaving, such as the perception that Christians “demonize everything outside of the church”, that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers”, that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in”, that “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date”, that “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths”, and that they feel “forced to choose between my faith and my friends”. Do these sound like people who wanted more “truth” from dogmatic churches which demand they place religious belief before reality, humanity, and love?
According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 69% of Millennials believe “religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues”. In other words, people aren’t leaving because their churches are too tolerant of homosexuality. They’re leaving because their churches are too intolerant of homosexuality. The FRC is operating outside of reality, in a world that exists only in their fevered imagination.