Contrary to media reports, evangelicals are unlikely to change their attitudes on sexuality any time soon, writes Russell Moore in the magazine First Things (October). With the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and the growing public acceptance of gay rights and other liberal positions on sexuality, several commentators have reported liberalization in some quarters of evangelicalism. Polling data of Millennials in general support for gay marriage and the acceptance of gay rights by some prominent evangelical congregations have encouraged such speculation. But Moore writes that surveys of Millennial evangelicals shows little softening of attitudes upholding a conservative sexual ethic. He adds that the same group of “megachurches” are often presented as being in the vanguard of progressive change. But these congregations are often outliers in the evangelical world and number less than a half a dozen. For instance, a church in Franklin, Tenn. is often cited as a prominent congregation that has change its mind on homosexuality, but it is far from being a megachurch by Nashville standards.
Some see the influence of evangelical feminists as foreshadowing evangelical liberalization on sexuality. Moore himself previously thought that evangelical feminism would earn wide support in evangelical circles, but the movement never gained traction. “It is now hard to find leaders of evangelical feminist organizations who are recognized by the rest of the movement as solidly conservative and orthodox…The largest evangelical denominations and church planting organizations and conferences are now complimentarian [teaching different roles between men and women].” In fact, it is the evangelical feminists who have shown the greatest likelihood of moving toward progressive change on homosexuality. Moore acknowledges that older ways of resisting “secularization and sexualization” are no longer viable. Evangelicals can no longer depend on national or even regional culture to support them in their positions on “traditional family values.” In this case, he argues that evangelical churches will likely operate in a “missional” context where conservative family teachings are preserved for eventual rediscovery.
(First Things, 35 E. 21st St., Sixth Fl., New York, NY 10010)