Forty percent of evangelical leaders said they "socially drink alcohol," according to a new monthly poll.
Many of them added that they only drink "in moderation," "on special occasion," or "infrequently." And they noted that they do so only with those who share similar views on alcohol consumption.
The poll, released Thursday, was based on responses from the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals, including the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations.
Among the majority who said they did not consume alcohol, the common reason for abstinence was not because they believe it is sinful to drink.
"Even though there is no prohibition on the moderate alcohol consumption in Scripture, due to the many implications as an example to family and those I serve, I like Paul’s words 'it is better not to' (Romans 14:21)," said Gary Benedict, president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, according to the NAE poll.
For some, their denominations do not allow leaders to drink.
"[W]hile we understand one cannot defend [abstinence from alcohol] biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement," said Jeff Farmer of Open Bible Churches.
Others said they abstain from drinking because of alcoholism in the family, a desire to be an example to younger generations, or the affect alcohol addiction has on society.
"Alcohol and its effects have been a major challenge in American society," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "Just as society has dealt with it, as evidenced in the 18th and 21st amendments, so have evangelicals looked at how to appropriately interact with alcohol."
An earlier study of Protestants in the country found that over a quarter of lay people (29 percent) said people should never drink alcohol, according to LifeWay Research. Meanwhile, 24 percent of senior pastors agreed. Also, while 68 percent of pastors said reasonable consumption of alcohol is a "biblical liberty," just over half (54 percent) of lay people agreed.
At the same time, 90 percent of clergy said a Christian drinking alcohol could cause other believers to stumble or be confused, the LifeWay survey found.
Based in Washington, D.C., the National Association of Evangelicals represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 different denominations and serves a constituency of millions. The NAE defines an evangelical as one who takes the Bible seriously and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.