Most Evangelical Leaders OK with Birth Control

Correction appended

A majority of evangelical leaders approve of artificial methods of contraception, a new survey reveals.

The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches in the United States, released a report Tuesday showing that nearly 90 percent approve of contraception.

Several leaders, however, expressed opposition to drugs or procedures that terminate a pregnancy once conception has taken place.

"Most associate evangelicals with Catholics in their steady leadership in pro-life advocacy, and rightly so," said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, in a statement. "But it may come as a surprise that unlike the Catholic church, we are open to contraception."

Evangelicals in the pews hold similar views. A 2009 poll conducted by the NAE in partnership with Gallup, Inc., found that at least 90 percent of evangelicals say hormonal/barrier methods of contraception are morally acceptable for adults.

Surveyed leaders in the most recent poll said the purpose of sex is not limited to procreation but it extends to the consummation and expression of love within marriage.

"Our leaders indicate that contraception can be utilized if all biblical purposes of sex are upheld and that it may actually aid in keeping the balance," Anderson noted.

The survey comes weeks after the NAE released a "Theology of Sex" resource to help inspire discussions about sex within the church and as part of an effort to reduce abortions in the country. The resource lists four reasons for sex, including "one-flesh union" to consummate marriage, procreation, expression of love to one's spouse, and enjoyment and pleasure.

Though overwhelmingly open to various forms of contraception, some leaders gave approval with caution.

While giving his OK, George Brushaber, president emeritus of Bethel University, noted that contraception should be used "with proper biblical and medical guidance."

And Greg Johnson, president of Standing Together, stressed that churches have a responsibility to communicate and preach the importance of family.

"[C]ouples should not carelessly allow themselves to use contraception as a way to avoid having children and a growing family altogether," he said.

Though some have argued that it is sinful to regulate the timing and number of children since children are gifts from God, many evangelical leaders believe otherwise.

Minneapolis preacher John Piper has stated, independent of the survey, that just because something is a gift from the Lord, it does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether one will come into possession of it.

Nevertheless, God is in control whether a married couple uses birth control or not.

"The hands of the almighty are not tied by birth control," he has argued. "A couple will have children precisely at the time God wants, whether they use birth control or not."

Randy Bell of the Association for Biblical Higher Education can testify to that.

"I can say from personal experience that God can defeat such methods if he chooses to do so," said Bell, who also believes Scripture does not prohibit most common methods of contraception.

Results are based on a monthly poll of the NAE Board of Directors who include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

Correction: Wednesday, June 9, 2010:

An article on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, on evangelical leaders and contraception incorrectly identified statistics as coming from one survey. Results were based on two surveys, one from the latest NAE monthly poll and another from the 2009 poll with Gallup, Inc.

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