A report from the Pennsylvania Pastors' Network reveals that approximately 20 percent of evangelical pastors in the Keystone State are "not in sync" on significant moral and doctrinal issues.
The report contains information compiled from a phone survey conducted by United in Purpose on behalf of PPN. The survey asked evangelical pastors from across the state to respond to 20 questions pertaining to topics such as abortion, same-sex marriage, the authority of the Bible, and how a person can be spiritually saved. The results of the survey are being released in several parts over time.
When asked to respond to the statement, "People can receive eternal salvation only through personal repentance of sin and the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, 89 percent of pastors said they would "definitely" teach that position to their church. Another four percent of pastors said they would only "probably" teach that view, and seven percent said they would not teach it at all.
Three-quarters (78 percent) of pastors said they would definitely teach that the Bible is "the only completely reliable source of absolute moral truth," while 11 percent said they would probably teach the same and 10 percent said they would not teach it.
When asked where they stand on certain moral topics, 78 percent of pastors said they would definitely teach that abortion is wrong because "life is a sacred gift of God," while five percent said they would probably teach the same and 17 percent said they would not. More than four-in-five (82 percent) pastors also said they would definitely teach that same-sex marriage is morally wrong because marriage is supposed to be a union between a man and a woman, though two percent said they probably would teach the same and 15 percent said they wouldn't at all.
Sam Rohrer, president of PPN, expressed concern about the study's findings in a press release.
"In our day when murder of the unborn is sanctioned by government, the redefining of marriage breeds confusion and uncertainty marks our culture, God's Word is the only source for truth and confidence. We walk away from God and His moral absolutes to our own peril. And it is Pastors who have the direct command to preach and teach a pure Biblical worldview as given by God in His Word," he said.
He later added, "Our nation is in need of rescue and 20 percent of our pastors are falling short of the call and responsibility placed on their lives. It is impossible for those in positions of leadership to lead on matters of life and living when they themselves are not confident that God's Word provides all the answers to all life's questions."
Another finding from the report indicates that 74 percent of evangelical pastors in Pennsylvania would definitely teach that "Christians have a responsibility to uphold the biblical principles on which our country was founded." Another nine percent said they would probably teach the same while 17 percent said they would not.
The report consisted of responses from 114 evangelical pastors representing churches from 17 different denominations plus five non-denominational churches, according to a previously released report from the same survey. Ninety percent of the churches represented by the pastors are primarily white congregations, while four percent are primarily black, two percent are primarily Hispanic and four percent are multi-ethnic.
But despite the diversity among those surveyed, Pastor John Davis of Grace Church in Philadelphia says he is skeptical that the percentages provided in the report accurately reflect the view of all pastors in Pennsylvania or in the United States as a whole.
"If those statistics were accurate I would be encouraged that so many have a high view of Scriptural authority and of biblical morality," said Davis. "Those figures may represent those who profess to be evangelical but I am sadly confident the statistics would be reversed if the survey included all denominations."