Predictors of Protestant clergy's attitudes toward pastoral care regarding issues of homosexuality
Literature has consistently documented that religious involvement and identity have a positive, protective impact on health. Gay and lesbian persons, as members of a stigmatized group, are at particular risk for numerous physical and psychological difficulties and may benefit from competent care by clergy. The purpose of this dissertation is to report the results of a survey of 1,000 Protestant clergy in the United States designed to describe clergy?s training, knowledge, and experience regarding homosexuality and to examine the predictors of clergy?s attitudes toward issues of homosexuality. Evidence indicates that training and contact with homosexual persons can transmit knowledge to clergy, and that such knowledge is associated with more positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians. However, in this sample, males and respondents reporting more conservative religious beliefs scored lower on the knowledge scale than their more liberal counterparts. Additionally, respondents? formal training about homosexuality overall appears to have been insufficient to meet their professional needs as more information was received through informal training and continuing education. Conservative respondents reported less personal and professional experience with homosexuals and issues of homosexuality. Similarly, conservative respondents, males, persons from the Midwest and South, persons who did not receive clinical pastoral education (CPE) training, and those with less personal experience with homosexual persons reported significantly more conservative attitudes. The one exception to these findings was with conservatives reporting significantly more professional experience providing pastoral care to a homosexual who wanted to become heterosexual. This finding is congruous with conservatives scoring incorrectly more often on knowledge items regarding the changeability/choice of homosexuality. While knowledge was a consistent and significant predictor of attitudes (less knowledge predicted more conservative attitudes/beliefs), religious beliefs provided a stronger contribution to regression models with conservative beliefs significantly predicting more negative attitudes.