In June 2014, 1267 people completed the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory’s Same-Sex Attitudes Survey. As technology did not permit sufficiently wide polling of those in Fiji and Tonga, the results reported here are from those living in New Zealand.
There were 814 responses from New Zealand, with 176 officers taking part, 303 soldiers, 52 adherents, 39 attenders, 169 employees, five clients, 40 people formerly associated with The Salvation Army, and 30 never formally associated with The Salvation Army. There was low representation from under 20s.
The number of respondents formerly associated with The Salvation Army was relatively small, but 45 per cent of these said the Army’s stance on same-sex relationships was a factor in their decision to discontinue their association.
Most of the following analysis focuses on officer and soldier responses.
The central question of the survey was: Which of the following would best describe your current attitudes toward same-sex relationship: 1) I hold unswervingly to the historic understanding of the church, that sexual relationships are appropriate only for a man and a woman in a marriage relationship—officers 51%, soldiers 58%; 2) I live with a degree of uncertainty: I long for clear teaching on this matter but suspect the answer is far from simple—officers 37.5%, soldiers 27.6%; and 3) I am convinced that committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships are fully capable of honouring God—officers 11.36%, soldiers 14.85%.
Of those that held unswervingly to the historic teaching of the Bible, over a third of officer respondents did not claim to have made any serious study of the Bible in forming their opinion. Similarly, more than half of soldiers who held the same view also said they had not made any serious study of the Bible in this regard. Of those who felt that ‘committed, monogamous same-sex relationships [were] fully capable of honouring God’, a significant number of officers had come to this position without undertaking any serious study of the Bible (22.2% for female officers and 36.4% for male officers). For soldiers in this more ‘accepting’ group, only 29.6% of female soldiers said they had made a serious study, compared with 61.1% of male soldiers.
Anecdotally, it is sometimes suggested that younger people might be more accepting of same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships than older people. The data from this survey did not support this hypothesis, with a range of views represented across all age groups. However, the sample size is too small for each age range to draw a confident conclusion on this question.
In summary, a little over half of respondents held to a traditional view of same-sex relationships. Just under half were either uncertain or had moved to a more accepting view of same-sex relationships. The traditional viewpoint was more strongly represented among soldiers (58%) than officers (51%).
Territorial Commander Commissioner Robert Donaldson said while it was clear that there were different views represented across The Salvation Army, it was his hope that The Salvation Army would be experienced as a safe and welcoming place for all people regardless of their sexual identity. ‘The Salvation Army will continue to look for ways to engage in respectful dialogue around this topic,’ he said, ‘but the most important thing is to look after each other as we do so.’