December 3, 2021 7:00am

Poll Shows Divided Views on Durham Anti-LGBTQ+ Affirming Church

One thing's for sure: folks felt strongly the church should either be welcomed, or has to go.

Photo of Leigh Tauss
Durham, NC Correspondent

The results are in!

Thank you kindly to the folks who took the time to fill out this survey. This is a small sample size, and I'm hoping over time we'll get more participation as we grow.

This week, we asked you about Pioneers Church, a new millenial-led United Methodist congregation opening a co-working faith community center on West Geer Street. Pioneers' founders say they won't marry gay couples but want to build strong alliances with the LGBTQ+ community. Some neighbors feel the church's views are problematic and community backlash has included salt being poured around the building supposedly to cleanse negative energy.

In the last week, other businesses in the neighborhoods have hung rainbow flags in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, and there has been a gathering planned for Sunday at nearby venue Motorco for Durham residents concerned with "the potential harm Pioneers may cause."

But if this week's poll shows not everyone is up in arms about the new church, but folks are certainly divided about the issue and how the community should respond.

More than half of Power Poll members that responded to this week's poll felt that the church should have a place in the Bull City on the basis of religious freedom. About a third felt the exact opposite: that discriminatory beliefs don't belong in Durham. Only one person responded maybe and another had no opinion. For me, that speaks to how divided folks are on this topic.

However, if community members are coming to Pioneers' defense, it's hard to tell from the online discourse, which has been predominately critical of the church. As of Thursday, more than 6,900 people have signed a petition called "Anti-LBGTQ Homophobic Church? Not in My Durham!"

In the second question, I asked what the church could do to build relationships and be welcome into the neighborhood. Here, things got interesting. While folks were fairly divided in question one, far fewer people said they'd feel welcome at the Pioneers without any changes. The most popular solution was to have the church engage in a dialogue to foster mutual understanding and respect.

But the next most popular answer was that there is nothing Pioneers could do to fit into the neighborhood, and they should probably relocate.

Talk isn't always cheap, but in this situation, no one felt the solution was for the church to invest in resources to support LBGTQ+ causes. Only one person didn't have an opinion.

Regardless of the church's future in the neighborhood, it's clear this was a divisive issue for folks and most of you feel strongly one way or the other: either they can stay or should go, but there's not much in-between.

We always like to throw in a fun question. I asked you when is the ideal time to decorate for the holidays!

About a third of you had no opinion (sad face), but another third said you do while eating your leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. The rest of you felt the first week of December, except for the special person who likes to scramble the week before Christmas.

I was relieved to see this week's poll included no anti-decorating Scrooges or the psychopaths who put their lights and inflatable reindeer up right after Halloween.

Happy December!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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