What Denominations are Tolerant of Evolution yet Conservative?

Obviously, conservatism is in a continuum as is liberalism. I would not expect, say, any fundamentalist church to be tolerant of evolution or probably even Old Earth. The Roman Catholic Church is conservative in many ways but they accept evolution with some qualifications. The Anglican Church in North America is conservative but tolerant of evolution. I was trying to see where the North American Lutheran Church stands on this. My experience with Protestantism in the last few years has been that you have a choice between a “liberal” version of a church and a “conservative” version, and the conservative version will often include a more or less strident Young Earth Creationist position. At the very least, evolution will be ruled out. YEC dogma seems to be common and not just in strictly fundamentalist churches.



I look forward to @Christy’s response… but while we wait…


Footnote 12: Religious Groups: Opinions of Evolution, Pew Forum (conducted in 2007, released in 2008)

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Many Protestant “low church” denominations are not as hierarchical as the ones you referenced and denominations are much looser affiliations that don’t have the same kind of authority over local churches. For example, my Baptist denomination has a very general statement of faith, but local churches have their own church constitutions and write their own position papers, so you would find a wide range of takes on specific secondary doctrinal issues.

Also, it can take a long time for denominations to officially change position statements and what is on the books may not reflect the dialogue and conversation that is going on internally or what is being taught at denominational colleges and seminaries. (See this doc about the CRC, for example)

I was almost hitting enter. Wait no longer.


@Christy, it was worth the wait…


This website is dedicated to Nazarene’s exploring evolution: http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/nazarenes_exploring_evolution

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See the chart on page four for a summary of some major denominational stances: https://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Evolution/Martin%20-%20Compatibility%20of%20Major%20U.S.%20Christian%20Denominations%20with%20Evolution.pdf

I would agree about the continuum. Even within many “conservative” churches and denominations, there will be people who affirm evolution, but if the majority is fairly vocal, then they probably won’t be heard all that much – my church is conservative and I’d say predominantly YEC, but then, I’ve only heard the opinions from the 4 or 5 most vocal people about it, and haven’t shared mine, so it’s harder to say about individuals – but it’s a safe assumption that most are YEC, if only by default. Of course, the way I was raised, accepting evolution was an automatic forfeiture of the “conservative” label. :wink: (I’m glad that doesn’t actually have to be the case).

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@LorenHaarsma is mentioned here.I appreciate his wife and his Origins video. We live an hour from Calvin here. I agree that the local Crc churches still vary a lot in relationship to evolution.

A lot of interesting things to read. In a way I would like YEC, evolution, to be secondary issues because they are secondary matters, but some churches don’t see it that way. I have had the experience of innocently asking a pastor at a church I had been visiting how important YEC was, and I was quickly uninvited from church.



Well, at least you know now you don’t want to go there.

I think it matters too where you are in the country. If you are in a metro area, or an area with universities, or in a more liberal area of the country (west coast, New England) even more conservative denominations are going to have more diverse opinions in the congregation. In the Bible Belt even denominations that you would think would be more open to evolution might locally be pretty hostile to it. So there are more variables than just the label on the church.


ECO (Evangelical Covenant Order) is a conservative-ish Presbyterian denom that I don’t think makes an issue of evolution. (John Ortberg pastors an ECO church.)

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“E” - - look at all that “green”! And I don’t mean cash…

Kansas and Nebraska look like “Eco-Presby deserts”. We have some Reformed Presbyterian friends who are politically conservative. And yet, while evolution may be beyond the pale, an old earth is not necessarily rejected among at least one or two I know. But this is a university town. This article at thenaturalhistorian.com gives some interesting insights for how all this plays out in various reformed and other denominations.

Regarding what Christy says above, I talked to the pastor of the CRC church local to me. He personally had no trouble reconciling Genesis with evolution, he said. For several months I attended a mens’ group at that church and quickly discovered that the only opinions openly voiced were YEC. I doubt that any of the men in the group even new what the pastor’s thinking was on the subject, and he obviously was not eager to share it. Almost any church that has a high view of Scripture generally, such as in the area of sexual morals, will read Genesis simplistically and will not welcome alternative views. Very disheartening.

Perhaps that could be considered from a different perspective: people don’t feel such a need to “stake out their territory” unless they have the prior perception that their position is in stark relief (or contrast) to something in their surroundings. You probably don’t find people in a bible study loudly and vocally declaring that “God exists”, for example; probably because there is no reason to believe that is being actively or widely doubted in that setting. When people begin to feel more defensive about something, they probably become more shrill about it too. IOW, challenges to it must be making inroads.

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Hi Mervin,

In some cases, I’m sure you are right. In this case, the YEC position is just assumed and clearly the speaker doesn’t contemplate the possibility of disagreement. For example, a comment such as, “Yes, God made Israel wait five hundred years after they came back from exile before the Messiah came, but sometimes he makes big changes happen quickly–like during the creation when all these big things happened in just a few days.” Like that, incidental, just in passing.

I’ve had other Christians (though not in that group) say things to me in casual conversation like “I started watching this special on TV, but wouldn’t you know it they started talking about ‘bilions of years’ [eye roll] so I just turned it off.” These comments are said without a thought that I might not agree with their perspective.

For the foreseeable future, the literalists will dominate. They have a clear field, unless you’re in a progressive LGBTQXYZ-affirming church where the Bible is thought to be quaint. The fundamentalists know they can pound the Bible to drive out or drown out any interpretation that is not as childishly simple as their own.

I go to church with people like what you describe, but it’s not accurate to say that they “dominate” all churches that aren’t “liberal.” You can certainly find theologically conservative churches where YEC dogma will never be mentioned from the pulpit and where the people who call the shots do not have a problem with a diversity of origins views in the congregation. Every church I have attended over the last 20 years has been in this category. And I spent six years in the Bible belt at Southern Baptist Churches. Sure, you were not going to find book clubs discussing evolutionary creation, but YEC beliefs weren’t pushed either. Origins was like politics; some people assume everyone thinks like they do, but it’s not like you would get kicked out of the church or be a social pariah if you raised your hand and said you liked the other party better.


I think things are getting better, in general, over time. Not everywhere, but certainly in many places.

When we needed to move churches a number of years ago, we faced this same issue. Do we want to be the conservative side of a liberal church, or the “liberal” side of a conservative church? We opted for the latter, but we ended up finding a wonderful congregation that takes the Bible very seriously and is also fine with EC as one of the faithful options. We have a range from YEC to EC and we all get along for the most part.

I do hurt for people who are in places where they can’t find such a place, though. I know how tough it can be, since I’ve walked that road somewhat as well.

Y’all need to move to Canada. :slight_smile:


I think the tide has turned, but it will be a while before you see big changes, and probably never will be something discussed much from the pulpit, as most evolutionists I know do not really see evolution as something that is an integral part of the Christian faith. The real challenge is trying to keep people driven from the church by those who see their particular view as foundational to the gospel.

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