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November 12, 2017

#ScoreSunday & Methodology Release

Hi everyone: Here’s an update from the Scoring team and a few updates to our scoring criteria.

As we continually refine our methodology and our database grows with increasingly complexity, we will provide these updates in an effort to maximize transparency. Let us know what you think about these changes on TwitterFacebook or email.

  1. How we deal with denominations

In the past, websites that did not indicate a policy or denomination were scored as “undisclosed," even though their denomination’s website indicated a policy. Now, so long as we can find evidence that a church belongs to a denomination, and we can ascertain that denomination’s policy, we will score it as “unclear.”

As an example, see Elevation Church. Previously it was scored as “undisclosed.” However, crowd-sourced evidence available online indicates that it is in fact a Southern Baptist Church, and the SBC is non-affirming. As a result, we’ve updated their score as “unclear” + “non-affirming."

What this means is that, if a church belongs to a denomination, we are counting “denomination’s websites” within the unit of analysis, in addition to “church’s websites.”

However, just because a denomination is overall affirming does not mean we automatically score a church as affirming, as local churches can deviate from denominational policy. We are encouraging each church that has affirming language on their website to go through our Church Clarity Badges process and fill out our four-question policy survey to deliver maximum clarity as to its actively enforced policy. 

  1. How we deal with media / press

Typically, we do not count any content external to a church’s website (e.g. press coverage, pastor’s blog) in a church’s score, although we do link to them under “Reference Links.” See Flatirons church as an example -- although there is press coverage that indicates the church has a non-affirming policy, we still scored the church’s website as “undisclosed” as the website itself does not disclose anything (and it does not appear to belong to a denomination). The main reason is that press coverage can be an unreliable reference point, for the data we are collecting (the reporter may be taking a quote from a pastor out of context) and the article may be dated.

We’ve made a slight change and now we are going to take articles, op-eds, blog-posts, signatory lists (e.g. Nashville Statement) or any external content written or signed by the current main pastor, but published outside of the church’s website, into account for how we score. So even if a church’s website has no indication of policy whatsoever, if its current main pastor has signed the Nashville Statement or written an op-ed against transgender people, we will take that as sufficient evidence of a non-affirming policy for that church and score it as “unclear” + “non-affirming.” Again, in order to earn a “clear” score - we’re looking for these policies to be housed in the main sections of the church’s website.

Again, we'd love to hear your feedback on Twitter, Facebook or email!