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What the Church of England teaches and what its members believe

What the Church of England teaches and what its members believe

Writing in The Church Times, Linda Woodhead reports that on issues of personal and public morality, members of the Church of England are not in synch with church leaders.

In short, Anglicans have a good deal in common with the Government. They are in line with The Guardian on personal issues, but the Telegraph or even the Mail on wider social and economic matters.

The gap between this set of values, and those supported by the Church, especially as it is represented by bishops and archbishops, the General Synod, church policy, and official statements – hence what is reported in the media – is wide. In a striking inversion, official church teaching is welfarist-paternalist on social and economic issues, and authoritarian-paternalist on personal ethics. It is the mirror image of majority Anglican opinion.

There is also a values gap between the Church and wider society – a gap that widens as you go down the age range. Young people tend to be centrist in their socio-political views, and highly liberal and egalitarian in their views on personal morality. We already knew that disaffiliation from the Church of England has increased with every generation, but our polling points to an important reason for this.

When asked whether they think the Church of England is a negative or positive force in society today, 60 per cent of under-25s say “neither”, or “don’t know”; and 21 per cent say “negative”. When the “negatives” are asked their reasons, the answer they greatly favour is: “The Church of England is too prejudiced – it discriminates against women and gay people.”

What do you suppose a survey of Episcopalians would show?

Hat tip Thinking Anglicans


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Weiwen Ng

The article implies that UK Anglicans lean conservative, but conservativism has very different meaning elsewhere than here. Among OECD countries, I’d venture that the Democrats are centrist, perhaps center-right. The Republicans are quite conservative indeed. Definitely not center-right.

And I think it is fair to say that the Tea Party is somewhat to the left of Golden Dawn, Lega Nord and other extremist parties.

“In early June, the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in the House of Lords, claimed that the “majority of faith groups are very strongly against” the proposed legislation. Our survey suggests that Anglicans are in fact in favour, by a slim margin.”

That gets at a difference in attitudes. Archbishop Welby appears to presume that he and the bishops speak for the church, and to some extent for society. I am not sure that Episcopalians would endorse this. Either way, I hope Welby comes to appreciate the difference. I would counsel him to win over his flock first before saying that the majority of church groups oppose same sex marriage. Either that, or say that the majority of religious leaders oppose same sex marriage, which is more objectively true.

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