What do Anglican clergy think about ‘Christian’ Britain, sexuality, and clergy morale?

At the end of July, Kaya Burgess, the Religious Affairs correspondent of The Times, sent out an email to 5,000 Church of England clergy, inviting them to complete a questionnaire giving their views on a whole range of issues, including whether Britain is a ‘Christian’ country any more, the Church’s teaching on sexuality, their own morale, and the leadership of the Church.

It made headlines on Tuesday morning, leading with ‘Britain is no longer a Christian country, say frontline clergy’ in the report on the survey (which you can read here without paying), and then a Leader column with a rather different message—that the C of E needs to align itself with culture on the question of sexuality if it is to avoid extinction.

The world has moved on and left the General Synod behind. If it is to avoid irrelevance the church would be wise to embrace the liberal instincts of its clergy and the country.

What is rather striking here is that the Leader and the summary of the research point in completely opposite directions. If Britain is ‘no longer a Christian country’ and the Church ’embraces the liberal instincts of the country’ on sexuality, then won’t the Church no longer be a Christian Church?

But that is only the start of the problems. The whole basis of the survey, and the confident claims it makes, it based on a con. The article (and news coverage in different media) claimed that The Times had undertaken a survey ‘of 1,200 clergy’. But it had done no such thing.

It sent out 5,000 invitations, and then used the results of 1,200 who responded. The one thing we can report with confidence, then, is ‘76% of C of E clergy have better things to do in August than complete a survey.’ And you don’t have to think too hard to work out some of the selective factors motivating you to complete this or ignore it. Suppose you are leading a large and growing church, and are taking a group from your church to one of the summer festivals. Are you going to fill out the form? Likely not.

On the other hand, suppose you see this as a potential way to stir up the C of E pot again, and express your own discontent on various issues, are you going to fill in the form? Quite likely. So there is a very clear reason for treating the results as carrying a very heavy bias. And as far as I can see, The Times has done nothing to assess the balance of responses, in terms of the split male/female, parochial/sector ministry, licensed/permission to officiate, stipendiary/self-supporting, even full-time/part-time or retired. Without these basic checks, the surveys offers us little more than the views of those who selected themselves by responding.

This really is the worst way to conduct an opinion poll or survey.

What this means is that, wherever the report claims ‘clergy think that…’ or ‘56% of clergy have this view’, none of that is true. Every single claim needs to be moderated by ‘of those clergy who selected themselves by completing the survey.’

And it gets worse. If you look very carefully at the bottom of the chart on ‘Workload pressures’, the only responses considered are of clergy who are under the age of 70—which turns out to be a mere 769 of the 1,185 responses in total, 65% of the responses on which the conclusions are based, and a mere 15% of the 5,000 invited. At one level, it is not surprising that more retired clergy found the time to complete the survey—but it raises even more sharply the representative nature of the responses.

And there’s more! I completed the survey in August, but with just about every section I wanted to say ‘But that is a false dichotomy!’ or ‘Yes, but not for the reason you think’. On 25th August, having completed the survey, I wrote to Kaya Burgess and highlighted numerous problems with the wording (including their claim that February Synod voted to bless same-sex relationships, which it hadn’t). He replied that he had taken advice from pollsters (though did not say who, and none are mentioned in the results) and I gave him specific examples of errors and omissions, including asking about welfare and hardship but without asking about marital status, which can make all the difference.

(In an interview on Times Radio yesterday morning, I mentioned these things. Charlie Bell was also on, and said it is no good criticising the method if you don’t like the outcome—and I pointed out that I had criticised the method before I knew the outcome!)

In short, this survey might give an insight into how some clergy think, but it cannot be taken as indicated what ‘clergy on the frontline’ as a whole think. And it means that the survey might agree with evidence from elsewhere on some issues (shoot at random and you are likely to hit the target once or twice) but on other issues the claims will be very wide of the mark.

So what of the specific issues? The main ones featured in yesterday’s article were whether Britain was a Christian country, views on conducting same-sex marriages, clergy morale and confidence in leadership, and continued decline in C of E attendance. It is likely that other issues in the survey will be picked up in the next day or two—though of course any decent survey would give access to the questionnaire and the raw data, and allow people to draw their own conclusions.

On the question of ‘Christian Britain’:

Asked whether they think “Britain can or cannot be described as a Christian country”, only a quarter (24.2 per cent) answered: “Yes, Britain can be described as a Christian country today”. Almost two thirds (64.2 per cent) said Britain can be called Christian “but only historically, not currently” while 9.2 per cent answered “no”.

But how can you ask a question like this without allowing some exploration of what the phrase ‘Christian country’ might mean. Gavin Collins, suffragan bishop in Oxford Diocese, drew the comparison with Iran as a religious nation on LBC yesterday evening and was glad we are not like that!

This involves asking a complex set of questions around our constitution, since King Charles took an oath at his coronation that he would defend the ‘Protestant Reformed faith of the Church of England’. But there is a long legacy in our landscape of church buildings; the most striking feature of any English village is the church spire. There is the foundation of our legal system in the belief that justice and the law is not something we merely decide for ourselves, but something given and external to us to which we are accountable. And then there are the rapid changes we have seen in our culture over the last 30 years, reflected in our entertainment media as well as finding their way into strategies and priorities for Government and in education.

Underlying all that is the question: how many people in Britain are professing Christians? I was encouraged that, on Times Radio, Charlie Bell and I could agree that the heart of this question is how many people know Jesus as their saviour! Christians are called by Jesus to be salt and light, shaping and influencing the culture and context that they are in, and not ‘allowing the world to squeeze you into its mould’ (Rom 12.2).

So it might be that those clergy who said Britain is not a Christian country saw this as something positive: we have a job to do in proclamation of the good news of Jesus and his offer of life, and teaching them about what it means to follow him (the first two of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion).

On the perennial question of sexuality:

A majority of priests want the church to conduct same-sex weddings for the first time and formally drop its centuries-old opposition to premarital and gay sex, in a historic shift that campaigners hope will lead to a change in teaching.

Here we find the poor methodology coming to bite. This self-selecting group is now claimed to represent the views of ‘the majority of priests’, which of course they don’t. I do find it curious that those who want change in the Church’s teaching appear always to need to resort to dubious methods and make false claims to support their cause. I wonder why that is?

Earlier this year, the ‘Campaign for Equal Marriage’ invited clergy to sign a statement saying that they would be ‘willing to conduct same-sex marriages should they become legal’. That is quite a low bar—that in the case that the Church changes its doctrine, they would do this—and yet they only got 1,000 clergy out of the 20,000 to sign. That suggests that The Times sample was not at all representative. And in Synod, even with the assurance that the doctrine of the Church remains unchanged, the proposal to continue to explore possible ‘prayers of love and faith’ only passed by 52% to 48% in the House of Laity.

But even the basis of the question by the Times was in error:

Bishops have, however, said they will allow priests to “bless” gay couples and are under pressure to go further and permit same-sex weddings.

If you followed the debate at all in February’s Synod, the one thing that was strenuously denied is that any Prayers of Love and Faith would offer ‘blessing’ of a relationship.

This makes the response of supporters of change rather strange. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, of the Campaign for Equal Marriage (who left the C of E to marry his partner) thinks it is ‘absolutely huge’. And Linda Woodhead says ‘These are very interesting findings.’ But neither appear concerned at the poor methodology and the unrepresentative nature of the group. If such a change would be so significant, why has no-one commissioned an actual, well-researched survey that would give a clear view?

The answer appears to be entirely pragmatic. According to Woodhead, the way we should do our theological thinking is not by reading scripture, or by engaging in the issues carefully, or considering the views of theologians past and present, but by leaders ‘listening’ to the grassroots—it appears we really do need to do our theology by opinion poll. After all, that would save a lot of time and effort! But of course there is a snag. Research on ‘ordinary theology’, that is, what members of the average congregation actually believe, shows that much of the faith in the pews of the C of E is a very long way from anything resembling Christian orthodoxy. Many Anglican churchgoers don’t believe that Jesus really was the second person of the Trinity incarnate, and they don’t believe that his death really had atoning effectiveness.

The interview work presented here indicates that atonement theology in particular is often a stumbling block for many. Indeed, the majority (those with soteriological difficulties, the exemplarists plus some of the traditionalists) have bypassed the traditional theology of the cross, judging it irrelevant to their religious needs. Their dominant theological position may be said to be ‘Christianity without atonement.’ (Taking Ordinary Theology Seriously, p 26)

The exception is those churches which actually believe that the ordained leaders should be teaching the faith, and that lay members should take this learning seriously (who mostly call themselves ‘evangelical’). The NT word for those committed to learning is ‘disciple’.

Interestingly, it was Tom Swarbrick on LBC Radio who raised this question in his interview with me. He quoted Nick Baines, the bishop of Leeds, who commented that:

The church is the church, and, as such, not a club. It has a distinct vocation that does not include seeking popularity.

with the response ‘But your own clergy don’t believe the Church’s doctrine!’ The dissonance here is just one part of a wider problem: despite very clear statements about the doctrine of the C of E in canon law, despite the clarity of the Articles and Ordinal as founding documents, and despite the clear statement made by clergy at ordination that they believe and will expound the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, it is very clear that many do not! Because of this almost unbounded diversity of views within the C of E, we have lost the ability to speak clearly on any major issue—other than those where our views will not cause any real dissent.

The comments on clergy morale seem to me to be much closer to the evidence found elsewhere—but even in this survey there is something interesting happening. There is general gloom about the future of weekly services, with only 44% of the respondents thinking that it is ‘very likely’ that their church will continue to hold weekly services. Only 10% think that ‘church attendance’ will grow over the next 10 years, and another 10% think it will remain static. At the same time, only a third feel their workload is manageable, and a third have thought about quitting in the last five years.

So this self-selected group think that the Church should change its doctrine on marriage, see continued decline as the future of the Church, and don’t think the task of local church leadership is manageable. It is an interesting combination.

And that takes us, finally, to the proposal of the Leader comment. I think it is right to note the challenge that the C of E faces in its leadership:

The Church of England is enduring a prolonged crisis of confidence, and it is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in a survey of frontline Anglican clergy conducted by this newspaper. The findings make disquieting reading for the church’s leadership, suggesting widespread pessimism and discontent among those who struggle to maintain congregations and keep parishes alive.

It is not hard to see how decisions to gradually reduce the clergy stipend and slash the pension have contributed to this. But it is also not hard to see the impact of the way that the debate on sexuality has been handled—raising stress levels, exacerbating division at every level, and creating a prolonged period of uncertainty. This has been made worse by the very poor way the whole debate has been conducted, with those seeking change appearing content to drive proposals through by force, and if necessary by backroom coercion.

And where the Leader comments goes wrong is precisely on this point.

In supporting these views Anglican priests are doing no more than mirroring those of the general population; more than half of Britons believe the Church of England should marry same-sex couples. The world has moved on and left the General Synod behind. If it is to avoid irrelevance the church would be wise to embrace the liberal instincts of its clergy and the country. The rearguard action being fought by traditionalists has gone on too long and will end only one way.

This is a statement marked by ignorance and intolerance. There is complete ignorance of the views of the world-wide church, indeed the consensus view of the church catholic down the ages.

The creational-covenant pattern of marriage…is a consensus doctrine of the church catholic. Until the present generation, all Christians everywhere have believed, and every branch of the Christian tradition has taught, that marriage is man-woman monogamy… Marriage, the whole church has always confessed, is not only a monogamous union but also a man-woman union.’ (Marriage, Scripture, and the Church, Darrin Snyder Belousek p 52).

There is ignorance of the basic patterns of history. How did Britain ever become the ‘Christian country’ which it is now apparently moving from? Not by Christians aligning themselves with the culture around them! As historian Tom Holland has expressed eloquently, the reason why we no longer believe that some people can be traded as objects in the marketplace, why justice should hold all to account, and why sexual desire, particular that of men, should be disciplined and have social boundaries, is precisely because Christians down the ages did not ’embrace the instincts’ of the culture they found themselves in. Instead, they remained faithful to the teaching of Jesus and the gospel, and eventually culture was shaped by the gospel, and not the other way around.

There is ignorance of the way that, up till now, the C of E has done its theological thinking. There is ignorance of what is happening in the church in England—that those attending C of E churches make up a mere 20% of Christians in church on a Sunday, and that overall attendance is not in fact in decline. There is ignorance of the fate of the Western churches which have changed their doctrine of marriage—which have all, without exception, seen accelerating decline almost to the point of oblivion. And there is complete ignorance of the theological position of those others churches which are growing—the vast majority of which uphold the historic, consensus position which remains the C of E’s doctrine.

But this is also a statement of intolerance. Bypassing well-researched polling, bypassing understanding of the Church, of history, of theology, this comment demands that the Church of England conform to the secular views of a secular paper in a secular culture.

I wonder whom they will target next?

Listen to my discussion with Charlie Bell on Times Radio here from 2h 49m in.

Watch my interview on TWR here:

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281 thoughts on “What do Anglican clergy think about ‘Christian’ Britain, sexuality, and clergy morale?”

  1. My mother, a retired senior market research director, who was responsible for the British Crime Survey for several years, says that a survey like this would need at least a 70% response rate to be meaningful. This would be what they would do when surveying doctors, for example. She was incredulous that a 20% response rate would be used as authoritative.

  2. The logic and common sense here is sadly absent from much current talk about the future of the C of E. An excellent piece thank you.

  3. Thank you for your vigilance. And putting your head above the parapet.
    The secular attack is not only on the CoE but on Christianity itself, on Christ, and his Good News brought forth out of bad news, though the CoE as the State Church is the primary target.
    An interesting corollary is what in happening in Finland, which has engendered little outcry in the West, in the UK.

  4. To me, a poll like this also makes me wonder about the quality of theological education some of us ordained clergy have received….

    • Yes indeed, and at the local church level it’s an issue which is impossible for the lay people to raise because of the risk that it will be taken as a personal attack – understandably so…

  5. Thank you for taking the time to communicate what is actually happening around so many of these issues.
    Romans 12:2 says ‘do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’
    Our theology is based on what scripture says, not on what has become socially acceptable.
    Matthew 28:19 ‘Therefore go and make disciples’

    Appreciate all the teaching articles you write up for us – its a treasure!

    • But many Christians want to be popular (or at least not unpopular). They don’t want to be the weirdos. They don’t want to be where various despised minority groups were 50 years ago. Everything they do is a form of cultural appeasement – look at us we are ‘wholesome’ and family friendly (who can argue with that?). They don’t want to be the pitiful, oddball or scandalous characters found in the Bible. They don’t want to be the thief on the cross. or the leper. or the Samaritan woman at the well.

  6. As I mention elsewhere, you appear to be suggesting that the dataset for the whole survey was just 769 priests under the age of 70 years. But this is not the case. The dataset for the whole survey was 1,185 priests as claimed. The dataset was reduced to 769 priests under the age of 70 years solely for the questions relating to workload, since asking these questions of retired clergy would make no sense. I do think you should correct this, as you are overstating your critique of the methodology in what is otherwise an excellent article.

    • No, I don’t suggest that. You seem to have misread me. I note that the dataset of pre-retired working clergy is only 769. The fact that I had to look carefully (I don’t think anyone else has spotted it) highlights the problem.

      And we are not given any information about whether these are male or female, leading churches or in sector ministry, stipendiary or not—all the details which would made a difference, and tell us whether or not this group was representative.

    • Sorry, just re-read your blog and now I understand the point you are making. I thought you were claiming that the dataset for the other questions was also just 769 ‘working’ priests.

  7. I also filled in the survey, and then emailed the author with questions about the methodology. Thanks for a great article highlighting the problems with this sort of research, and the false conclusions then wrung out of it

  8. “Many Anglican churchgoers don’t believe that Jesus really was the second person of the Trinity incarnate, and they don’t believe that his death really had atoning effectiveness.”

    Presumably, this is because of the lack of decent teaching from the front in many churches.
    Paul, writing to the Corinthians states that he decided “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2), and in the previous chapter that the message of the cross was foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block (“scandal”) to Jews.

    It is precisely the very centre of the Christian Gospel which is a problem for the World (particularly the World in the Johannine sense of the word).

    • Everyone who attends a church on Sunday that uses authorised liturgy (BCP or Common Worship) will at some point repeat words that state these core beliefs explicitly. Eg. credal statements, prayers. This is how the services are designed. Is this really just ‘water off a duck’s back’ for a lot of people, —- repeating a bunch of words without thinking? Or are they being polite? If I didn’t believe the Nicene Creed, I would sit down and remain silent at that point. Maybe that is a faux pas in England?!

      • I have seen in the printed liturgy for the Holy Communion in a local Anglican church a ‘creedal statement’ which has a basically non-existent Christology. Fortunately it was not used, but then neither was any creedal statement. I cannot find it in Common Worship. I have heard it used elsewhere in the same Diocese, so I do wonder if this is something diocesan.

        However, I suspect that many in the pews read the words without really taking in their meaning, and some clergy cross their fingers behind their backs.

  9. “good criticising the method if you don’t like the outcome—and I pointed out that I had criticised the method before I knew the outcome!)”

    I’ve taken a poll of all my cell group and we’ve decided that SSM and SSB are heterodox and to be avoided at all cost. It’s clearly representative as we’re all clergy. Presumably he can’t argue with my methodology or result ?

  10. Well, Ian, you seem to have stirred up a hornet’s nest among the habitues of ‘Thinking Anglicans’, and some of them have stripped you of your doctorate!
    Seriously, if that is the definition of ‘thinking’ (without a lithp), it is more than a little sad to read how little attached some of them are to historic orthodoxy. When one writer who styles himself in the solemn Catholic title of ‘Father’ praises the British people for now breathing ‘the clean air of secularism’, one wonders what is the point (for them) of being a Christian. Do they look at their empty churches and conclude they have wasted their lives? A great pall of sadness seems to hang over them.

  11. “This has been made worse by the very poor way the whole debate has been conducted, with those seeking change appearing content to drive proposals through by force, and if necessary by backroom coercion.” – Yes, that was the Methodist experience, too, as documented by the Revd Dr David Hull in his booklet ‘The Runaway Train’ (https://www.methodistevangelicals.org.uk/Groups/363897/The_Runaway_Train.aspx). Hull was a chaplain to a Methodist school, who was driven out of his post by parents and staff when they discovered his orthodox views on marriage and sexuality. We also saw the revisionists ensuring that Safeguarding officers policed the District Synod debates, making some nervous about what they could say.

    So I fear for what my orthodox Anglican friends will deal with as the processes continue, aided and abetted by this shockingly bad journalism.

      • No, they have said nationally that they believe two contradictory things at the same time.

        And Methodism has collapsed in the last two years, with many leaving and a swathe of empty buildings.

        • British Methodism was in decline when they universally opposed same sex relationships. I’d argue that continuing not to allow SSM would have led to more rapid decline. Methodists are a different beast to CofE people. British Methodists are much more tolerant of differing views within the same congregation. For all of my life most British Methodist churches also will marry any straight couple in the community and I think it became hard to argue why atheist couples could be married in church and celebrated by the congregation, but beloved faithful gay members of the church could not.

          Actually when I was still living in England, a housemate of mine got married in the Methodist church I attended (and he did not). At the time I would not have been allowed to marry in the same church, although I’m 90% sure that the minister and members would have.

          • ‘British Methodism was in decline when they universally opposed same sex relationships’. The decline has accelerated dramatically since their decision to agree two contradictory things. Every church does.

          • Ian

            If there is evidence of accelerated decline, it’s probably more likely due to covid don’t you think?

          • Ian

            I can’t find any newer data on Methodist membership than 2020 (which was 164,000), which is obviously not post covid and was also before SSM became possible, and has been declining at a steady rate of 10,000/year since at least 2000.

            If you have newer figures then Id genuinely be interested.

  12. Is there a declaration of *religious* affiliation, vested interest, by The Times journalist?
    It is to be wondered, what was the catalyst for creating news or rather an ill/mal conceived, mendacious? misreprentative methology to give the appearance of credible and weighty substance.

    • It seems, from a glance at the list of linked responses to The Times article on the Anglican Mainstream site, that the headlines have been accepted and drawn comment, but there may have been little analysis, such as Ian P’s, of the methodology. Caveat: I ‘ve not followed through on the links save out of a slight passing interest due to the comment above from James, the link to thinking anglicans, but the link was down. (S)inking anglicans?

    • Wow—that is fascinating! Unusual, the person running the letters page wrote to me and we had an exchange. He said they had been overwhelmed with letters—and I don’t get the impression they were favourable!

  13. So far it would seem that the contributors to this particular post are of a conservative/ traditionalist hue. Usually when the issues pertain to questions of sexuality and / or the future of the C of E, those of a different complexion emerge from the undergrowth – and very quickly to boot! Is there any rational explanation for this situation?

  14. Pretty much every exercise trying to discern the mind of the church on same-sex relationships points to the same thing – whether it’s surveys by the Ozanne Foundation, the YouGov poll of Anglicans in February 2023, the Listening with Love and Faith report in September 2022 and even the Synod vote in February this year. They all point to a majority of around 55 – 60% in favour of liturgical support for gay marriage (whether marriage in church or blessings), and a sizeable minority of around 35 – 40% opposed. While some have complained about the representative nature of each of these studies, had quibbles over methodology, that they all give similar results and there is no data to my knowledge that seriously contradicts it. Any sensible and dispassionate reader of all of those results can only conclude that this is roughly where the mind of the church is at the present time.

    What is notable with this survey is that it is entirely drawn from serving (whether licenced or active retired) clergy, and therefore is unambiguously from within the church and from those with theological qualifications. It also comes after the church has been engaging with the variety of materials from the LLF project, so it’s not just a knee jerk reaction from the theologically unqualified. You can’t write this off as caving into culture, this is where the majority of the church are currently at in their thinking, this is internal to us and has been reached after much thought, prayer and reflection. It would be respectful to acknowledge that this is the position that many in the church have arrived at, rather than trying to dismiss is as a statistical aberration or an unthinking capitulation to culture.

    Regarding the statistical validity of the sample size, with a total active clergy population (including retired clergy still serving) of around 20,000, to meet the industry standard of 95% confidence level (i.e. p value less than 0.05) and a 3% margin of error you need 1014 responses. This study analysed 1200, so clears the usual tests for statistical significance. Many big opinion polls on voting intention are around the 1000 to 1500 mark, and they’re predicting the attitudes of tens of millions, not just the thousands when it comes to active clergy.

    So we can be 95% certain that the percentages quoted are within 3% of what the real attitude levels are. That’s a very good piece of research by any standard of polling. Most arguing about methodology are usually those that don’t like the answer. I think you’re going to have to admit, whether you like it or not, that the majority in the church are supportive of the liturgical affirmation of same sex relationships. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but no amount of “shooting the messenger” or sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “I can’t hear you” changes that fact.

    Just because the majority of the church believe a thing doesn’t necessarily make it right or wrong, and what policy we set as a church when the majority disagree with an inherited situation that a significant minority still hold to is also up for debate. But the fact that a majority are in support of liturgical affirmation of same sex relationships is pretty much established by now and the narrative needs to accept that.

      • Ian
        As someone with an academic background in religious sociology and anthropology and many years interpretating survey data in this ares have to see Nic’s comments are accurate whereas many of yours are not. This of course doesn’t tell us how to respond to thus data, as Nic himself acknowledges. But does suggest it is probably accurate.

        Why do I say this? In surveys of the whole population of 60 million a response over 1,000 is statistically significant and is the base line for most surveys. This is because it is known from past survey work that increasing the answer beyond 1,000 barely changes the result. It isn’t anything to do with percentage surveyed. But is to do with the representative nature of the sample. So often in surveys more results are taken than used as they need to represent a cross section of the group being surveyed. I note in this case 5,000 were asked and 1,200 responded. Provided they accurately represented a cross section of clergy then that response will be accurate.

        Now to acknowledge deciding what is an accurate cross section is on some issues straightforward but on others not. So they can have made sure there is an accurate age, gender and ethnic make up. Ad this survey is assessing views on subjects clergy disagree on it is hard to make sure those sampled represent a cross section of church traditions because it is very difficult to imagine questions that could meaningfully assess this when it is not clear how to define such groups. Witness whether or not all evangelicals agree on sexuality and marriage and any such definition would render the result potentially misleading. I am here assuming this poll was professionally conducted. But Nic notes it’s alignment with other surveys like that by YouGov which definitely will have been.

        You query the questions, but they are good neutral survey questions. The problem with any survey is that respondents have to interpret the questions. This is why it is good to support quantitative surveys with qualitative, but expensive and time consuming. I think by any standards this data looks sound. The question then is how to respond

        • ‘But does suggest it is probably accurate.’ Well, I don’t know what statistical training you had, and how it compares with my degree and Masters in Maths and OR. But I can guarantee you that this ‘survey’ passes no tests at all for reliability.

          They have done no work to either ensure, or check, or correct to make it representative of the demography of the larger group. That is why, unlike with the proper 2014 survey, they have not released the data. Look for yourself at the details here: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/5f5s31fk47/Results-for-Anglican-Clergy-Survey-08092014.pdf

          I understand well about the need for 1000. It is related to the Chi-squared test for significance. But it absolutely depends on selecting a representative sample, which they have not done. We do not even know what proportion of those answered are in parochial ministry, which is ridiculous.

          The fact that they have immediately used this survey to make a very particular political point also undermines its credibility.

          The questions were not written well, as I challenged Kaya on completing the survey. And they do not compare well with 2014 either.

    • First, the YouGov/Ozanne Foundation deliberately avoided asking people about church attendance, in order to make a claim about what ‘Anglicans’ believe which was quite misleading.

      Secondly, the Synod vote was much closer than you say—and that only when the reassurance about the doctrine of marriage was included. I think Sarah only allowed that because she knew that without it, the motion would fall—a motion that merely supported continuing exploration of unspecified prayers.

      Thirdly, this survey has multiple problems. Yes, a sample size of just over 1000 is fine—but only so long as care has been taken to ensure that the sample is representative of the population. Not only did they *not* do that, their method did the opposite! It was a self-selecting and uncontrolled group. They have not even supplied the information about the basic splits between male and female, stipendiary and SSM, parochial and sector ministry. We only know how small the active sample is because they let it slip!

      Fourthly, if the views were as you claim, why did only 1000 sign up to the CEM list?

      So your claim that ‘the majority are in favour of change’ is without any credible evidence. I don’t understand why you feel the need to make these claims again and again. Is it because the alternative—of actually doing the theology—is unappealing? Or is there another reason?

      LLF did not try to teach people, and it certainly did not succeed. Take up was very low; the 9,000 or so who offer reflection is a tiny fraction of churchgoers. The average Anglican remains remarkably ignorant of many of the keys, because there has been a vacuum of teaching on all sides. The LLF process *could* have addressed that, but it has failed to do so.

      I didn’t argue against methodology because I didn’t like the outcome; I had already challenged it at the time, as I state clearly above. And polls are not the way to decide our doctrine!

      • Ian

        Can you explain why there has been a vacuum of teaching?

        I’ve attended church my whole life (everything from GAFCON supporying CofE to very progressive Methodist) and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon or teaching on marriage or relationships except in special seminars or at weddings.

        Why do we have this thing that’s supposedly so important it can cause a schism, but also simultaneously not important enough to provide public teaching on?

          • Same-sex marriage might be a “hot potato”, but marriage more generally? What about encouraging youth to embrace lifelong celibacy (like St Paul)? It’s just not credible for people to claim this is a gospel issue, where different views cannot be tolerated, but we can quite happily avoid teaching about it because we think it’s a “hot potato”.

          • Ian

            But what does that say about the church leaders – that they would rather have ignorance than teach? And then do you blame the ordinary congregants when they use their own Bible knowledge and experience or information from “extremist Americans” to come up with their own understanding?

            Why can’t churches be honest about their doctrines *or* be tolerant of those who disagree?

          • Peter, the only exceptions to this are churches which call themselves ‘evangelical’ which do take teaching seriously.

            I cannot speak for the others. Perhaps you should ask them?

          • I attended not just an evangelical CofE church, but a GAFCON CofE church for about six months in around 2008. It was well attended, although apparently not by people in the parish – the clergy all found it very amusing that I was their only parishoner (I wasn’t but that was the joke) .

            Their position on women in leadership and homosexuality was never mentioned while I was there and indeed they did have a woman reader who led services occasionally.

            Then I attended a very popular charismatic New Wine/HTB style CofE church for about a decade. Again no mention of homosexuality although I remember some discussion about women in leadership. I suspect had they had a sermon on homosexuality that they would have lost or had negative comments from a significant number of their congregants.

          • ‘Again no mention of homosexuality although I remember some discussion about women in leadership.’

            You are right; I think this is quite common. Many churches moved from this being a subject on which it was assumed there was agreement, so suddenly finding it was toxic and there was little agreement, and missing the moment when teaching was needed and possible.

          • Evangelical churches are encouraging their youth to consider lifelong celibacy? Really? Where? CEEC and Church Society have not spoken about this, the evangelicals in Synod have never mentioned it as far as I can tell, and in all my time in evangelical churches (which included some fairly prominent ones) I never heard it.

      • The curious thing with the Ozanne findings is that among younger respondents there is a much higher response supporting equal marriage. Yet among younger people there is not much nominal Anglicanism that you level as the fault in that study. I accept the point among older people identifying as Anglican, and it’s there where you have the most resistance to accepting LGBTQIA+ people. But those at the younger end of the study are very unlikely to tick the “C of E” box without having some sort of church involvement, and it’s here that you find the strongest response in favour of progressive change.

        Regarding the Synod vote, the Cornes motion had no effect on the final voting outcome. In the Houses of Clergy and Laity the vast majority voting for the Cornes amendment voted against the final motion, the vast majority voting for the final motion voted against the Cornes amendment. Your own voting pattern supported Cornes and opposed the final motion, a pattern similar to most EGGS members. Across the clergy and laity, 95.1% voted differently on the Cornes amendment to the final motion. The claim that Cornes made the final motion palatable and is the only reason the final motion passed is a myth. Whether Cornes had passed or not, the final motion would have gone through.

        Regarding the 1200 filling out this survey, there is no reason to believe a particular tradition of clergy were overrepresented. Are you suggesting that liberal clergy were twiddling their thumbs in August waiting for The times to call while conservative clergy were far more occupied with other things? 1200 out of 20000 is a very good sample.

        Regarding the Campaign for Equal Marriage sign up of those willing to marry when legally able to do so, your keenness for methodology should recognise that this exercise was to show that there was willingness at grassroots, and not a survey. There would have been many willing to conduct equal marriage services or blessings who either did not hear of the sign up, or would prefer not to indicate their wishes. The same would be true of any conservative exercise.

        Regarding whether doctrine is set by polls, I have indicated as much in my final paragraph. Doctrine is set by the church prayerfully considering scripture, tradition and reason, engaging in discussion, and learning from each other. LLF invited people to do that, and despite your pessimism many did. That some did not is because they had already gone through some process of learning and reflection – it’s not as if LLF is the first time the church has debated LGBTQIA+ experience. So any measure of opinion among those in the church who have gone through the process of forming opinion is relevant to understanding the mind of the church, and consequently the policies that should be formed to allow the outworking of doctrine held by those within the church.

        I don’t expect you to agree with me, it’s clear you prefer being in an echo chamber and have much invested in not changing your mind. You are willingly ignoring the obvious, that there are many in the church who want to move to a more accepting place for LGBTQIA+ people. At no point have you provided any evidence to the contrary, because there is no evidence to the contrary. The studies and votes all show a significant number who want change, I have not seen any studies that contradict that. Where’s your YouGov poll or Synod vote that shows a large majority in favour of staying as we are? There clearly needs to be some accommodation for the difference of views within the church, I would be interested to hear what you think that should be.

        Have a good weekend!

        • “There clearly needs to be some accommodation for the difference of views within the church, I would be interested to hear what you think that should be.”
          Exactly Nic and I have been pressing this point with Ian for several years. As you say, there is no willingness to engage outside of the conservative evangelical echo chamber. Which is a pity, because it would be far better to negotiate and agree upon a way forward rather than people being forced out.

          • That’s not remotely fair to Ian. Ian has posted articles on the site and the CEEC have proposed many times proposals to allow people who reject the doctrine of the Church of England and people who accept and are committed in the current doctrine to remain in the Church of England (viz. alternative diocesan structures.)

            It is the progressives who are insisting that the faithful give their blessing to same sex blessings or leave.

          • Kyle: Ian will not even accept that the C of E allows the use of the word ‘altar’ when every coronation of a British monarch – the supreme governor of the C of E – in living memory has used it, therefore broadcasting it to billions of people the world over. It’s the most peculiar sort of extreme Protestantism. It will not allow for other perspectives or interpretations to exist alongside and in the case of same sex relationships they are regarded as mortal sin and therefore must not be tolerated in any form within the CofE. So I am afraid what you say is wrong.

          • Andrew, please point me to the study which demonstrates that our doctrine of marriage is a ‘thing indifferent’.

            Without that, on what grounds do you claim we should ‘accommodate difference’?

          • Andrew, not a single liturgy authorised for regular use or use in any parish church contains the word ‘altar’.

            That is not ‘extreme’; that is Anglican liturgy and doctrine.

          • Alternative diocesan structures aren’t about accommodating anything. They’re about finding a vehicle to schism, break away from the CofE, but keep hold of the money, vicarages, and church buildings they want.

          • Kyle: it isn’t Ian’s proposal, it’s Andrew Goddard’s. I have no idea if Ian supports any of the ways forward Andrew proposes. I suspect he does not.

            Ian: I claim that we should accommodate difference based on the work of the LLF process and the work of General Synod.

            Ian: many thousands of service booklets printed in local churches for weekly use over recent decades in the CofE use the term ‘Altar’ because that is what it is. Nobody objects. Nobody raises tribunals or gets Churchwardens to get them reprinted. This isn’t in danger of turning you back into a Roman Catholic again. It’s just a sensible use of a sensible term used the world over. And it isn’t changing the CofE’s Eucharistic doctrine – that is pretty broad anyway. If you don’t believe that, either you are sound asleep during the relevant GS debates (which you aren’t) or else you live in considerable denial. And no I don’t care what the 39 Articles say unless you can deliver the peer review study that shows what clergy *actually* believe about Eucharistic doctrine and that corresponds exactly to the BCP and Article 28 etc. We know that it does not.

          • ‘I claim that we should accommodate difference based on the work of the LLF process and the work of General Synod.’

            Nowhere has the argument been offered that the doctrine of marriage is a thing indifferent. Nowhere has the case been made that clergy can say in public ‘I believe the doctrine of the church’ whilst not actually believing it.

            ‘many thousands of service booklets printed in local churches for weekly use over recent decades in the CofE use the term ‘Altar’’ Then they are failing to ‘use only the forms of service authorised by canon law’ and thus are in breach of their oath of canonical obedience.

            I was awake during the debates in Synod, and noted that no use of the term ‘altar’ was authorised, and the proposal to include ‘we offer these gifts to you’ was rejected for exactly this reason. You make an offering on an altar; since we have none, we cannot make an offering.

            ‘what clergy *actually* believe about Eucharistic doctrine and that corresponds exactly to the BCP and Article 28 etc. We know that it does not’. That does not prove the doctrine of the Church has changed. All it proves is that clergy are not remaining faithful to their public vows.

            I wonder what we should do about that?

          • So why didn’t you make any objection when the CofE broadcast the service of the coronation to probably every country around the world and used the term ‘Altar’ explicitly? The liturgy was made available publicly beforehand. There could not have been a more public service than the 2023 Coronation…possibly the 1953 Coronation where the word Altar was used as well…and that was broadcast to millions. The word altar was used in the Coronation before that too. You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you object that the CofE doctrine had been changed?

          • Andrew, because this exceptional liturgy is not approved by canon, and does not determine the doctrine of the Church. It does not provide authorisation for regular services in local churches.

            You appear determined to avoid the obvious features of our agreed, canonical liturgy, by which we are bound.

          • Andrew, I do however trust that you noted the vow of the King, to ‘uphold the Protestant and Reformed faith of the Church of England.’

            I trust you will treat that statement with the authority that you are claiming for other parts of the service.

          • “the proposal to include ‘we offer these gifts to you’ was rejected for exactly this reason. “

            And indeed the prayer we have is this:

            “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
            through your goodness we have this bread to set before you,
            which earth has given and human hands have made.
            It will become for us the bread of life.”

            “Set before you” not being very different to “offer you”.

            I am very aware of the breadth of the Eucharistic doctrine within the CofE and especially the Anglican communion. Once again, it isn’t just Conservative Evangelical, however much you might like to think it is.

          • “It will become for us the bread of life.” Ugh.
            Notwithstanding I Cor 10:16, which I take to be an affirmation of the bread’s symbolism (as also in John 6), this sounds very RC to me, and the deliberate ambiguity of ‘for us’ does not mitigate. The bread, or rather wafer, either does become something else or it does not. Thinking that it does is neither here or there.

            So far as Scripture is concerned, Jesus himself is the bread of life, and we should be focusing on him, not the wafer – itself a poor symbol for ‘life’. We do that without considering whether the wafer becomes anything other than wafer. Faith is exercised through believing in him, not in believing that the wafer turns into something else.

          • “this sounds very RC to me,”

            It is indeed an adaptation from the Roman rite and it is surprising Ian has not noticed its existence and its optional use as the gifts of bread and wine are presented at the altar.

          • ‘“Set before you” not being very different to “offer you”.

            Then you missed the debate. ‘offer’ was rejected and ‘set before’ agreed precisely because they are not the same.

            C of E liturgy does not include the RC petition ‘May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…’ Anglo-catholic and liberal catholic clergy often add this in, which is illegal. But to hold their eucharistic theology, they need to raid the Missal, precisely because C of E liturgy does not support their theological position.

          • “Then you missed the debate. ‘offer’ was rejected and ‘set before’ agreed precisely because they are not the same.”

            Please do remind us exactly what the difference is then Ian?

          • ‘Please do remind us exactly what the difference is then Ian?’. We are not making an offering or sacrifice to God, because our clergy are not sacerdoti. The whole priestly people of God make an offering of their lives at the end of the service, the priestly offering of Jesus to the Father of those he has bought with the price of his own blood.

          • Ah Ian you are shifting to an entirely different part of the liturgy there. The prayer we are concerned with is when the gifts of bread and wine are made at the ‘offertory’ – and that’s a key word. The Priest says:
            “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
            through your goodness we have this bread to set before you,
            which earth has given and human hands have made.
            It will become for us the bread of life.”
            Now you claim there is a difference between offer and set before. But if you come to my house for dinner I offer you some wine. Or I set it before you. Same thing.
            It’s called the offertory for a reason.

          • A sacrificial ‘altar’ nullifies the ephapax once-for-all nature of Christ’s sacrifice, which sacrifice is the entire point; moreover, such altars exist within an overall framework of continued priestly garments and incense and rituals, which tends to suggest the new covenant has not been fully entered into.
            Ian is right that there are no Christian ‘sacerdotes’. NT church polity mentions overseers / elders; deacons (and of course various anointings for various ministries). Presbyteros means ‘elder’ not ‘priest’.
            It is not enough to assert one disagrees with this. One must, obviously, study first and then disagree (or agree) on the basis of that study.
            Those who have studied and affirm a basically protestant view of all this (and the NT texts are not lengthy to study) include Catholics like Albert Vanhoye.

          • “One must, obviously, study first and then disagree (or agree) on the basis of that study.”
            Obviously. So obvious that it doesn’t need stating does it?
            But it doesn’t address the question of what the difference is between ‘offer’ and ‘set before’ that Ian claims is so crucial. Nor why a supposedly Protestant monarch very deliberately chose a Catholic term for at least the last three coronations and probably more.

          • “Those who have studied and affirm a basically protestant view of all this (and the NT texts are not lengthy to study) include Catholics like Albert Vanhoye.”
            By the way that’s a very simplistic view of Vanhoye who was a very loyal Cardinal. His study, as you know, was on Hebrews and regarding Priesthood took the view that it was a communal rather than individual thing. But the community of the early church exercised the sacrifice of the mass.

          • ‘Early’ is far too vague to mean anything. But nothing even close to that is in the NT. So when it came in (later) it was a clear deviation.

          • Roman Catholics and Orthodox i.e. the vast majority of Christians throughout history would disagree with you.
            Still doesn’t begin to address the difference between ‘offer’ and ‘set before’.

          • Of course they would. Because they are not in churches that have been reformed by scrutiny of what Scripture says.

            If you don’t like being in a Reformed, Protestant church, then perhaps the C of E isn’t for you?

          • Well Ian I was ordained at a time when catholic, Liberal, and evangelical traditions in the CofE were all of a similar size. Much as you despise the other traditions I am afraid that the evangelical ascendancy has been a disaster for the CofE. Not least in the severe numerical decline we have experienced.
            I sincerely believe we need each other to thrive. I am retired now and am rapidly losing patience with the speed of progress towards a more kind and open and tolerant Church. It will happen.

          • I don’t ‘despise’ other traditions as you claim. I learn much from people who have a different emphasis, many of whom I find very learned.

            There hasn’t been an ‘evangelical ascendancy’. What has happened is that, in the corrosive winds of the changes in culture, the other two traditions have rapidly been eroded. With one or two notable exceptions, churches in the more catholic and liberal traditions have seen their numbers collapse quickly.

            The change you desire is not for a ‘more kind, open and tolerant church’, as you can easily see from looking at the Tweets of Martine Oborne, who is mounting a toxic campaign to rid the Church of people who disagree with her.

            You are looking for a church which turns its back on the teaching of Jesus about marriage, sexuality, and our bodies. All churches which have done that have seen their decline accelerate.

          • “I don’t ‘despise’ other traditions as you claim. ”
            Ian I’m.afraid that this claim and your behaviour at Genersl Synod and your articles and comments on here are seriously at odds. I have heard bishops say it as well.

            The pendulum will swing again. The generous open Christian tradition will prevail. Whether the CofE will survive to be part of it remains to be seen.

          • Andrew, I am interested in discussion. I am not interested in ‘Vicar, lots of people have said to me…’ kinds of silly comments.

            The evidence shows that if the C of E abandons its historic position, in being shaped by Scripture *as its canons clearly state*, and the teaching of Jesus on marriage *as the canons clearly state* then that is what will lead to its demise.

            You are welcome to continue contributing to sensible discussion. But I am not interested in tittle-tattle. Please take that elsewhere.

          • “As the Canons clearly state” is a response so completely worthy of the scribes and pharisees. Text book.
            We disagree in our interpretation of the thrust of scripture in this matter, and that is the whole point here. Is it possible to continue together in the CofE? Yes, I believe it is and that is what will eventually happen.
            As to discussion with those who differ. I keep asking: please remind me of the difference between ‘offer’ and ‘set before you ‘ at the offertory prayers used when the gifts are placed on the altar. I simply can not recall any meaningful difference being agreed by GS.
            Im not in the least bit interested by tittle tattle either. Let’s rise above it, please.

          • ‘“As the Canons clearly state” is a response so completely worthy of the scribes and pharisees. Text book.’ What a bizarre response. We are a church established by law. Our doctrine is expressed in the canons.

            To claim that reference to the canons is ‘pharisaical’ is a denial of reality.

            We will together with difference over ‘things indifferent’. Sexual ethics is not one of those, and as you know, not a single effort has been made to argue that it is.

            Setting something before God is not making an offering.

          • This is legalistic nonsense Ian. Our doctrine comes from scripture and the catholic creeds. The Canons support them. As has become totally clear, there is a disagreement about the interpretation of scripture and the catholic creeds say nothing about the matter.
            And please don’t repeat the usual claims you make about clergy lying when they made their ordination vows. That really is objectionable tittle tattle!

            “Setting something before God is not making an offering.”

            Yes, you have said that you think that. I have asked you four times now to say what it was that General Synod claimed was the difference. Because I can’t recall that part of the debate and as you know the relevant prayer is an adaptation of a Roman Catholic one. Please remind me as I disagree with you.

          • ‘A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England

            The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.

            In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.’

            ‘B 30 Of Holy Matrimony

            1. The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

            2. The teaching of our Lord affirmed by the Church of England is expressed and maintained in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony contained in The Book of Common Prayer.

            3. It shall be the duty of the minister, when application is made to him for matrimony to be solemnized in the church of which he is the minister, to explain to the two persons who desire to be married the Church’s doctrine of marriage as herein set forth, and the need of God’s grace in order that they may discharge aright their obligations as married persons.’

          • Yes, you have said all of that before.
            Legalistic response. See my reply above.
            Please respond to my question regarding General Synod’s response re the Offertory prayer. Fifth time of asking.

          • Andrew, you can’t say that the pendulum will swing AND that the end result will be a more open, kind, tolerant church.
            (1) If you believe in pendulums at all, then the swing of which you speak would be only one random satge in a continuing cycle.
            (2) That swing is hypothetical not real anyway.
            (3) You cannot have a swing towayrds kindness since kindness is something everyone already believes in. As for openness it is ill defined by you. As for tolerance, read DL Sayers on that. Or WATTTC.
            (4) You don’t oppose kindness to rigour since most Christians believe in both. This is a false either/or.
            (5) Your pendulum swings involve one fashion replacing another. But Christians and sensible people are not fashion led at all.
            (6) It wouldn’t be much good even if one fashion DID replace another. The main issue would always be whether that fashion was or was no warranted or supportable or optimal.

          • Christopher your comments astonish me sometimes.
            Have you ever actually read any Dorothy L Sayers?
            the Nine Taylors: excellent presentation of Anglican spirituality with a Catholic leaning. Altars galore.
            Gaudy Night: fascinating exploration of sexuality, exploring as it does her own struggles through the life of Harriet Vane and then the resolution with Peter.

            We have seen the conservative bias of WATTTC at General Synod and it is combative, angry, unpleasant, and far from Christian. You are welcome to it. I wish to have nothing to do with it, thank you.

          • Well I dont think that but perhaps you are answering Christopher.
            The Real source of authority is scripture and the catholic creeds.

            I note you still can’t respond to my question. Sixth time of asking. What did Synod make to be the essence of the difference between ‘offer’ and ‘set before ‘ in the offertory prayers?

          • And sixth time of replying: we are not making an offering, since the table is not an altar, and our ‘priests’ are presbyters (that is the etymology) and neither hierei nor sacerdoti.

            And, in line with the theology of the BCP, which defines our doctrine, we can only offer the sacrifice of our lives ones we have received the sacrifice of his life for us.

            (Would it be worth finding a new hobby for your retirement…?)

          • Ian: i didnt ask what you thought. I know that. I asked, for the seventh time, what General Synod concluded was the difference between offer snd set before. Very specific question to do with very specific wording.

          • When did I once commend or mention DL Sayers’s overall worldview? I just commended her analysis of tolerance. Do you think that thinkers can be divided into two piles – those we approve of wholesale and those we disapprove of wholesale? With package deals of this nature comes serious over-generalisation.

          • Oh I see General Synod exactly agreed with you.
            Thanks. I will ask someone who actually recalls the debate in some detail.

            Christopher: Dorothy L Sayers has a worldview? Goodness your opinions become more and more bizarre.

          • To have no worldview is to think that the world is no particular way at all. Some unthinking people might be in that position but not the intelligent ones.

          • What is her worldview to do with? The absolute equality of women and men? (She seems to take that approach). The significance of human sexuality? (That is a theme she explores in various writings). The importance of education for both men and women? (She certainly believed in that at a time when it wasn’t always fashionable). The problems of a class bound society? (She explores them).
            I could go on……
            People don’t have one worldview.

          • They do, because unless it is one and interconnected then it is liable to be a pick and mix amalgam of doctrines of convenience (like ”situation ethics”).

        • 1200 out of 20000 is a good sample if selected randomly. This wasn’t selected randomly. If the Times sent out a survey asking about Alpha then those churches with a red question mark outside will be most willing to fill in the survey. Ask about sexuality and it will be those whose buildings wave the six colour bands.

          Regarding the amendment, there are three groups that matter (were there any no-no-ers?). Yes-No, No-Yes and Yes-Yes. The people who wanted to have an investigation of the prayers and a change in doctrine could not have passed the the prayers without the Yes-Yes-ers. We do not know how the Yes-yes-ers would have voted in the second vote without that commitment to the prayers being implemented only if they were not indicative to a change in doctrine, but Ian has made a case that the Bishop thought that in large enough numbers the answer would be “no”.

          Regardless, Synod has ot voted for prayers

          • I would have thought those opposed to SSM or blessings would be quite willing to share their views by way of a poll. Your logic doesnt follow.

          • Sure, if filling out a poll was costless they would. But it isn’t. It takes time. (Hence the large number of the retired who fill at the poll.) And the fact that they’re still releasing info from that poll suggests that it was indeed quite a long one.

            Again, imagine a survey about Alpha. Who would be more eager to take the time to fill it out: A Christianity Explored Church or an Alpha Church?

        • Nic, thanks for engaging again. But I don’t understand your approach. You don’t offer any response to the facts I set out, and continue to make false claims. Why? Are there no better arguments for your position?

          The Ozanne/YouGov survey made a basic error in not asking about attendance, ISTM because Jayne knew it would undermine her case by showing that those who do not attend are more in favour of change than those who do.

          There are very, very few liberal Anglican churches with large numbers of young people. Almost all young people going to church are attending evangelical Anglican churches, or more commonly new or non-conformist churches which teach traditional sexual ethics. That is not to say that views amongst them are uniform, but those appear to be the only ones drawing any numbers of young people consistently.

          You claim that the Cornes amendment ‘made no difference to voting’ is fanciful. Sarah M could see that her stonewalling was getting up people’s noses. Remember the extended applause at the comment by Stephen Hofmeyr? Without that amendment, the motion would certainly have fallen in the House of Laity.

          The claim that the 1200 sample is ‘good’ is just nonsense if you know anything at all about polling. You must ensure that the sample is representative. It clearly is not, and the Times clearly has done nothing to ensure that it is. The claim that they ‘polled 1200 clergy’ is a lie! It is very odd that you appear unaware of the basics of this methodology; it is not hard to grasp.

          LLF was not a teaching document; it did not claim to be; no-one has seriously argued that it was. It was supposed to be a forum for discussion, and even as that take up was comparatively low.

          Claiming I prefer to be in an echo chamber is put to the lie by this very exchange. The one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that I am willing to engage with those of others views. I don’t know why you are now stooping to making personal insults. Is that all that you have to offer? It seriously undermines your case.

          As for accommodating difference, could you please point me to any serious papers in the C of E which have made the case that this should be a ‘thing indifferent’.

          The Church has a doctrine of marriage. Clergy take public vows to uphold that doctrine. Why should we accommodate those who break their vows? If on this, on what else? Where is the integrity in that?

        • There are indeed plenty of people who want same sex relationships to be blessed in church. There are plenty of them in these last days who have gained positions of leadership over the congregations. Gay bishops endlessly appointing other gay priests and on it has gone for some time. Goats have overun the church and are keeping the sheep ignorant, untaught, undiscipled and tethered to worldly fleshy values. My 90 year old mother used to attend her country church for two Holy Communion services per week. Now a male priest enjoys the vast vicarage with his male partner appointed by the Bishop of Chichester who presses single men to ‘set up a household’. No one asked the holy followers of Christ if this was ok. It is not. At the end of the day Jesus will return soon to judge all. It is a particular evil to approve actions as good which God says are wicked. You decieve so many. This is not love. Those men who lie with men will, according to God, be punished accordingly. Rearrange the furnishings in the church as you will… but God.

      • If the methodology is flawed or false the outcome will be also no matter what it is. It matters not one jot whether the the methodology was challenged before or after The outcome was known..
        After all that is what peer review is all about.
        The poor quality of peer reviews into medical research was the main driver for Sir Muir Grey setting up the Cochrane Library to facilitate quality independent peer review of published research, which also would then consider the methodology, after the event to determine the reliability of the research and conclusions drawn and frequently publicly headlined.

  15. Colin – the rational explanation is that in the main people receive, and comment on, Blogs and posts from those of a similar mindset and view to themselves. Which makes the making and reading of comments an especially frustrating experience if you arrive there from a different perspective. I value the fact that Psephizo (and its linked Facebook postings) do seem to attract a slightly wider variety of respondents, as I’m always keen to hear the best of the arguments of those whose conclusions differ from mine.
    In summary – we mainly like to listen to those who confirm our prejudices. whichever way they lean.

    • Dear Pete, I wouldn’t quarrel with your observations in general terms.As you are probably aware, on this particular blog site, normally at this stage and on this particular topic a sizeable number of opposition viewpoints would have begun to emerge. However I now see that a critical voice has now emerged and frankly at this stage is just a tad welcome.

    • PH,
      Is all opinion based on pre -judice?
      How about medical opinion or legal opinion, or a Judge’s decision, judgement? Is it all subjective? Is it all pre-judged? Does it all serve a purpose of our own? Or corralled activism?
      Or, drilling down, is it based on bed-rock pre-suppositions which may or may not be pre-judicial to the (pre-judged?) decision to be made.

  16. Thanks for this critique. Your comments about methodology are particularly apt. Could you post the original questionnaire somewhere for those of us who care about these things but did not receive the survey?

  17. On a very slightly lighter note than many comments … it’s good to see a theologian who can use his mathematical training to good effect in analysing data as well!

  18. Just wanted to say that Ian’s contribution to Times radio is one of the finest examples of media comms I’ve heard, his points being conveyed with clarity and concision, and was all the more remarkable considering that the foundations of the London Times‘s own survey were being criticized! I’ve rarely heard a debate reframed so effectively.

  19. At the end of the day the Church of England faces a choice, first it can continue to be the established church. Headed by the King as Supreme Governor, with traditional BCP services as well as common worship, represented in towns, cities and villages across the land and conducting marriages and funerals for all residents of its Parishes and holding royal weddings and state funerals in its churches and with its top Bishops in the legislature via the House of Lords. That requires moving with the times and what most people in England want, as it did when it agreed to have women bishops and priests, to marry divorcees and now has narrowly voted to bless homosexual couples married in English civil law. That is what this survey shows a majority of Anglican clergy want the C of E to continue to do.

    Or it can be disestablished and become a church like any other. It could become align to Rome again and the authority of the Pope as it was before Henry VIII’s Reformation and as conservative Anglo Catholics want and take strict biblical doctrine on everything, with no women priests or bishops, no blessings or marriage for homosexual couples and no remarriage of divorcees without strict annulment terms as the Vatican insists on.

    Or it could become yet another charismatic evangelical church with modern worship in a modern building rather than ancient cathedral or historic church as many Pentecostal, Baptist or Independent churches are and which also opposes homosexual blessings and holds fast to a strict interpretation of the Bible and rejects the culture of most of the modern western world.

    However either of the latter choices would not be distinctively Anglican, ie a Catholic but Reformed Protestant church. If you want to go down the pure Roman Catholic or pure charismatic Protestant evangelical route why do you need the Anglican church at all, established or not?

      • The Church of England still is the plurality Christian church in England or at most about tied with the Roman Catholic church. Those who only go the church for weddings or funerals or Remembrance Day would also consider themselves Church of England more than any other. The Church of England’s Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s cathedral will remain the centres for state occasions too, state funerals, royal weddings, coronations etc. It is not going to disappear

        • State Shintoism, my friend.
          Japan is full of Shinto shrines. Very popular for ceremonies.
          And they make no difference at all to the way people live.
          The question for Japan is: will it survive its demographic death spiral?

          • Japanese who pray at state Shinto shrines to the kami believe it makes a difference. Japan is also one of the most educated and wealthy nations on earth regardless of its low fertility rate

    • “… worship in a modern building”

      You think we should build ancient ones? News Flash “old buildings were once new….”


    • Big issue there very simple – is an ‘established church’ what the New Testament teaches? If not – and it ain’t – then Anglicanism has an even bigger theological failure than it has over sexuality!

      • The established church is precisely what King Henry VIII created the Church of England, the original Anglican church to be. Theologically also a Catholic if Reformed church

  20. Thinking about the number of people of working age vs non working age, is there any good data anywhere about how many clergy there are of that age?

  21. I think even with the poor response numbers this survey at least demonstrates what we already know that a large proportion of clergy believe the doctrine of the CofE to be wrong in this area.

    If so many people who have been trained in theology and curacy etc (and a large number of them will have agreed to Issues in Sexuality) cannot agree with the doctrine, I think it shows that the CofE urgently needs a better explanation of its teaching OR change it.

    If the people in charge of the flock don’t understand the feed instructions then the people writing the instructions have failed in their most important task. And how can ordinary members of the flock be expected to oppose SSM when their vicar doesn’t?!

    • Why should they? The C of E is the established church, it will ultimately reflect the pro SSM views of its parishioners and the views of most MPs who can change its doctrines as they wish ultimately. Indeed Synod voted to bless homosexual couples married in English law and approve Bishops prayers for homosexual couples earlier this year. So being anti homosexual couples is now officially NOT C of E policy

        • The doctrine of the C of E is ultimately determined by MPs in Parliament, elected by its Parishioners and confirmed by the King as it is the established church. As long as it remains the established church the C of E is accountable to Parliament and the monarch as it has been since Henry VIII created it in the 16th century when he broke with Rome and the authority of the Pope and created the C of E to be a new church with him as its Supreme Governor

          • ‘The doctrine of the C of E is ultimately determined by MPs in Parliament’

            No it is not. Since 1925 Parliament has granted the Church autonomy to form its own doctrine, which was in fact always the case.

          • Parliament remains sovereign though and MPs like Ben Bradshaw are seeking to legislate to allow full homosexual marriages to be performed in C of E churches if Vicars agree. If Labour get a majority in the next general election such legislation might even pass Parliament

          • Then Parliament will have to revoke the 1925 Act. I think that is highly unlikely.

            Can you name any other countries where the secular Parliament determines what Christians are allowed to believe? What are they like?

          • If the prayers for homosexual couples Synod approved are not implemented it becomes more likely a Labour majority Parliament might act

          • I don’t really understand how many times I need to say this, or why you find it so hard to understand: Synod did not approve any prayers.

            Why is it difficult for you to grasp this?

          • In the Church of England’s own words ‘Prayers for God’s blessing for same-sex couples take step forward after Synod debate’. A majority of Synod voted for those prayers in February and once the Bishops confirm their format in the autumn most Vicars as this survey shows will be using them for services of blessing for couples in English civil law. https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/prayers-gods-blessing-same-sex-couples-take-step-forward-after-synod

            The debate will then be over. Hardline evangelicals like you can then either stay in the C of E and just not perform the prayers as the opt out allows or leave it and set up your own independent or Pentecostal evangelical churches.

          • Simon (T1) your comments are now verging on trolling. That press release was criticised at the time for not accurately reflecting the Synod debate.

            I am not a ‘hardline evangelical’, and I ask you to stick with respectful address. I am an Anglican who believes the doctrine of the Church.

          • The only other western nations where there is still an established Protestant church like England are Iceland and Denmark (Roman Catholicism is the state religion in minor states like Liechtenstein, Monaco, Malta and the Vatican city of course and the Orthodox Church of Greece the established church there). There full homosexual marriage in Church of Denmark and Church of Iceland churches are performed with the full support of the Danish King in the former and Parliaments of both nations. A majority UK Labour government could certainly and likely could at least amend, maybe even revoke, the 1925 Act to impose homosexual marriage on the C of E given how strongly senior Labour MPs like Bradshaw and Bryant feel about it and Starmer’s support for LGBT rights. Certainly if the prayers for homosexual couples are not implemented by the Bishops as approved by Synod by the next general election that is the likely outcome from a Labour government for the C of E as established church

          • You are an evangelical with an ideological agenda to prevent the established church recognising homosexual couples married in English civil law. You opposed the Synod vote for prayers of blessing for homosexual couples, you lost the vote in February and the prayers will be put forward by the bishops for priests to use in the autumn

      • You are right. I have known a same-sex attracted CofE vicar who said that he would leave the CofE if it accepted same-sex marriage but he changed his mind when it seemed like a possibility.

        The CofE is spiritually dead in the same way as Methodism.

    • ‘a large proportion of clergy believe the doctrine of the CofE to be wrong in this area.’

      Then they lied when they took their ordination vows. Where is the integrity in that?

      • Ian

        Maybe … or they have changed their minds … or they were told “just say this, you dont have to believe it” (I have heard that multiple ordinands have been told words to that effect about Issues in Human Sexuality) … or “agree to this now because it wont last long” etc. If the bishops were strict about this issue you’d have very few people becoming priests at all. Indeed even some bishops not only don’t believe the doctrine in theory, but don’t follow it in practice either.

        As I get older and more cynical, I do feel that it’s difficult to get anywhere in institutional church leadership without compromising your personal morality. In any case it’s not up to me to police church leadership. I certainly would welcome better church discipline of leaders.

        • ‘it’s difficult to get anywhere in institutional church leadership without compromising your personal morality’

          You might be right. But if so, then the institution is dead spiritually, and those who so compromise have sold their soul, exchanged their kingdom heritage for a mess of pottage. And a mess it is too.

        • The doctrine of marriage is set out in Canon B30. At ordination, the ordinands are asked ‘Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it?’ They are then asked ‘Will you expound it, and model your lives on it as an example to others?’

          I am not aware of any exceptions being included in this commitment.

          • But does that mean you think it is (or should be) impossible for Synod to change doctrine, canons etc., because the Houses of Bishops and Clergy are (in your view) obliged by their ordination vows to oppose any changes?

          • It makes the C of E constitutionally very conservative. And in fact I cannot think of any occasion where the C of E has in fact changed its doctrine, for precisely that reason.

            Its doctrine is constitutionally defined by the Formularies—BCP, articles, BCP ordinal.

            Even to make slight adjustments which don’t amount to a change in doctrine, it has had to do a lot of work.

            It has only effective change in practice by allowing practice to drift away from its doctrine by the use of a blind eye.

          • Ian

            Maybe a better survey would be how many priests actually believe the doctrine of marriage and how many have honestly lived it since they became priests

          • Perhaps. Though I am not sure what that would achieve.

            ‘Ordained ministers are not as perfect as Jesus—shock, horror.’

            It would certainly end the toxic ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ culture.

          • Re ordination vows:
            And it also means that many of those ordained in the CoE will have a ministry based, founded, on a lie, deceit, lack of integrity; a house, an institution, built on untrustworthy shifting grains of sands. As a life pursued and preached and taught will be outside those bounds, unsifted.

          • So we’ve constructed a sort-of Catch 22 trap for ourselves, where you would argue that the doctrines, canons and BCP are unchangeable because Parliament has handed the power to do so to Synod, who doesn’t actually have the power to do so because the clergy and Bishops ought to consider themselves forbidden from even considering it. These are effectively fossilised all whilst Scripture is merrily being translated over and over again (my original home church being a conservative evangelical that has gone from using the NIV to the ESV).

          • No, not at all. It would be perfectly possible to argue *against* aspect of the BCP and formularies on the *basis* of the BCP itself. The Articles say that Scripture is our authority; if we could demonstrate that the BCP and Articles themselves did not measure up to their own standard, then we could propose a revision of them.

            Something close to this happened with the ordination of women. Although the majority agree that ordaining women didn’t change our doctrine of ordination—since the ordinal contained no theological statement limiting ordination to men; it just assumed that as part of its administration.

            But we changed our administration, against the implicit assumption of the BCP and ordinal, based on the BCP and Articles own test: does it meet the bar of not contradicting Scripture.

            It was on that basis that I was convinced it was a legitimate theological decision, even if some of the political implications have been negative.

          • AJB,
            A change of translation is so very far from a change in doctrine. It is a false equivalent, it is suggested.
            An example would be DA Carson’s use of the NIV with integrity and no alteration in his doctrine.
            Similarly, Tim Keller.

  22. Sir,
    Thank you for an excellent critique of the report and the underlying methodology.
    However may I draw attention to a now glaring issue….. the actual confusion that exists in the reort, your critique and
    Used by many of the contributors to the debate above?
    Surely the use of the term “Anglican” is a global term relating to faithful “Anglicans” who adhere to the original teaching and doctrines of the Articles of Religion etc.
    Consequently given the direction of travel led by the House of Bishops and various secular parties and individuals, Anglican and Anglicanism cannot and should not be used in any connection or reference to the CofE.
    I am certain that there are sufficient numbers of faithful Anglicans in England and elsewhere to warrant the separation of links implied or otherwise between the faithful “traditional Anglicans” and the CofE.
    It is a pity that there has been no reference in all the exchanges above to the emerging Anglican dioceses of AMiE, ACE , their parent Anglican group GAFCON, Global South, FCE and others.
    Their combined membership of faithful Anglicans far exceeds the membership of Canterbury affiliated congregations.
    Therefore surely it is appropriate that the term Anglican is rightly reserved for references to members of these groups?

    • No, Anglicanism is distinctively a church which uses the BCP ultimately and is a Catholic but Reformed church. Hence both the Scottish and US Anglican churches which marry homosexuals, the Canadian, NZ and now English and Welsh Anglican churches which bless homosexual couples and the African Anglicans who don’t remain Anglican as their liturgy and services are all based on the BCP which alone distinguishes Anglicanism.

      Opposition to SSM could be found in the Roman Catholic Church or independent or Baptist or Pentecostal churches NONE of which are Anglican so is irrelevant to the distinctive features of the Anglican church

        • No there isn’t, the BCP nowhere mentions opposition to homosexual couples being blessed. Parts of the text even if little used now do however mention prayers for the King as Supreme Governor of the Church as requisite and accepting the monarch’s authority as Supreme Governor, opposition to any authority from the Pope however is present

          • And prayers of blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil war do not mean full marriages for homosexual couples in C of E churches do they? Note too the C of E now marries, not only blesses, divorced couples despite the statement in the BCP that marriage is a a ‘lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman.’

        • And prayers of blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil law do not mean full marriages for homosexual couples in C of E churches do they? Note too the C of E now marries, not only blesses, divorced couples despite the statement in the BCP that marriage is a a ‘lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman.’

          • It is the utmost hypocrisy to support full remarriage of divorcees in C of E churches, which even now take place without spousal adultery against the teachings of Christ but yet not support blessings, not even marriage, for committed homosexual couples in Christ. It just goes to show for some evangelicals it is nothing to do with the Bible, just one rule for divorced heterosexuals and another rule for homosexuals in lifelong unions

          • Jesus made clear people can only marry a new partner if their previous partner is still living if their previous partner committed adultery. However you also know full well many C of E churches now remarry divorcees even when that does not apply

          • When you have read the linked article, I’d be happy to engage.

            Your accusation that this is not biblical is wide of the mark. So your accusation of hypocrisy is unfounded.

          • I have read your article many times. It in no way refutes the hyprocrisy. Jesus made clear divorce except for spousal adultery was wrong. Yet you have stayed in the C of E knowing full well the C of E now marries, not merely blesses, heterosexual divorced couples where no spousal adultery involved. Jesus never mentioned homosexual couples being wrong, yet apparently this is the defining issue of doom for the C of E merely to bless them!

            I am not Roman Catholic but at least it doesn’t pick and choose which bits the Bible condemns it also condemns like your evangelism. It takes the line of St Paul and the Old Testament in opposing blessing homosexual relationships and the line of Jesus in opposing divorce except in exception cases of annulment

          • Bit of a stretch though, to take Scripture in Matthew permitting divorce and remarriage only in the case of adultery, and fuzz that to a vague catch-all “certain limited circumstances” which is left completely undefined. The Church appears to suggest this is “all sorts of sad and painful reasons”. Nor have I ever heard anyone suggest that if a couple come to faith, if they were married after divorces that are outside the “certain limited circumstances” (whatever they are), that they should separate and divorce because their current marriage is sinful.

          • ‘“certain limited circumstances” which is left completely undefined’

            It is not left undefined in C of E guidance. But my point is: this was not just a pick and choose. The change was made only on the basis of Scriptural teaching.

          • What guidance are you looking at Ian? The Advice to Clergy from the Bishops about this just gives a series of questions about things like whether the couple “have a mature view of the circumstances of the breakdown of the previous marriage”. You could infer from one question that the Church is against marrying couples whose relationship was a direct cause of the original divorce, but even that is far from a clear or defined rule. Perhaps most interestingly the Bishops’ Advice suggests that clergy consider a Service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage for cases where they’ve determined a marriage in church is inappropriate (something that’s been on the cards since 1985).

          • In other words, the slippery slope principle is accurate. (Who knew?…)
            Anyone could have confidently bet 100 to 1 that things would become progressively laxer: that is how things work once the principle of low expectations is put in place.
            Language like ‘the breakdown of the original marriage’:
            (a) makes an abstract ‘marriage’ out to be a living agent,
            (b) allows e.g. an adulterer/-ess to blame ‘the marriage’ rather than themselves,
            (c) implicates the one sinned against (!),
            (d) implicates them *equally* to the one who actually caused the issue (in cases where one did),
            (e) is fatalistic, so unChristian,
            (f) omits to mention that half a second’s ‘I forgive you’+ hug or ‘sorry’ + hug or both has power,
            (g) forgets the utter centrality of forgiveness to Christianity – and the selfishness of angst for that matter,
            (h) makes one wonder how the churches ever managed in a more Christian way. Yet they did so for hundreds/thousands of years – and in many cases still do.
            Lack of awe is at the root of so much.

          • People wanting gay unions condoned by The Church have long linked the matter to holy women called to priesthood as though they were the same. One is a calling from God himself to serve him and his Church. The other is something he has made clear his thoughts on in his word…Sin… and will end in eternal judgement soon. Linking the two events…one holy and one abhorrent to God has always struck me as a peculiar evil.

        • They actually removed the BCP when they removed the monarch as head of their church and ceased to be the established church, given the pivotal role of the monarch as being head of the church in the original Anglican churches in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the British Empire. Non English Anglican churches now may base much of their liturgy on elements of the BCP but it still is not the BCP

          • ‘They actually removed the BCP when they removed the monarch as head of their church and ceased to be the established church.’

            These are two separate issues. Other Anglican churches have retained their roots in the BCP without the monarch as head.

    • Disagree. The 39 Articles aren’t a catechism, and aren’t used as one. You could describe it as simply those in communion with Canterbury, but I doubt everyone would accept the Archbishop as the personal arbiter of Anglicanism. If you want a definition around it I would go with the Lambeth Quadrilateral defining us as believing:
      – The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary to salvation, being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
      – The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
      – The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
      – The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church

      • This is very helpful AJ Bell. Clergy are not expected to do more than give general assent to the 39 Articles and are entirely free to raise questions about them. See To Proclaim Afresh and references therein published by the Faith and Order Commission last year. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is quite correct to say that the Nicene Creed is quite sufficient as a statement of the Christian faith. Everything else must be subject to local tradition and interpretation.

  23. Little bit off the main topic but some of us who are neither Anglican nor living in England might find The Times article insulting in thinking that the C of E speaks for all Christians or all of the UK!

      • I think it is half deliberate. They are trying rather deceitfully to give the impression that the C of E picture is the state of the church full stop, and hope no-one will notice. The fact that they have been told how inaccurate this is for decades and have never stopped doing it, combined with various other ways in which inaccurate cliches are perpetuated in such discussions, makes one think it has to be part deliberate, or cynical editorial policy.
        Or even more likely it is mostly an infernal spiritual matter. Propaganda and mantras are always about giving impressions and forming perceptions rather than seeking truth or clarity. The idea is that these impressions and perceptions will be formative for readers, who will in most instances not have progressed beyond soundbite level. To these moguls and journalists I would say: Sometimes stopping and thinking can bring awareness that one is actually working for the dark side, eschewing evidence in favour of a mere ideology, and not just any ideology but one that is directed to the worst possible outcomes: actively working for negative outcomes.

  24. The outcome of the ad hoc poll taken by Pilate on the first Good Friday should warn us against taking too much notice of public opinion if we want to stay faithful to Christ.

  25. Why is anyone surprised that, when the majority of the church’s senior leaders (bishops) are happy to turn their backs on God’s teaching, clergy say we are not living in a Christian country.
    Perhaps it’s worth remembering that Jesus wasn’t living in one either when He ministered in Judea and Samaria?

    The Church and the people of Israel have often lived among a pagan majority, which has made both distinctively God’s people. They have had to proclaim a message that has often been distinctively opposed to the prevailing norms in society and yet, in order to remain faithful, they (or at least a believing remnant) have continued to do so.

    If the majority of the clergy believe that we should follow society’s norms (which, as Ian has pointed out, cannot be deduced from this poorly-structured and not necessarily representative survey) then they are merely mirroring the apostasy of those who in other times made a golden calf to worship.

    Our choice is simple in what many would acknowledge to be a post-Christian country: Will we serve God or somebody else? As Bob Dylan put it, “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re going to have to serve somebody” and that is the heart of the matter, that far too many within the so-called Church (not just the C of E but all who call themselves Christians in England) are not serving the Lord.

  26. All opinion polls like this are bad, and even if I thought they were intended to be helpful I’d still be suspicious of anything self-selecting. Doubly so because last time I checked the faithfulness of Christ’s followers was not determined by statistical majority. 😉

    You’re absolutely right to call a spade a spade in any case, and I echo the others in the comments who’ve said your response on the radio was excellent; a thorough riposte to unprepared presenter. Always nice to see, whatever position the person is advancing.

    There’s not much else to say really, that isn’t a repetition of things said a hundred times in the comments sections of places like this.

    • But he did not ‘leave the CofE to marry his partner’ which is what you claimed.
      He married he partner and would have remained in his Freehold incumbency had he not decided to move. It is important to get the facts correct

  27. There is a surprising error in the post. Andrew Foreshew-Cain did not leave the Church of England to marry his partner. He was a serving vicar at the time, then became a college chaplain. He is still a priest of the Church of England.

    • Well, yes and no! He remains an ordained minister in the C of E, but he holds no bishop’ licence.

      He took the job in Oxford enjoying the loophole whereby Oxbridge chaplains do not need to be in good standing with the diocese nor have a bishop’s licence.

      If these were needed, he would not have been appointed.

      • Not yes and no. He is a priest forever whether he holds a licence or not.
        A bishop’s licence simply enables some priests to perform certain roles.
        And even if he weren’t a priest he would still be CoE.

          • That’s just incorrect Ian. He doesn’t hold a licence because he hasn’t applied for one and hasn’t needed one for the job he has been doing.
            He held a freehold incumbency when he got married and his licence could not be removed. He resigned and then took up a post for which a licence is not required.
            If he wished to an apply for a post for which a licence was required, then he would not currently be granted one.

      • Ian

        My memory is that AFC was a vicar in London for some time after he got married and left that appointment for personal reasons that were nothing to do with the church. However he was told he would never be allowed a new church because he had married a man.

        • Correct. Ian’s reporting is factually incorrect. Andrew married his partner. He held a post as a freehold incumbent and could not be removed. He left the post for other reasons and later took the post as a CofE college chaplain.
          There is no yes and no.. He of course remains a Priest and will always do so unless he resigns his Orders.
          Important to be factually Correct.

          • He cannot apply for any job in any diocese which requires him to have a licence. That is why he has gone to an Oxbridge college.

            Jeremy P is well aware of the constraints of being refused a licence. He contested it in court.

          • But he did not ‘leave the CofE to marry his partner’ which is what you claimed.
            He married he partner and would have remained in his Freehold incumbency had he not decided to move. It is important to get the facts correct

          • He married [his male] partner and would have remained in his Freehold incumbency had he not decided to move. It is important to get the facts correct.

            What you say is speculation, for people can be removed from freeholds for certain reasons. Why did he resign it?

        • And in February Synod welcomed a review of the ban on clergy entering into same sex marriages and ending the celibacy rule for clergy in same sex relationships. So soon most likely the fact he is married to a man will not stop him finding a new church, many liberal Catholic churches would welcome him as priest if he ever leaves Oxford

      • Well, no and no. What you said was wrong, completely and utterly. You did not say that he no longer holds a bishop’s licence (which is true), but you said that he left in order to get married. This is completely untrue. The politics of what has happened to Andrew after his marriage is completely irrelevant to the fact that you have misrepresented the situation at the time of his marriage. You should correct this.

  28. Well I never: loopholes in the CoE.
    The Church of Circumvention in England.
    A new baptismal, ordination, rite, pehaps. A new way of repentance, of leaving the past behind. Progress redefined.
    Oh, the profound Piety of Pretense. From one degree of sin to another.
    A warning to us all. To turn to Christ:
    1 Peter 2:22;
    2 Corinthians 5:21

      • PCD,
        So has your comment that it, the CoE, is simply a different system been deleted because…it was unreasonble?
        By Ian? Or by self – deletion?

      • Ian

        You are priceless. Kudos for getting rid of trolls like S. But both James and Geoff have been abusive to me in the past. Others have called it out. But you have done nothing. I wonder why?
        And you delete a comment about pearl clutching!!

        • By coincidence I commented below for the first time in months on Ian’s decision to stop putting up with nonsense from people in his site.

          I do actually sympathise with you because I have seen you mid treated in the past and objected to it.

          However, I think you are wrong to ignore the wider picture. Ian Paul puts a huge amount of effort into what is an excellent site.

          He is surely right to decide he requires a much higher standard from people in terms of conduct.

          I do not think it should be taken personally, and again you have my sympathy for the past behaviours of others towards you

          • Thank you. It seems that Ian has deleted another comment of mine asking why pearl clutching is abusive and mentioning motes and beams.
            I applaud his efforts to clean up this site; it was becoming very toxic. But whilst he allows abuse from fellow conservatives and appears irritated by commentators (not me) asking civil – if uncomfortable – questions, it will remain an echo chamber with some rather unpleasant people and views.
            Liberals (for want of a better word) scarcely comment here any longer. Andrew Godsall is a stalwart and a notable example. Pete Jermy gets little but abuse. And I only pop in occasionally to question something or poke some pomposity. I probably shouldn’t but certain absurdities do rattle my cage.

          • Penny

            I often engage with Peter J myself—but his comments are often very repetitive.

            Andrew Godsall is like a dog with a bone.

            Simon ‘T1’ is mostly reduced to trolling claims that Synod has done what it has not and all evangelicals will be ejected from the church ere long. It is all very tedious.

            And you repeatedly make snide and ad hominem comments.

            I really would like some good liberal engagement—and used to get it from several who no longer contribute. It is disappointing.

          • Ian

            Liberal commenters such as Andrew and A.J. Bell persist here despite being treated with contumely and having their reasonable questions ignored.
            Others have abandoned this space because they find it toxic and wearying.
            I never, to my knowledge, resort to ad homs and I used to engage in good faith, but that became an expense of spirit in a waste of shame. So I am sometimes snide when I see foolish and callous responses to good points.
            I shall desist but it pains me to see ignorant and abusive responses to sometimes excellent articles and comments.

          • You are welcome to comment if you engage. But so often you dump one-line caustic comments.

            A good example is David Runcorn. He often drops in, makes a comment, but when challenged just disappears. I wonder why? I don’t think it is do with personal criticism; he doesn’t want to engage in discussion and have his views scrutinised.

  29. I have not visited this site for some time because of the truly reprehensible character of too much of the comment.

    Ian Paul is to be congratulated and affirmed for the fact he clearly decided to clean up the site and take it back to being a useful forum for authentically orthodox comment.

    • Agreed… with prayer for Ian Paul and the whole engagement process… across the spectrum of contributers.

      I think he gives more than reasonable space to endless repetitive nonsense. Is he (anyone) right about everything? Of course not… But I admire his biblical thoroughness, logical analysis and commitment to truth.

      I’ve stopped even looking at Thinking Anglicans. The anti evangelical postings, sometimes quite nasty, destroy what use the forum might have.

      • And what readers cannot tell is that several have been debarred from posting, thus skewing the reader’s perception of the balance of opinion.

        Those debarred from posting include intelligent people.

        • Debarred by ‘Thinking Anglicans’, I mean.

          I just wish TA would even go one step to debate points, rather than simply shutting those out who present inconvenient data. That is clearly dishonest. People need to be aware that that is the true picture of what is going on.

        • Christopher: not just intelligent people but me as well!
          The controller of “Thinking Anglicans” has excluded several contributions I made, none of which was ad hominem, but they did challenge one contributor called “Fr Dean H” (IIRC) who expressed great scepticism and scorn over some pretty central catholic doctrines. The overall tone of TA is both anti-evangelical (as if being Anglican and evangelical were antithetical) and depressed, feeling that the Church of England is doomed. Some of the contributors are frankly agnostic about the Christian faith, the reality of the bodily Resurrection of Christ, and the afterlife. They apear to be part of small and aging congregations that cannot sustain weekly eucharistic services.

  30. Brilliant article for the most part, Ian. Thank you.

    But this bit seems unnecessarily partisan, unless you have the (properly researched) statistics to back it up:
    “ those churches which actually believe that the ordained leaders should be teaching the faith, and that lay members should take this learning seriously (who mostly call themselves ‘evangelical’)”

    As an evangelical, I feel like apologising for this, to my Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters. (And similarly in one of your replies to Peter J.)

    Have you dropped into the conservative-evangelical trap, confusing “teaching the faith” with “teaching evangelicalism”?

  31. (Reposting with my name)

    For the most part a brilliant article, Ian. Thank you.

    But this bit seems unnecessarily partisan, unless you have the (properly researched) stats to back it up:
    “those churches which actually believe that the ordained leaders should be teaching the faith, and that lay members should take this learning seriously (who mostly call themselves ‘evangelical’)”

    As an evangelical, I feel like apologising for this, to my Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters.

    I wonder if you’ve dropped into a common conservative-evangelical trap, by confusing “teaching the faith” with “teaching evangelicalism”?

    • Hi Pete. Thanks for the comment and question. Interestingly, this wasn’t my observation (about ‘evangelicals’); it was made by the people who did the research on ordinary theology.

      I do find that some of my Catholic and Anglo-catholic friends do have a commitment to teaching, but it is not *that* widespread.

  32. Yes, TA is an unpleasant site. The only commenter l have read who posts anything of interest there is a character who calls himself ‘Froghole’ who often writes with great erudtion and appears to be a walking enclopeadia of all things Anglican. He has posted here on rare occasions.

  33. I must speak in defence of Simon Sarmiento – the lead moderator for Thinking Anglicans. He can and does look for orthodox commentary. I know for a fact he seeks to publish material by Andrew Goddard, for example.

    I have been lacerated more times than I care to remember by some of the commentators on TA. Then again, others have shown me great kindness online.

    I have commented on that site at some length over an extended period in the belief some kind of consensus amongst the laity might exist for an organised Settlement.

    I no longer believe a Settlement can or will happen and therefore no longer engage in social media comment.

    I still believe Simon Sarmiento deserves credit for his work and should not be maligned

    • But we are talking about two different things. You didn’t mention, and may not know about, the less savoury side.The no-platforming of intelligent commenters is shameful and under cover. It means that a false idea is given of the balance of opinion. The more statistics were cited, the more one was in danger of no platforming. That is a bit like: the more precise and scientific you get, the more they will no platform you.

      And the reason given was ‘Most of what you are saying is complete rubbish’. So I said ‘Give chapter and verse.’ They didn’t or couldn’t – but hey they no platformed me anyway.

      Secondly, I said – if my statistics are faulty, cite better ones. They entirely failed to do so!

      They were reminded of this on a few subsequent occasions, and did not remedy it in any way.

      David Shepherd was also no platformed.

      ANd worse

      • Christopher: I have seen you claim here a few times that you were ‘banned’ from TA and then a few days later in each case seen you leave comments there. So I am afraid evidence counts against you here.

        • Andrew: I have had the same experience as Christopher. Sometimes a comment has been allowed, but often it is not. I have never attacked a person’s character in that forum but I have contested their ideas or claims of fact – and these have been excluded.
          So the moderator appears to ban certain people for a time or on certain topics.

          • So let us get this straight. Three highly qualified people – David Shepherd in law, myself a NT PhD and James I should imagine an OT PhD – are generally not allowed to comment on a forum that calls itself ‘thinking’ and on which the majority of commenters are clearly less qualified than that.
            Please broadcast this scandal widely, everyone.

        • Andrew, please retract that immediately, or alternatively give chapter and verse.
          There was one time when they changed screen format, and that allowed me to sneak under the radar for a couple of comments, before being re-banned. A second time, they presumably allowed one comment on John Smyth because I seemed to be better informed. Other than that, what I say is accurate.

        • Secondly, the times when I have brought up the subject of being banned from that site have no time connection at all with the times I have tried to leave comments there. Can you be more accurate, please.

  34. Simon would obviously need to speak for himself on the specifics you reference.

    I would make one point. If they think you wanted material published that is wrong, they are entitled to make that judgement and not publish. They don’t have to then answer your questions about the issue. They are moderators. Not academics conducting a technical debate.

    It is in that sense a different form of forum. Ian Paul does, on this site, enter the debate and all power to him for doing so. Thinking Anglicans moderators (almost) never do so. It’s just different

  35. I think IP allows a remarkably wide latitude on divergent comments on this site and until recently, had quite a tolerant approach to commenting until people started to abuse it. He was right to stop anonymous comments. TA seems to me to ban commenters whose views they don’t like and this is of course SS’s perogative. With a few exceptions, much of the comments at TA
    seem to be about how nasty and bigoted conevos are and how harmful they are to people.
    But ‘ Thinking’ Anglicans? – l don’t think so.

  36. I am no champion for TA commentators. Too much of the comment is blind ideology. I have also had a good many frustrating experiences when my comments have been declined (not banned) for no apparent reason.

    However, TA remains a generally responsible and important site which does allow at lest some measure of open debate and certainly publishes some material that is orthodox in its convictions.

    There is no scandal to be uncovered, Christopher, and a sense of proportion is needed on the matter

    • Peter, that is nonsense. Why?
      First, in order to take the position you do, you would need to know roughly what proportion of comments is accepted. You have no idea of this proportion. I do not know the proportion either, but I and those whose comments have been blanked know how many times we have been blanked. You don’t.
      Second, you are giving not the slightest weight to the idea that it is precisely well qualified thinkers that have been blanked. Including James, myself, David Shepherd. This is not just wrong. It is the very reverse of the way things should be on any ‘Thinking’ website.
      While among those who comment many are less qualified. But have in common a cultural conformity on LGBT issues.
      Third, you do not address the point that it is statistical material (i.e. the most precise available) that is shunned, in favour of much less precise generalities!
      Fourth, you do not raise the way in which their justification for this step was so inadequate. In two ways. They said the content posted was nonsense but did not say what was nonsense about it. And also they did -or could- not provide any alternative statistics!
      FIfth, your comment was a generality, and you are acting as though your generality is worth more than my and others’ specifics. Which could never be.
      Sixth, I am speaking from first hand evidence to a greater extent than you.
      Seventh, there is the dishonesty. A wrong impression is given of the balance of opinion.
      I do not like to repeat, but I do so until points get grasped, and then cease to do so.

      • The dishonesty of which I speak is that of TA: the way they give a skewed picture of what people think by excluding comments they do not like (as opposed to those based on faulty evidence).

      • Christopher,

        Anybody reading your comments above will recognise immediately why Thinking Anglicans will have nothing to do with you.

        By the way, it has absolutely nothing to do with Theology

        • But we are not looking for the reason they ‘will have nothing to do with’ me.

          The issue is a different one:

          We are looking for the common reason why they will have nothing to do with me OR David OR James or others. The only common factors that have been cited are education and uncongenial conclusions. Which removes any debate’s (or any debate site’s, or any thinking site’s) raison d’etre.

  37. Chris: that has been my experience of TA. Sometimes they let a contrary point of view in, but I suspect there is quite a bit of no-platforming going on – which is of course the site owner’s prerogative but it does create an echo chamber.
    “Froghole” at least avoids the temptation to denounce conevos as hateful knuckledraggers. He is certainly a source of arcane Anglicana, and where he finds the time, resources or desire to travel the country to attend different Anglican services, I have no idea.
    It’s a subjective impression, of course, but I don’t pick up from the commentators much sense of the joy of being a Christian or wonder at the majesty and glory of God. Maybe it’s there but well hidden.

  38. What contribution has TA made to the Times headlined declension in Christian orthodoxy in the CoE and intense and seeming extensive rise in heterodoxy, pluralism, and the spectrum of secular systemic syncretism which ever excludes and ridicules orthodoxy?
    It’s a long game but a short hop from the Honest to God of Robinson and the Sea of Faith of Cupitt, an institutional scuppering by an adamant amalgam of skepticism and unbelief.

  39. Moving away from the academic, and highly theological comments made by the clergy here…
    Irrespective of any debate regarding sexuality etc. Go into the work places, the shopping centres, the pubs, the schools and colleges, and listen to people. I say this with no pleasure as a Christian myself, but the reality is that Britain currently is a non-Christian country. Virtually none of my kids friends are Christians (I was super fortunate in that most of my childhood friends have remained lifelong friends, and most of my closest friends from then are Christians). I don’t know another soul at work who is a Christian. Things have changed vastly in the last 20 or so years, and the sad reality is it feels like the Devil made hay during Covid.
    As I say I write this with no pleasure, but people denying this current reality are living in a bubble.


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