Do we know what Anglicans think about same-sex marriage?

Peter Ould writes: My son is an Arsenal fan.

Now, when I say “Arsenal fan”, I need to explain a few things. First, he’s never actually been to see Arsenal play, either home or away. Indeed, he’s never actually been to a professional football game in his entire life. I doubt he could name you more than one member of the squad and if you asked him where they were in the Premiership at the moment he wouldn’t have a clue.

If you wanted to find out what Arsenal fans thought of the club at the moment, you wouldn’t be looking for my son to give you an insightful view of what the average supporter in the terraces thinks. The only reason my son is an Arsenal fan is because at school his friendship circle includes some much more avid football fanatics, so he decided he’d say he’d make Arsenal his team to fit in. If he *had* to pick a team he’d pick Arsenal, but really there’s no reason why he didn’t pick Manchester City or Liverpool instead.

Of course, he didn’t pick Manchester United because no-one picks Manchester United these days.

The Ozanne Foundation publicised a repeat survey by YouGov looking at the opinions of a sample of 5,000 people on same-sex marriage. As part of the survey (a normal YouGov internet panel) the participants were asked what religion they associate with, and unsurprisingly around a fifth stated  that they were “Church of England”, “Anglican” or “Episcopalian”. That last answer indicates that the survey included some people in Scotland where the local Anglican denomination is the “Scottish Episcopal Church”. The 1,100 or so people who said they were “Anglican” could therefore be assessed for their response to the “do you think same-sex marriage is a good thing” question and a headline therefrom created.

And a headline was created. “Anglicans now in favour of same-sex marriage” crowed the Ozanne Foundation and this story was picked up by mainstream media and religious news sites, despite the fact that once again (because this is the third poll of its kind), the truth is actually slightly more complex. There are in fact a number of issues with the poll and the way it has been reported, issues which have been identified and raised before, but which seem to have been ignored yet again by the revisionist lobby keen to use the results as a political lever for change in the Church of England.


The first issue is whether these “Anglicans” are in any way representative of the men and women (and children) who worship in the pews week after week. With one in five of the sample of 5,000 saying they were Anglican, if these were people who were actually active in their local CofE churches it would indicate around 10 million people worshipping every week. Revival!!!

Of course the truth is different. When people tick the “Anglican” box in this survey they are simply expressing a cultural connection. These are not religiously or spiritually active Christians, rather the likelihood is that the overwhelming majority are nominal Christians at best, people who grace our parish churches with their presence at funerals, weddings , baptisms and the occasional Sundays, but who are not on the Electoral Roll, aren’t financially supporting the mission of the Church and in all probability don’t believe the faith “handed down”.

Now there are some very easy way to find out the views of the people in the pews. The first is to ask a second question of everyone, namely something like “How often do you attend a place of worship for a service?” In this way you could see the difference in support for same-sex marriage between those who attend every week, every month and those who are hardly ever seen on a Sunday. It would be very easy to ask this second question, but despite the fact this has been twice pointed out to Jayne Ozanne, she refused to do so this time.

I wonder why?

The second way to find out the views of the people who actually make up the active membership of the Church of England is to use a specialist religious panel like that delivered by Savanta ComRes. Unlike the general panel that YouGov uses, a specialist religious panel is made up of people who have been qualified for active religious participation. The use of such panels is more expensive (by their nature, trying to find a subset of people with a high level of religious activity takes more effort and is more expensive) but it is a much more effective way of finding out the opinion of the people who really matter.

So on the first issue – representing the people that the press release claims are represented – the poll fails. The official press release uses language like “Church of England supporters” (no attempt is made in the poll to see if the “Anglicans” support the Church of England) and “Church of England members” (the official record of active membership of the Church of England is the Electoral Roll, yet the poll does not ask if “Anglicans” are on it and even if you stretched membership to mean baptised in the Church of England, again “Anglicans” in the poll are not asked if they were baptised in a Church of England parish) but these are deliberately misleading terms.


On a second issue, statistical claims, the poll does not support the confident statements in the press release. The press release talks about a “marked increase” in Anglicans supporting same-sex marriage, but the reality is there is no statistical difference between the 2016 and 2020 figures for supporting same-sex marriage. The difference between 45% (2016) and 48% (2020) is well within the margin of error for the small sub-sample (1171) meaning the increase of 3% might just be random variation based on the particular sample used. This is a basic statistical error and demonstrates that  the authors of the press release do not understand how to handle the data that YouGov has generated for them. In fact, a dispassionate observer might note how surprising it is that overall views don’t appear to have shifted by any statistically significant amount.

On a third issue, qualification of terms, the poll question and the press release fail. The question asked is “Do you think same-sex marriage is right or wrong”, but nowhere is an explanation of what “right” or “wrong” might mean. Right politically? Right morally?  Right socially? Is it right because it confers legal guarantees to those who seek them but still morally wrong (but in a liberal society as individuals we accept that some people engage in activities we believe are morally wrong)?

The press release jumps from “English” to “British” without a consideration of the difference in the terms. Indeed, the claim that the poll is about “Church of England supporters” is questionable since the inclusion of “Episcopalian”, a term not used in the Church of England but actively used in Scotland, shows that the “Anglicans” in question may actually have affiliations outside of the Church of England. Neither does the poll attempt to qualify those who may attend a Church of England church but have a different religious affiliation.

The press release includes a quote that “To pretend that this is an issue on which many have not yet formed a view is to misunderstand the reality of what is happening in our pews”. Again, this is a misrepresentation of who the poll has been conducted on as no-one in the sample has been qualified as to whether they sit in the pews in Church of England churches or elsewhere. Furthermore, when the level of “don’t knows” is examined, the percentage for Anglicans (18%, MoE 2.8 on sample of 1259) is statistically significantly different to that for those of no religion (13%, MoE 1.9 on sample of 2667) leading us to be confident in the statement that the “Anglicans” in this survey are more uncertain about what they think compared to those who claim no religious affiliation.

I could go on, but the point is clear – the poll does not represent what the press release claims it does. It is not a reflection of Church of England members in the pews, it does not show any change in support for same-sex marriage in the past four years and it uses terms with little or no qualification in a manner that misleads the reader as to the meaning of the poll. That most of these issues have been pointed out on a previous occasion but have been ignored by the authors demonstrates a deliberate choice to perpetuate these errors for the sake of a political cause.


I close with a challenge to Jayne Ozanne and her self-referential Foundation. As described above, one very easy way to correct these errors would be to ask at least one extra question around church attendance. If Jayne Ozanne were to repeat the exercise, I will happily fund the asking of this extra question, the wording of which would be determined by a neutral third party to the agreement of both parties. My hypothesis is that by looking at church attendance statistics you would see that (a) the majority of these “Anglicans” are not active church members at all and (b) the active church members would hold statistically significantly different views on the subject to the non-church-attending respondents. In fact, this kind of work has been done before, by Mark Regnerus in the States. What he found was that nominal, non-church-attending respondents were indistinguishable from the general population, not only on this issue but on sexual morality more broadly, whilst it was active, church-attending members who held views on all these issues quite out of step with the wider culture. Were the Ozanne Foundation poll to make this kind of enquiry, and find something similar, then it would be significant—but rather awkward.

Proper academic inquiry, including in the area of quantitative study, is open to further information and to clarification and stratification in this manner. It adds to the body of human knowledge, it helps to deepen our understanding of sociological issues. There is no good reason why the Ozanne Foundation should refuse such an offer unless they were afraid that the results such an extra question would generate would undermine their position, but in the area of academic research that is not a good enough reason not to explore a subject in greater detail.

The challenge is clearly there – the issues with the poll have been on numerous occasions and now a cost free option exists to correct them.


My son is an Arsenal fan, but there are Arsenal fans and there are Arsenal fans. I wouldn’t go to my son to find out what the fans in the seats of the Emirates think about Alexandre Lacazette’s goal scoring abilities and I wouldn’t look to this Ozanne Foundation poll to tell me what the people in the pews of your local parish think about same-sex marriage.


The original version of this piece stated that the sub-sample of Anglicans represented not just those geographically located in England but across the whole of the UK. We now understand this to be incorrect as the Ozanne Foundation have finally released a table that shows the filtering on those resident in England and claiming affiliation to an Anglican denomination. It is of course best practice to release all the data tables of a poll at once to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.


Revd Peter Ould is a Church of England priest based in Canterbury. He works in the field of statistical research and application and writes and broadcasts on issues around the Church, sex and statistics.


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A note on Comments policy: 

On contentious issues like this, comments are apt to get out of hand. Please can all commentators follow these disciplines of grace:

a. Address the issue, rather than kicking the person. Even the shift from ‘You are a heretic’ to ‘This position appears to lie outside the boundaries of orthodoxy’ makes a big difference.

b. Take personal spats offline. If there is a long engagement just between two people, it suggests you need to get coffee together.

c. Always assume the best construal of the other person’s position.

d. Don’t dominate. Make room for others to contribute.

Thanks!

65 thoughts on “Do we know what Anglicans think about same-sex marriage?”

  1. This article needs to be published more widely, such as in Christian Today and other outlets that ran with the OF Headline story.

    Reply
    • It’s bigger than the numbers opposed to equal marriage, within the context of this data set. And looking to the future, the generational shift is marked – there is a majority in favour among under 65s, and a big majority (over 70%) among the under 50s.

      The argument for equal marriage is not going to go away, pressure will only continue to build. The C of E will need to find some accommodation so that all can live and minister according to their conscience (as is the case with remarriage after divorce, women priests and women bishops). Let each priest decide whether they will or won’t conduct equal marriage services, each parish decide if they will or won’t accept a married same sex priest, and this thorn in the side of the church is substantially resolved. We did it with women priests, we can do it with equal marriage. This will be the compromise that the bishops and General Synod will eventually decide is the way forward, as has been the case with controversial issues in the past. Best to get it sorted sooner rather than later so we can concentrate our energies on more profitable things that unite us.

      Reply
      • “It’s bigger than the numbers opposed to equal marriage, within the context of this data set. And looking to the future, the generational shift is marked – there is a majority in favour among under 65s, and a big majority (over 70%) among the under 50s.”

        All of that is true but it still doesn’t justify the claim that the majority of Anglicans are in favour of same-sex marriage. 48% is not a majority. Ask the Remainers.

        Reply
      • ‘Let each priest decide whether they will or won’t conduct equal marriage services, each parish decide if they will or won’t accept a married same sex priest, and this thorn in the side of the church is substantially resolved.’

        No it’s not resolved. The quadruple lock to which the C of E and the then government agreed during enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 can not be modified according to the convenience of a church that wants to allow its clergy to make up their own doctrine as it suits them.

        If clergy who declare themselves willing to “marry” same sex couples are not disciplined by the church, judges in the courts would take the view that the church no longer held a negative view of same sex “marriage”. Thus any clergy who refused a couple’s request would have no defence if taken to court for discrimination against a protected minority.

        The obfuscatory bubble in which bishops and Synod members conduct their affairs may seem perfectly normal to them. But I think we must still assume that the judiciary will look for greater honesty and coherence when they make their judgments. There can be no easy compromise here: what you propose is a one way street to full acceptance by all clergy.

        And, notwithstanding LLF, there are precious few signs of a serious look at the theology on the overriding assumption of the authority of Scripture…

        Reply
      • I think not. God has called us to obedience and to live by the standards He sets for us. No LGBT will enter the kingdom of God no matter what the law says. Love them, yes but don’t lie to yourself or them. God loves them and wants them to change but that behaviour regardless what the law states, will not get them a pardon into heaven and is categorically stated and without waver in the scriptures.

        You are not a priest of the Most High if you compromise His Word or Standards, regarding this.

        The C of E most not compromise on this point there is no such thing as same sex marriage. That is a contradiction in term according the the scriptures. If individual’s choose that lifestyle that is their choice and therefore civil partnership should be sufficient. We should love all but hold to The Word of truth and ‘Be light’ to these individuals and all.

        Mon

        Reply
        • ‘No LGBT will enter the kingdom of God no matter what the law says.’ The problem is that this directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus, when he says ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you'(Matt 21.31).

          There can be no sound or sensible discussion of this unless you separate identity from actions.

          Reply
  2. Do you have any evidence on what C of E attendees think about same sex marriage? All data sets are to some extent flawed, that’s the nature of research, and evidence has to be interpreted in the context of the data collected. But this gives us more of a picture than anything else I am aware of, even if you have to take some claims within a given context. If you know of any other reliable research on this subject please post a link, otherwise this is the best we have.

    If anything, the non-attending but self-identifying Anglicans will tend to be older, more socially conservative and less inclined towards supporting equal marriage. Very few younger people self-identify as Anglican without attending church. Removing the older non-attenders from the subject sample is likely to maintain or even increase the disparity in favour of equal marriage found in this YouGov survey. Looking at the base data, it is heavily weighted towards representing older respondents (41% were over 65, 28.5% were under 50 – compared with the UK adult population which has only 21% over 65 and about 56% aged 18-50), which brings with it a bias towards not supporting equal marriage.

    I accept the point that the 45% to 48% increase in approval between 2016 and 2020 might be within the margin of error for such surveys, just, but you failed to mention that the same figure in 2013 was 38%. There is clearly a shift over that 7 year timescale, which for completeness you ought to have mentioned. Do you acknowledge that the data set has shown a marked shift in favour of equal marriage between 2013 and 2020?

    Until you can produce a rigorous, scientific survey with a similar large sample size that meets your own definition of membership, this survey will have to stand as our best data available. Anecdotally it seems probable that there is a good proportion of pew filling, share paying C of E members who support equal marriage. It is also logical that increased visibility of equal marriage (as the number of same sex married people in society increases) will increase general acceptance over time. This was well documented with women priests, with many unsure about the innovation in 1993 positively revising their views in favour after experiencing a woman in ordained ministry. Once people see that something new isn’t going to bring the sky falling down it tends to only be dogmatic ideologues who maintain their opposition. So the Ozanne Foundation data certainly fits with what you would expect to see.

    Unless you can provide reliable, scientifically gathered, independent data to the contrary we will have to work with the hypothesis that there is an increasing acceptance of equal marriage among C of E attendees, and the numbers accepting equal marriage are greater than those opposed to it.

    Reply
    • John, there is research evidence that both nominal and church attending Anglicans don’t believe in Nicene/orthodox Chirstology. So should we ‘accept’ that, and come to a compromise?

      If not, why is this issue different?

      Reply
      • Ian, can you give me evidence in terms of hard numbers? You will always get variances of belief among a large body of people, but can you point me to actual evidence, I would want to see what proportions we’re talking about. I doubt you will find a significant and consistent lead against traditional Christology, but I would want to see the data.

        And do you acknowledge that there has been a statistically significant shift between 2013 and 2020 in the studies done by the Ozanne Foundation in the direction of greater acceptance of equal marriage?

        And finally, do you have any other reliable data on C of E attender attitudes on equal marriage? At the moment you are arguing from silence.

        Reply
        • I doubt you will find a significant and consistent lead against traditional Christology

          I suspect that most people in this class have so hazy and undefined a Christology that you could get any result you wanted by careful framing of the questions.

          Everybody’s seen the ‘Yes, Minister’ scene about surveys, right? As someone said, once you realise that any poll that’s published is not a mechanism for measuring public opinion but a mechanism for trying to change it, a lot of things make a lot more sense.

          Reply
      • Any research on creed (dis)believing clergy, let alone congregants?
        Is there any correlation with creedal belief in clergy and belief in SSM?

        Reply
        • I have been studying these things for some time, and the main factor is Christendom vs counter culture. On that basis, without checking, I predict yes without a doubt, probably strongly so. The theory with the best blind predictive power is the most accurate.

          Reply
  3. And since when is theology done by opinion poll anyway?
    I wouldn’t have thought the Scriptural precedent for majority views among the community of faith was necessarily encouraging!…

    Reply
    • Yes indeed. This is a fundamental issue, the neglect of which suggests a Christian church that has seriously lost its way.

      Reply
      • And that General Synod is weak on serious debate but open to untested assertions? And what does Episcopally led actually mean these days?

        Though this is undoubtedly true “Of course, he didn’t pick Manchester United because no-one picks Manchester United these days.”… Here in Merseyside….

        Reply
  4. Unfortunately many people, even in the Church of England, are unaware of God’s views on his own holiness. If more people took this into account, then more people, I suspect, might think twice before following the secular social trends on this issue.

    Reply
  5. People would be well advised to look at the Regnerus survey(s) mentioned, which show that the nominals are far closer to the nons than to the committed.

    Peter’s wry remark that we do not in fact have 10 million in church of a Sunday just shows how skewiff the figures are. But it would make little odds if they were not. Read Noelle-Neumann on public opinion to show its irrelevance to the truth of the way things are. Public opinion is just a story of people scrambling not to be in a minority. And who gives the impression that certain things are becoming a majority? Media and politicians – who not by coincidence regularly poll as the least respected professions, and who are certainly a rather singular atypical demographic. I appreciate the ‘Yes, Minister’ reference.

    Reply
  6. Quote: “The press release jumps from “English” to “British” without a consideration of the difference in the terms. Indeed, the claim that the poll is about “Church of England supporters” is demonstrably false since the YouGov panel is made up of members across the United Kingdom and the inclusion of “Episcopalian”, a term not used in the Church of England but actively used in Scotland, shows that the “Anglicans” are not all members of the Church of England. It is therefore an incorrect assumption to state that these are opinions of Church of England members. The actual panel members who reside in Church of England parishes are not actively identified. The Ozanne Foundation could have filtered by “Anglicans” in England, but they chose not to do so.”

    This is unfair criticism, and not true. Look at the raw figures (provided on the Ozanne Foundation website, who are committed to full transparency). The total number of Anglicans is 1,183 (weighted sample). This is the full GB figure. The press release refers to 1,171 Anglicans in England, which is therefore clearly a filtered number. If you check out the filtered results (again, easily accessible on the Foundation’s website), you will find that the 48%/34% figure is indeed based on Anglicans in England.

    Also unfair is not to mention that this is a repeat of the same question that was initially asked in 2013. By only referencing 2016, you give a distorted presentation of the press release.

    By the way, I note that you do decide that your son is an arsenal fan. This gives a reasonable picture of those who consider themselves Anglican. That is important in its own right.

    Reply
    • Yes, it has been brought to my attention that the Ozanne Foundation have published the filtered data on their website. It was NOT included in the original set of data tables that were issued with the press release and hence my paragraph.

      It is standard practice to include ALL the relevant data tables when they are published, in one place.

      As for the fact as to whether my son is or isn’t an Arsenal fan, I think my sarcasm is self-evident.

      The piece will be edited accordingly shortly.

      Reply
  7. With respect I think you’re incorrect Peter.

    First, the survey question asks respondents what religion they *belong* to and it seems fair to report findings on that basis. I am not sure you can so easily dismiss people’s claims of belonging so easily. Most arsenal fans don’t go to the stadium (for various reasons) but they still seem to be counted as supporters in the main. That seemed like was quite a snooty comments about people ‘gracing our presence’ with their attendance but also revealing – and I have not much doubt that the Christians who support LGBT issues don’t feel very welcome in most churches. I wonder why.

    Second, where’s your calculation that this is not statistically significant, I can’t see that in the article? It seems like it would be about +\- 1.5 on that sample size/estimate and probably significant on that basis? And definitely significant if you add in the RC and other denominations. And… it certainty looks like a statistically significant reduction in the proportion of Anglicans who think it is *wrong* over recent years.

    On the Scotland issue, you’ll find that a lot more people in Scotland identify in the census and other research as CofE rather than ‘episcopal’.

    And there is no such thing as the ‘Episcopal Church of Scotland’.

    A bit more humility and attention to detail is helpful with these kinds of criticisms!

    Reply
  8. I wonder about the validity of any of these polls, based on just 5,000 people and then extrapolating that to 60 million. But yes I know such are statistics.

    Regarding the main question, I get the impression that many ‘young’ people (under 25) attending church would agree that same-sex marriage is ‘good’. There seems to be a definite shift of opinion in that direction, not just by those who rarely if ever attend church. And the more gay people get ‘married’ the more it will be viewed as the norm. As a gay individual myself, although I dont think God approves of such relations, I can perfectly understand the desire for such recognised relationships.

    Reply
    • Actually, a sample of 5000 is *very* good and with proper methodology gives you an accurate view of the overall population. The issues with sample size are (i) when you have small sub-samples the margins of error make the results meaningless (the Ozanne Foundation makes this mistake by inferring meaning into statistically insignificant results) and (ii) it requires good statistical understanding to interpret the results correctly even when they are statistically significant.

      Reply
      • This is why I dont like statistics and take such polls with a pinch of salt. I dont see how a sample of 0.009% of the adult population is reliable. But hey ho.

        Reply
        • I dont see how a sample of 0.009% of the adult population is reliable

          If you want to test, say, the acidity of a swimming pool you only need a thimbleful of water, right? Same principle.

          (Providing the sample is representative; certain assumptions hold; and to within a known margin of error)

          Reply
  9. Some common sense at last! The problem I sense, is that people are afraid to say what they really think for fear of immediately being castigated and hounded as “homophobic”.

    Reply
  10. Thanks Peter.

    Along with the comments about surveys in general I was struck by your question about ‘right and wrong’.

    Is it just me or do you agree that the UK at large needs to be reminded of the difference between illegal and immoral? I often get confused when following public debate which of the two is really being discussed.

    Reply
  11. As long-standing supporter of opening sacramental marriage to couples regardless of their sex, I’ve made these points over at Thinking Anglicans, and agree about the survey’s shortcoming. I would enthusiastically support a poll of regular attendees, and think that’s the dataset all sides should be working with.

    That said, it’d help to know up-front how those who oppose dropping the sex bar would respond if a majority of regular churchgoers did support marriage equality. From comments made above and in previous discussions, I suspect that many would answer, “The Kingdom isn’t a democracy,” and emphasize that we can’t decide doctrine by majority vote. If so, even an overwhelming majority among those who take the elements daily wouldn’t settle the matter.

    Reply
    • Hi James,

      Thanks for your comments here and elsewhere. Yes, we should look for a poll of active members and I have offered to help the Ozanne Foundation achieve that. Unfortunately I suspect for political reasons that offer will not be taken up.

      A survey that found the overwhelming members in the pews wanted same-sex blessings would undoubtably lead to Synod / House of Bishops making the necessary changes but also lead to some form of split as many traditionalists would not be able to stay in an institution which, as they saw it, had turned against the Word of God.

      Reply
      • Indeed, unlike the issue of women clergy where a relatively small number ‘split’, I think this would cause a major earthquake.

        Reply
      • And likewise, thank you for your perspective, it’s always been valuable.

        My inclination may be broad church, but given people’s red lines, I’ve long given up any hope that there exists a model of mutual toleration that’ll be acceptable to all parties. All I hope for now is that inevitable schism is as painless as possible. If some way could be found to allow congregations to keep their current buildings, recognize one another as being within the Anglican tradition, and stay on civil terms with one another, I’d be overjoyed.

        Reply
  12. To maintain one’s integrity in debate shows far greater moral fibre than to abandon it in a desperate attempt to promote the survey findings as reliably demonstrating, by comparison with the previous poll, a significant increase in support for same-sex marriage among Anglican members.

    Surely, it’s a telling moment in this strenuously contended debate when a long-standing advocate of same-sex marriage (who also happens to be trans) admits that Jayne Ozanne’s assertions about the outcome of the commissioned survey are seriously flawed.

    Yet, this is exactly what Susannah Clark has done through a comment on Thinking Anglicans which echoes one of Peter Ould’s key criticisms:
    “To make the fair point first: I think Jayne has made a wonderful contribution to gathering people together to make the case for affirming gay and lesbian people, and their relationships, in the Church of England. That effort has been, and continues to be, very significant and helpful. LGBT people are being gravely harmed by the Church’s policies towards them, and change is badly needed not tomorrow, or next year, or next decade, or in 20 years’ time, but now. That view is shared by many people in a Church which is divided on this issue. There is no uniformity of view, whatever church officials assert as ‘what the Church believes’.

    Nevertheless, in my view, we need to be precise and factual in our assertions and arguments – and exercise cold logic to support our deeply-held emotional and spiritual convictions… otherwise our arguments get shredded by those with opposing and social conservative views. We cannot, for example, suggest that this survey tells us what people in the pews believe. The stats and findings need some unpacking.

    The survey got a total of 5169 GB responses overall.
    Based on census figures, 86.3% will be English, which = 4461.
    Jayne reports that total ‘Anglicans in England responses = 1171.

    Do the maths: this implies that 26.2% of people in England are Anglicans.

    And yet, according to the Church of England’s own survey, only 2.14% of people attend Anglican church regularly (at least once a month) and even at the social highpoint of church attendance at Christmas only 4.5% of people attend Anglican church.

    So basically in this survey, even taking the Christmas highpoint figure, for every involved and regular church member giving an opinion, you have about 11 other nominal Anglicans’ views.

    There is no way from these stats that we can measure what people in the pews, who are more engaged in Christian life as it’s lived in the Church, actually believe.”

    So, alongside James Byron, I wonder if any others who support same-sex marriage would agree with Susannah’s statement.

    https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/opposition-to-same-sex-marriage-continues-to-decline-rapidly/#comment-276567

    Reply
    • Expect many would, but there’s an issue, specific to England, of defining “Anglican” far more widely than regular attendees, tied into all kinda historical baggage around the Church of England being a church for the nation entire and all her people. I don’t agree with it — even if I could accept such an ecclesiological model on principle, which I can’t, it’s a fiction now that Christendom’s fallen — but can see where its advocates are coming from.

      Reply
  13. Something which no-one has raised is that if the question is “what do Anglicans think of same-sex marriage?” rather than just “what do those who associate themselves with the Church of England think of SSM?” then surely the survey should have quizzed those attending Anglican churches in different parts of the world. (I suspect that outside of England there not many people who identify as Anglican who do not actually attend an Anglican church). The plain fact is that the Anglican communion, in terms of attendance, is no longer Western.

    If doctrine is to be decided according to the opinions of Anglicans, then all Anglicans need to be consulted. For those in England, or, indeed, the USA to change things by themselves has a distinct taste of White Privilege.

    To go further, if the Church of England, like other Churches in the Anglican fold, sees itself as part of the One Church Catholic, then it should not act alone to change fundamentals.

    Reply
    • The argument about the C of E not acting alone was used about the ordination of women as Deacons, Priests and Bishops, and was proved not to be very useful. Context is important. Our context here in England as Anglicans is different to Anglicans in, say, Nigeria. Homosexuality is far from illegal here. I maintain that those who wish to campaign against active same sex relations amongst church members must campaign to see that such relationships are also made illegal in wider society.

      In terms of percentages and surveys. The debate in General Synod in 2017, made similar percentages clear. It was to be expected that the Bishops would vote in favour of their own report. But it was not at all accepted by the members of the synod. There was much disagreement. The Archbishop of Canterbury could see it coming. He therefore made a speech which he now bound to be held to. It’s worth recalling at least some of it:

      “To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church, with a basis founded in Scripture, in tradition, in reason, in theology,
      in good healthy flourishing relationships, in a proper 21st Century understanding
      of being human and of being sexual. That will require a remarkable document put
      together with the Bishops but put together by the whole Church, by every single
      part, not excluding anyone.
      The current Report is not the end of the story. We know that. Bishop Graham said
      that clearly. We will, as the Bishops, think again and go on thinking. We would do
      that anyway. We will do that whether we take note or not. We will seek to do
      better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what has been said this
      afternoon.

      One of the things that strikes me most in this is that it was right, whoever said it,
      that this needs to be about love, joy, and celebration: of our humanity, of our
      creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ, all of us without exclusion.
      I believe passionately that the Report worked on, struggled on, not carelessly not
      thoughtlessly, gives a basis for moving on. A good basis, a roadmap, as the Chair
      of Laity just said.
      We will, I hope, take note of this Report, but, whether we do or not, obviously we
      will accept the voice from the Synod. But we are going to move on and find, as I
      say, a radical new inclusion based in love, based in our Christian understanding,
      neither careless of our theology nor ignorant of the world around us. That is the
      challenge we face as human beings, not problems, not issues, but human beings
      made in the image and likeness of God called to salvation in the way of Christ.”

      I predicted then and I repeat it now that same sex marriage in the C of E will not be likely to happen in my lifetime. But there will have to be greater pastoral accommodation for those in such marriages. Clergy and laity. The survey which Jayne presents is entirely consonant with what the C of E found during that General Synod debate. Peter Ould was, I think, present for it. He could not have missed the general direction and tone of the debate. Change is coming. The then Bishop of Norwich, in introducing the debate, noted the great changes that had occurred in society during his 24 years as a bishop. The only way to stop those will be to have homosexual relationships made illegal.

      Reply
      • If I might make an ‘off-piste’ comment—one way around the problem of whether same-sex marriages should be performed in Church is to take marriage away from the Church altogether? As I understand, it only arrived in the (Roman Catholic) Church in the Middle Ages. There is no evidence in ancient Israel that it was ever part of the cult—there is no official ceremony or set wording, no involvement of the priest or Temple in the OT. And no evidence that it was brought into the church in the NT era?

        Reply
        • If you really think that Colin then why is marriage talked about in the Bible, including by Jesus Christ, all of which predates your odd claim that “it only arrived in the (Roman Catholic) Church in the Middle Ages. …” and “There is no evidence in ancient Israel that it was ever part of the cult…..” and “—there is no official ceremony or set wording, …”.

          For your last point about no official wording, that is true even of Baptism and yet even Jesus commanded us all to “….. go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

          “I” in the great commission is Jesus Christ himself and yet Synod and the CofE does seem to be drifting away from Jesus Christ.

          Reply
          • Ah yes, Clive, –
            The removal of the Christ from the church.
            Did n’t Jesus attend a Jewish wedding ceremony, and other scriptures allude to marriage/weddings as metaphors which would carry no weight or understanding if they did not correspond to reality?
            Edinburgh Council has cancelled a booking of a Church conference (admittedly not Episcopalian) because one of the speakers is on record as saying marriage is between man and woman. Another speaker was from the Evangelical Alliance.
            This therefore goes far beyond the actual ceremony extending to even disagreeing with the civil law. (Perish the idea of any, of any sort of campaigning to change the law).
            Yet again there are many issues at play, including freedom of assembly, speech, religion, equality,and as ever the greatly discarded matter of law v morality.
            I also think I correct in this: in Finland? a long standing politician and Christian has been interview by police for posting her disagreement to her Lutheran Church moving to accept SSM, with the prosecutor in effect saying the Bible, Qur’an and Mein Kamphe could be read but it is not OK the believe what they contain. (This needs to be checked for accuracy to make sure Orwell is was writing fiction)

          • Hi Geoff,
            As I understand it in the Bible marriage is a creation ordinance, like work. In ancient Israel right into NT times marriage was considered a social contract. The concept of marriage as a sacrament belongs to reception history.

      • I maintain that those who wish to campaign against active same sex relations amongst church members must campaign to see that such relationships are also made illegal in wider society.

        Why? While I agree that Christians should try to shape the society they find themselves in so that it follows God’s will if at all possible, if that’s not possible because the society is so totally depraved that such efforts would not only be wasted but might be actively dangerous, I don’t see why it would be required.

        After all, Daniel didn’t campaign to have Babylonian society worship the true God: he simply remained faithful himself. Similarly in a society which is determined to go in the wrong direction on a matter such as sexuality, and do things like allow remarriages after divorce, it might be all the Church can do to keep itself faithful — but as Daniel’s example shows, that can be enough.

        Reply
        • S: simple: if you think something is so evil that it will corrupt humans then it is your duty as a Christian to save society from it, surely? It’s called evangelism. You have said that adultery should be punishable by law, so why not homosexual activity?
          But my main point was that the body that does decide on these matters, the General Synod, seems to be similarly split. So changes will, in the end, be made by a poll. There will need to be greater accommodation than there is now.

          Reply
          • if you think something is so evil that it will corrupt humans then it is your duty as a Christian to save society from it, surely?

            If I can, yes. But it is not in this case my duty to attempt the impossible. It is not the duty of Chinese Christians to overthrow the government, for example. It was not the duty of the early Christians to collapse the Roman Empire.

            Sometimes all the Church can do is warn; if society then chooses to destroy itself at least it has no excuse.

          • And the complexity here, for your case, is that the church is by no means unanimously saying that. About half the church is saying one thing, and half the other (as proved by the survey and by the GS voting).

          • And the complexity here, for your case, is that the church is by no means unanimously saying that.

            That’s not a complexity. It just means that half the church is wrong. The only question is which half. The only solution, if neither can convince the other that it’s them, is for the two halves to separate.

          • “The only solution, if neither can convince the other that it’s them, is for the two halves to separate.”
            That’s just one solution. Another is for people to leave and join a church which is more in line with their own beliefs – as happened with the ordination of women.

          • Another is for people to leave and join a church which is more in line with their own beliefs – as happened with the ordination of women.

            Good point. You’ll be joining the URC then, will you?

      • Dear Andrew, Once again you drift off in a strange direction. You ask Christians who don’t agree with SSM to campaign in society at large. Yet we are asked to be tolerant and not judgmental – Tolerant does NOT mean that you agree at all. Indeed the Church and Christianity is supposed to be counter-cultural and that equally that doesn’t mean you agree and yet your overall letter seems to be expecting the Church to just fall in line with Society. This is not in any sense right.

        Being a Christian means you follow Jesus Christ (the clue is in the name) yet by expecting action instead of tolerance and expecting judgmentalism instead of non-judgmentalism you seem to have lost your way. Jesus Christ does tell us clearly what marriage IS. So do you follow Jesus Christ or not?

        Reply
        • Clive,
          I’m not looking to be anathema to you by associating and attaching my agreement to you.
          As you know, keeping the faith is not only about campaigning; it is standing firm, taking a stand..stand..stand. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

          Reply
      • “I maintain that those who wish to campaign against active same sex relations amongst church members must campaign to see that such relationships are also made illegal in wider society.”

        Must disagree with this, Andrew: as others have noted upthread, sin isn’t necessarily crime. Personally, I don’t believe that same-sex relationships are ethically different to opposite-sex ones, but those who don’t needn’t support the reintroduction of sodomy laws, and it’d do them a disservice to suggest that they either should, or secretly do.

        Reply
        • Well said James. It does you great credit to bring some balance, some common ground.
          As you know there is also a difference between civil and criminal law as well as morals (laws) which you have categorised as sin in relation to the discussion and Christianity.
          But what do I know as a first class ignoramus.?
          Regards,
          Geoff – former solicitor of the Supreme Court in England and Wales.

          Reply
        • We will have to disagree James. S and Christopher Shell have consistently said how appalling homosexual acts are for society. I don’t think you can maintain that and not wish to change society back to how it was pre decriminalisation.

          Reply
          • You’ll need to go deeper, deeper into jurisprudence, into the purpose of criminal law.
            The present topic is one one SSM, a matter of civil law.
            In Christianity it is, as James agrees a question of sin, of sexual morality, (law).
            Then it becomes a question of scripture.

          • Those behind the original law reforms certainly didn’t support equality, Andrew, but they noted that criminalizing homosexuality brought a host of evils, from creating a blackmailers’ charter to the gross violation of privacy that came from prosecuting people for private acts that did no public harm.

            The alternative is the sordid spectacle America witnessed in 2003, where far too many churches in the South made fools of themselves going to bat to defend sodomy laws that were hardly ever enforced, were arbitrarily applied when they were (usually by LEOs who chanced over the acts in question while following up noise complaints), and dragged the criminal codes of several states into disrepute. While voting to uphold them on jurisprudential grounds, even a SCOTUS justice as conservative as Clarence Thomas called them “uncommonly silly,” and outright stated they should be repealed by state legislatures.

            Criminalizing acts doesn’t end them, and the criminal law isn’t a vehicle to enforce your preferred moral order (although if you want to introduce something suitably Jacobean for talking in the theater, I’m good with it 😉 ).

          • James: to be clear, I am not a supporter of re-criminalisation at all. But both S and Christopher have expressed support for that. I have no wish to explore its side effects as I agree it would be disastrous.

      • “I maintain that those who wish to campaign against active same sex relations amongst church members must campaign to see that such relationships are also made illegal in wider society.”
        You can maintain what you like – provided you also campaign to make adultery, fornication, blasphemy, greed, lust and all other sins illegal as well as immoral.
        The fundamental confusion in your thinking here is profound. The ancient pagan world did not ban homosexuality, prostitution, abortion or the exposure of infants. So what point are you trying to make? You make no sense at all, Andrew.

        Reply
        • Do we not think 1 Cor 5:12 applies here? “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

          Reply
  14. James( Byron)
    Stimulating, thank you: your comment of 6th at 11:18pm was a catalyst to further thoughts along the following lines.
    1 SSM, the law, jurisprudence – is knowledge and intention necessary to break law?
    1.1 God’s law
    You’ll be aware of the Natural Law school of jurisprudence: too simply put, all laws, the ultimate source of laws, including those of nature ultimately derive derive from God, rather than humanity.
    As an atheist law student I paid skant attention to this school, sufficient only to pass an exam. Otherwise it would have been dismissed out of hand.
    1.2 An adage at law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. (for breach)
    1.3 Generally, intention (such as mens rea, criminal intent) is a constituent of a crime without which an indictment will be dismissed, not guilty.
    1.4 There are strict liability laws, breach of which will take place without intention, motives, to commit. The act per se will suffice for a conviction.

    2 Is knowledge and intention necessary to be in breach of God’s laws?
    2.1. In Christianity God’s laws (including moral laws) are to be found, codified, in the Bible OT and NT combined. Not everyone will have knowledge of them and those who do may nevertheless be in breach, dismiss or ignore for reasons they may seek to justify as laudible or exception.
    2.2 Are some od God’s laws of strict liability, such as adultery and fornication? where the act(s) per se are a breach? acts of sin where love of the other, is irrelevant?
    2.4 Do homosexual acts and SSM fall into the category of God’s laws of strict liability, where intention and motives are irrelevant.
    I’m not certain that I’ve seen in any discussion of SSM any of these aspects of knowledge, intention, strict liability. And it would not be reducible to interpretation, or interpretation alone, the new progressive “solas”. But some responses would be reasonably foreseeable.
    Responses to these points from scholars of scripture would be good to see

    Reply
  15. I fully agree with the author!
    Just one comment:
    When talking about the presence of Church in society and rebuking secularists, you count the “cultural” anglicans as anglicans… Now, you don’t!
    You ought not count them when it suits you and discard them when doesn’t.
    Coherence, please.
    Zé Ribeiro.

    Reply

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