As a report on human sexuality is published recommending that the Church of England should offer blessings to same-sex married couples and tackle homophobia, polls suggest that even the report is out of touch with Anglicans, a majority of whom now support same-sex marriage.
Today the Church of England published the Pilling report on “human sexuality” which notes a tension between the church and contemporary culture, but which recommends that same-sex marriages and civil partnerships should be blessed, and that homophobia should be tackled across the church.
The Westminster Faith Debates (WFD) at Lancaster University commissioned the extensive polling of over two thousand Anglicans on their views on same-sex marriage, and the issue of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the church.
One assertion by the Pilling report is that LGB people should be “warmly welcomed” by the church but the WFD surveys also found that just 21% of people thought the Church was already welcoming to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
In line with many other more general opinion polls, the WFD surveys found that, as age increased, so did opposition to equal marriage.
Only 20% of Anglican respondents under 30 years of age said they thought same-sex marriage was “wrong”, with the number rising to 65% of those over 60. This was a large jump from 35% of those between 50 and 60 saying they thought it was “wrong”.
The research actually specified the factors which distinguish the people who are most likely to be opposed to same-sex marriage as age (people over 60 were way more likely to oppose same-sex marriage), gender (men are more opposed than women), believing in God with certainty, and taking authoritiy from religious sources, rather than one’s own judgement.
Professor Linda Woodhead comments: “Just like the moral revolution which changed attitudes towards race and slavery, there has been a moral revolution since the 1960s which has changed attitudes towards children, women, and gay and lesbian people. Whilst churches including the CofE led in the former revolution, they have resisted the latter one. However, many ordinary Anglicans actively support this shift in attitudes and values, and the proportion has grown steadily with every generation to the point where there is now a margin in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.
“The fact that Church teaching on sexuality and the values of Anglicans and the wider population under 50 have come adrift creates many problems for the Church of England. Church leaders’ attempts to take a moral lead on issues of poverty and social justice may be undermined by their perceived failure to support such justice for women and gay and lesbian people.”
Taking into accounts people of other faiths, the study found that there was only a majority opposed to equal marriage in people who identify as Methodists, Baptists and Muslims, with those from all other faiths, and atheists agreeing that equal marriage should be allowed.
The research balanced out at 43% both for and against equal marriage generally.
The polling took into account the opinions of 2,381 Anglicans, and is believed to be the widest poll of its kind so far, on the issue of sexuality and religion. The research was conducted between January and June of 2013.
PinkNews publisher Benjamin Cohen, who led the Out4Marriage campaign said: “Today’s report is welcome because it effectively recommends same-sex marriage within the Church of England in all but name. If approved, Christian gay couples will be able to pop into a registry office on the way to church where their relationship will be celebrated with their family and friends. It is important in my view that the Church of England looks towards giving individual clergy and communities the power to decide if to offer such services and to allow ministers to tailor the liturgy towards what they and the couple are comfortable with.
He added “No community or religious minister should be forced to conduct such services unless they wish to do so, but those that do, should have the power to help Christian couples celebrate their love in church.”