Church of England ‘out of touch’ with own members on equal marriage
The Church of England is growing drastically out of touch with its members on same-sex marriage, a poll has found
Nearly two years after the first same-sex marriages in England, the Church continues its strong opposition on the issue.
Church leaders recently used an exemption from the Equality Act to sack a gay chaplain who married his partner, while Archbishop Justin Welby presided over the global Anglican Communion last month as it ‘punished’ the US Episcopal Church for embracing gay weddings.
Despite the Church re-affirming its hard-line stance on the issue, a new poll has found that Bishops are increasingly out of touch with ordinary members.
A poll conducted by YouGov found that 45 percent of C of E members now support same-sex marriage, with just 37 opposed. The numbers are a stark reversal of a poll conducted in 2013, when 47 percent of Anglicans had opposed equality, with just 38 percent in favour.
Christian campaigner Jayne Ozanne of Accepting Evangelicals said: “These figures confirm what many of us have known for some time – that the Church of England leadership is seriously out of step with its members, and even more so with society at large.
“Far more Anglicans now believe that same-sex marriage is right than those who think it is wrong.
“It is therefore vital that we recognise the challenge that this represents to us as a Church, particularly given that as the established Church we are called to minister and serve the whole nation.”
The poll also appears to suggest a possible reason why the Church leadership is so out-of-touch on the issue: Anglican men over the age of 55, who dominate the Church’s upper ranks and General Synod, are far more likely to oppose equal marriage
Just 24% of men over 55 support equal marriage, compared to 72% of those aged 25 to 34.
Ms Ozanne said: “It is deeply worrying that the one group that appears less open to change than any other is Anglican men over the age of 55, who are the least likely to approve of same-sex marriage.
“Unfortunately, this is exactly the profile of those in the senior positions of power and influence power within the Church.
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“Anglican women on the other hand are far more accepting – with a far greater preference for believing same sex marriage to be right over those who see it as wrong.”
“The good news is that younger Anglicans (under 35) are so clearly in favour of same-sex marriage – they are nearly four times more likely to believe it is right than wrong – and it is therefore purely a matter of time before the Church calls into leadership a generation which is much more accepting.”
She added: “The data conclusively proves that the shift in attitude is towards acceptance, and whilst there is as we would anticipate generational differences – change is happening at a rapid rate amongst all age groups..
“The Church now faces a major challenge to explain clearly to the nation just why it discriminates against people like me and others in the way that it does.
“What sort of ‘Good News’ are we offering for those of us who want to get married, who believe it is right but find that the Church forbids it?
“With such a large proportion of society now in favour, the Church has some serious explaining to do – especially to the younger generation who find themselves repelled by a church which does not share their views.”