Religion

Majority of Anglicans back same-sex marriage despite Church of England’s archaic stance

Lily Wakefield March 1, 2022
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a protester outside the church of england general synod

Demonstrators hold placards as they protest outside Church House, the venue of the Church of England's General Synod, in 2017. (AFP/ Getty/ DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS)

A majority of English Anglicans now back same-sex marriage, despite the Church of England’s refusal to perform or bless them.

The Church of England does not perform same-sex marriages and refuses to bless same-sex civil unions. LGBT+ clergy members are allowed to be in relationships, but must remain celibate.

But a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, showed this week that 55 per cent of Anglicans in England believe that same-sex marriage is a right.

This is a sharp increase on previous years – when the same question was asked in 2013, 38 per cent of Anglicans said the same.

The proportion on English Anglicans who believe same-sex marriage is “wrong” has also dropped from 47 per cent in 2013 to 29 per cent this year.

The change in attitude comes as a younger generation of Anglicans begins to take over the Church of England.

Of respondents under the age of 50, almost three quarters (72 per cent) said marriage equality was “right”.

There were also further divides, with women more likely to back same-sex marriage than men (62 per cent compared to 44 per cent), and Labour-voting Anglicans more supported than Conservatives (81 per cent compared to 50 per cent).

In 2020, the Church of England finally published a set of resources titled Living in Love and Faith, which had been three years in the making and explored LGBT+ issues including “identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage”.

Although some hoped that the resources might mark huge progress on LGBT+ inclusion, the church did not make a commitment to any changes.

Instead, it said that further consultation would be needed, and that any changes would be announced in Spring, 2022. Now, according to its roadmap, queer Anglicans will be waiting until December for finalised proposals, to be group to the General Synod in 2023.

Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical within the Church of England and director of the Ozanne Foundation, said: “These results show that an overwhelming majority of those who identify as Anglican in England believe that same-sex marriage is right, underlining the urgent need for the Church of England hierarchy to bring forward proposals to accept and celebrate same-sex relationships.

“We have waited long enough – indeed it is over five years since we were promised a ‘new radical Christian inclusion’ by [Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby].”

The Church of England is ‘out of step’ with the majority of the country on the issue of same-sex marriage

Reverend Joe Hawes, the Dean of St Edmundsbury and chair of the Ozanne Foundation, added: “These results provide a challenge to all those in leadership within the Church of England, calling us to understand the views of the people we serve. Attitudes have changed quickly over the past decade, including our understanding of scripture and of science.

“It is high time we became a Church for ALL England, recognising the love that exists between two individuals who wish to honour and cherish each other.

“As the established church, we are now manifestly out of step with what the majority in this country believe and have no problem in accepting.”

The Equal Campaign, which has worked for marriage equality within the Church of England since 2019, said in a statement that it “welcomes the news that the majority of members of the church now support same-sex marriage, and calls on the bishops to respond”.

The group said the contrast was stark between the Church of England and its neighbours – the Church in Wales voted to allow blessings of marriage and civil partnerships last year, and the Scottish Episcopal Church approved marriage equality in 2017.

It continued: “Currently the Church of England is undergoing a process of reflection and prayer on human sexuality and relationships called Living in Love and Faith, and the bishops will soon be considering how to proceed.

“They must recognise that the majority of members of the Church of England embrace and welcome LGBTQI+ people into the life of their local churches and want to be able to celebrate their marriages… They must recognise the evolving conscience of the people of God in the Church of England on these issues.

“They must propose real change to allow same-sex couples to marry in our churches and to end the unjust penalties on clergy who have married their same-sex partner.”

More: Church of England, same sex marriage

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