Changing Attitude is publishing three infographics today about attitudes in the Church of England on the day the College of Bishops meets to discuss the Pilling Report.
The survey results provide a glimpse of where the church is, both within itself and as it is viewed by society. These aren’t partisan statistics – we haven’t hunted around for the figures most favourable to our cause. We have used the YouGov surveys produced for the Westminster Faith Debates 2013 because they are the most rigorous, very recent, and based on a large sample and with no attempt to influence the response by skewing how questions are asked.
Here is a snapshot of what reality actually looks like at the moment for the Church of England. (There’s a wealth of other information in the Westminster Faith Debates stats, and you can see the whole dataset here: http://faithdebates.org.uk/research/)
The survey shows remarkably strong support for same-sex marriage in the Church of England – 40% in favour, 47% against – given the reluctance of the bishops and General Synod to show approval for same-sex relationships, let alone equal marriage. If non church-going Anglicans are included, there is a slim majority for same-sex marriage, 44% with 43% against. In the population as a whole, 52% are in favour, 34% against.
The second infographic asks Is the Church of England welcoming to LGB&T people? Only 21% believe it is welcoming compared with 53% who believe it is unwelcoming. Among 18-24 year olds, the number who believe the Church is welcoming drops to 17%.
The final infographic asks Is the Church of England is a force for good in society? The vast majority of the population, 58%, are indifferent. Only 18% think it is a force for good, with 14% thinking it isn’t. The YouGov polll asked those who don’t think the church is a force for good why they think so: 30% say the Church is too prejudiced, discriminating against women and LGB&T people. In the over 60 age group in this subset, just 15% think the Church is too prejudiced. In the 18-24 age group this rises dramatically to 46%.
This morning the College of Bishops together with eight elected senior women meet to discuss the Pilling Report. The LGB&T Anglican Coalition and Changing Attitude have said that matters concerning the place of LGB&T people in the Church should never be discussed without us being present. Of course, there will be some gay men in the room, but all will, so far as we know, continue to stay in the closet. That’s one of the reasons why the Pilling Report is so inadequate and why many people think the Church is no longer a force for good.
In an article for the Guardian, Andrew Brown notes that “the bishops are meeting in the wake of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which represents an irrevocable move towards the acceptance of gay people in this country. But they are also meeting in the shadow of astonishingly homophobic laws supported by two of the largest Anglican churches in Africa – in Nigeria and Uganda.”
Andrew quotes research by the Pew Foundation which shows overwhelming hostility to gay people in Nigeria where 1% of the population is in favour of “society accepting homosexuality.” The situation is almost as bad in Uganda where 4% of the population accepts homosexuality. In Britain the Pew figures say that over 70% of the population is pro-gay rights.
A number of conservative evangelical organizations and churches have aligned themselves with Uganda and Nigeria against any recognition of equality for same-sex relationships. As Andrew says, the Church is faced with a profound moral divide – the positions are incompatible.
Says Andrew, “The law in Nigeria and the proposed law in Uganda are iniquitous. They must be rejected by anyone who believes in justice and human dignity. There are many in the C of E – among them Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury – who sincerely admire the courage, faith and energy of the African churches. Welby himself has several times risked his life in the cause of reconciliation and it would be arrogant and wrong to claim that African churches’ wicked views of homosexuality outweigh the good they do. But their views are still wicked, and the church here must clearly reject them.”