Thinking Anglicans

Opposition to same sex marriage continues to decline rapidly

The Ozanne Foundation has released the results of a new YouGov poll.

Here is a link to the research results summary with graphics.

This has been reported in the Telegraph: ‘Most’ Anglicans believe gay couples have right to marry, YouGov poll suggests.

The full YouGov survey results are available in a spreadsheet here. (Another version shows only the Anglican numbers. There is also a Handout in pdf format.)

Click here for chart of Anglican Men Under 65 vs Over 65 and Anglican Women Over 65 vs Over 65.

Results from the 2013 Questionnaire and 2016 Questionnaire are summarised here.

The full text of the press release (without diagrams) is copied below.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE – RAPID CHANGES MEAN THAT ONLY A THIRD OF CHURCH OF ENGLAND SUPPORTERS NOW BELIEVE SAME SEX MARRIAGE IS WRONG.

Fast changing attitudes within society and the Church of England have led to a rapid decline in the number of people believing same sex marriage is wrong, according to a new opinion poll. Nearly half of Church of England members now believe same sex marriage is right, with well over two-thirds of those under 50 believing it is right, despite the Church of England’s official stance against same sex relationships.

The Poll, conducted last week by YouGov, repeated a question asked about same-sex marriage in 2013 and 2016, and shows a marked increase in the number of Anglicans believing same-sex marriage is right (from 38% in 2013 to 48% in 2020) and a marked decrease in numbers believing it is wrong (from 47% in 2013 to 34% in 2020).

The results show that those who identify as Anglican in England lag well behind the general public in their views, with the majority of British respondents (60%) in support and only a quarter (24%) against. That said, well over half of Anglican women (53%) are affirming compared to only 41% of Anglican men. Results are highly age dependent with a marked difference between Anglicans aged over 65+ (30% right, 48% wrong) to Anglicans aged 25-49 (71% right, 17% wrong), with even Anglicans aged 50-65 being strongly now in favour (52% right, 30% wrong).

The YouGov research surveyed attitudes amongst 5169 people in total across Great Britain, including 1171 Anglicans in England. The results show some regional variation with those in London more affirming, where over two thirds (68%) supported same- sex marriage. Results amongst the general public are also skewed by age, with those aged 18-24 being twice as likely to approve as those who are over 65+ (74% vs 37%).

The 2020 poll was commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations around the world to eliminate discrimination and prejudice based on sexuality and gender. Commenting on the results the Foundation’s Director, Jayne Ozanne – a prominent gay evangelical within the Church of England – who had also commissioned the previous 2016 You Gov poll said:

“These results show that those opposed to same-sex marriage are now clearly in the minority, and that a substantial group within the Church of England believe same sex marriage is right. This shows the urgent need for the Church of England hierarchy to recognise and respect the clear views of a significant proportion of its members, which are steadily increasing as time goes by. 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. It will be interesting to see how the Living in Love and Faith report is received by those who have given such a strong message of support for same-sex marriage.”

Commenting on the results Rt Revd Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Foundation, said:

“These results provide a challenge to us in leadership within the Church of England to ensure that we understand the views of the people we serve. Attitudes are indeed changing quickly, and we must be open to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through them if we are to be an effective witness of God’s love to the nation.”

The results come just a few weeks after the Archbishops apologised for the House of Bishops’ recent “pastoral statement” on civil partnerships, which condemned sex outside heterosexual marriage. The statement had caused 3750 people to sign an open letter to the Archbishops, organised by Jayne Ozanne and three other Church of England members, that stated the “Church had become a laughing-stock to the nation”.

ENDS

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Tim Chesterton
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I’d be interested to know whether the participants were asked about their church attendance, and whether this is a factor in their view of same sex marriage. My suspicion is that those who would be known in much of the rest of the Anglican world as ‘members’ (i.e. those who are on a parish list and attend regularly) might not be as welcoming as those who ‘self-identify as Anglicans’. I’d be glad to be proved wrong, though.

Jayne Ozanne
Guest
Jayne Ozanne

YouGov ask a standard religious affiliation question as “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion, and if so, to which of these do you belong?”

The advice I have been given is that it is the older generation who are far more likely to claim they belong and not attend (younger generations are far less likely to belong to any religion at all) and so the results would only show a stronger support for same sex marriage amongst Anglicans if they were discounted, as the younger Anglicans are far more affirming.

Susannah Clark
Guest

I suggest that Tim’s point is a good one, not least because, like it or not, that point is exactly the one that will be used by Anglican critics of gay and lesbian sexuality. I think we all know that many people (and I agree with you, Jayne, less so the young) fairly casually identify as “C of E” but aren’t actually on the electoral roll or in regular attendance at church (apart from weddings and funerals). So I would find the survey more effective if it was framed more precisely to ask if the person regularly attends church, mosque,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Why does it matter if someone attends regularly or is on the roll? A lot of LGBTI people don’t attend regularly because the church has become a hostile place.

Susannah Clark
Guest

The survey doesn’t differentiate between 50 men and their dogs walking along the metaphorical street, who casually say “I’m C of E” but never go to church, and yet are attributed as ‘Anglican’… and the actual opinions and beliefs of people who do regularly go to church, and are practising Anglicans, embedded in the life of the Church. To elide the views of the man in the street with the beliefs of local churches and their regular attendees… matters because people can end up thinking that the people actually in the pews are holding beliefs to the extent of general… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

You are grandfathering in discrimination, Susannah. Because many LGBTI people have been chased off regular worship, you are suggesting that their views are less important. Frankly I find that offensive.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Nope, I haven’t suggested their views are less important at all. I’ve said “Yes, I DO think it matters what people outside the active life of the Church of England think and feel. I think it matters a lot.” I’m simply pointing out that when the survey clumps participating Anglicans and non-participating Anglicans together, with a weighting of 1 participant for every 11 non-participants, it’s not going to tell us much about what people in the Church actually believe. It’s going to tell us about what people who don’t participate in the Church believe. That’s still ‘important’ because everyone is… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

You ARE de facto accepting the historic discrimination. Take the example of (a hypothetical) Alfred. For many years he was happily married to Brenda and the couple worshipped regularly in their local church. When Brenda died, Alfred fell in love with Charles. They asked the vicar to marry them but the vicar refused and said their relationship was sinful. Very unstandably, and to the all-to-visible relief of the vicar, Alfred and Charles no longer felt welcome and stopped attending church regularly. And now you are telling Alfred that instead of counting his views on same sex marriage as a regular… Read more »

Gordo
Guest
Gordo

There are very few “younger Anglicans”. Only 2% of Generation X identify as Anglicans. If you had bothered to ask three questions: (1) Do you ATTEND an Anglican church once or more a month? (2) What is your age? (3) Do you support same-sex marriage? – then this survey would be meaningful. As it stands, it’s fairly worthless.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Gordo, please refer to my replies to Susannah. I think the poll could usefully have been extended in the opposite direction Q: Regardless of your religious affiliation (or none), does the Church of England’s teaching that same sex relationships are wrong (sinful) make the Church of England a) much more attractive to you b) somewhat more attractive to you c) is irrelevant to your views d) somewhat put you off the Church of England e) substantially put you off the Church of England Quite apart from the fact that many LGBTI people and our allies have been discouraged from attending… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

Gordo, I think as to “younger Anglicans”, the survey is probably more accurately reflective of the views of people in the pews. I say this cautiously, because I write from an urban Canadian perspective. Here, if a young adult self-identifies as Anglican (or as Presbyterian, or United), in most cases it is because they do attend church or maintain an active affiliation; a majority of young adults identify as having no religious affiliation. The exception is Roman Catholics, the historic majority, who see it as a cultural if not religious association. This attitude of the young is in marked contrast… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

I support Jayne’s comments about the likelihood that younger non-attenders will simply self-report “no religion”. It’s among older people that the culture of self-reporting as CofE but not attending is more likely. It is expensive, and unreliable both because of the small numbers of attenders and because (as other research has demonstrated) people over-report their own attendance, to use a YouGov survey to obtain detailed information of the kind Tim suggests. The obvious way forward would be for the Church of England itself to do regular opinion surveys (on a wide range of relevant topics) among those on electoral rolls.… Read more »

Nigel LLoyd
Guest

Certainly in my last parish, before I retired, a very high percentage of the people who actually attended each week did not think this is an issue any more. In the parish I was in before (which I left in 2012), out of a 20-strong group of MU members (that is to say, grandparent generation, or older) that I was talking to, 19 of them strongly supported blessing same-sex relationships (this was in the days before equal marriage). Indeed they were horrified that we were not offering such blessings. Before I stepped down from General Synod in 2015, Archbishop Justin… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“He said that for the majority of the Lords this is no longer an issue and that a revolution of attitudes about sexual morality had taken place in our society and the Church needed to wake up to this” Which is ironic, because one of the people most asleep on the topic is Justin Welby. Has he got beyond being on a journey, and not knowing what to think? Given all the talk about the moral and cultural role of religion in our society, it’s amusing that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a coward who doesn’t dare go beyond non-committal… Read more »

Tony Bellows
Guest

I totally concur that younger people, as a rule, do not self-identify as Anglican, even if they’ve had the odd Christening or Funeral. I remember back in the early 1970s, an advert (I forget what it was for!) which began by actually showing a Christening (maybe it was for life insurance!), with the voiceover “A traditional Christening”. That was so much part of the general culture back then (some may remember “All Gas and Gaiters”) and the background fabric of unstated allegiance in a way that just simply isn’t the case today. People no longer go to church as a… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“These results provide a challenge to us in leadership within the Church of England to ensure that we understand the views of the people we serve. ”

Hmm. Maybe if the House of Bishops was genuinely representative of the people it served, there would be no “challenge” for them to understand the views of the people they serve. I have a lot of respect for the Bishop of Liverpool but his statement obviously misses the elephant in the room.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Nearly half of Church of England members now believe same sex marriage is right, with well over two-thirds of those under 50 believing it is right, despite the Church of England’s official stance against same sex relationships.” That is what one might accurately describe as a “demographic time bomb”. People who remain with an organisation during a period of flux, particularly if they are helping to drive that change, are the good guys. If you are forty, already involved in the CofE, and accepting, it is reasonable to stay. Your plan is to be fifty and a member of an… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“SAME SEX MARRIAGE IS WRONG“
That message, in those words, does not belong in any press affirming release—even if it’s describing what others think.
This is basic PR. Do not repeat the other side’s message.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Jayne’s tenacity is entirely laudable but surely there are no surprises here for anyone; least of all the bishops who have commissioned their own research along these lines. Their propensity for sitting on the fence, wringing their hands is unlikely to change anytime soon. If you need any evidence for that just consider how many of them are still hiding in the closet in 2020.

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

Dean, I’m interested that you refer to research commissioned by the bishops. Is it published? Can you give further details?

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Bernard, I’m aware of research that has been initiated through the auspices of the Archbishops’ Council; but I think that was not published. My hunch is that they would not publish anything which did not support the status quo.

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

That’s not good practice. Research should be clearly published, whatever use is then made of it.

Jill Armstead
Guest
Jill Armstead

So the Church of England relies on referenda rather than scripture, tradition and reason? Why am I not surprised?

Susannah Clark
Guest

The Church of England should rely on conscience and integrity too, because these are God-given gifts. God speaks to people in many ways: deep personal conscience is one. When maybe half the Church believes that gay and lesbian relationships are decent, precious to community, holy and sacrificial, the call of leaders to these people to live celibate all their lives is what part of the Church of England believes, but – as surveys could demonstrate – not actually the believe of maybe half the Church. Surveys can be relevant in measuring the way the leadership’s imposed uniformity, based on what… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

This neatly illustrates why surveys like this, even if they feature only the most diligent attenders who take communion daily and would sooner climb K2 in their shorts than miss a Sunday service, won’t budge the most devout opponents of change. As they repeatedly say, the Kingdom’s not a democracy.

They can, however, put pressure on bishops, but only when allied to concrete acts such as withholding donations and refusing to enforce “discipline” against couples who contract a same-sex marriage.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Jill, if the Church of England relied upon the Gospels it would be celebrating same sex marriages.

And, in all honesty, calls to rely on tradition are calls to rely on past public opinion so to suggest that tradition is more important than a modern referendum seems counter to reason.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Kate. I think you are talking about ‘traditionalism’ not tradition. Richard Chartres memorably summarised it like this. ‘Traditionalism is the obstinate adherence to the mores of the day before yesterday – the dead faith of living people. Tradition is the spirit-filled continuity of the Church’s life, through which the truth is communicated from generation to generation in fresh ways in order to stay the same. Tradition is the living faith which we share with dead people. Actually often the hardest task is to persuade yesterday’s avant-garde that they are today’s busted flush.’

Kate
Guest
Kate

I was using Jill’s word, David, but I think you are right that the reference is indeed to traditionalism

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“if the Church of England relied upon the Gospels it would be celebrating same sex marriages”

Well put Kate.

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Kate, can you explain the biblical exegesis on which this statement is based, please?

Kate
Guest
Kate

Firstly, as Tim says, if the Church of England was really following the Gospels, it wouldn’t be encouraging any marriage.

But if a couple still wanted to marry, that they are same sex wouldn’t matter. All the “clobber texts” are in the Epistles and Old Testament. Jesus instead taught us to look at the fruit to see if a vine was good. If a marriage is loving and not exploiting either partner then the fruit is good – and by implication so is the marriage. It is very simple.

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Kate, I am afraid that merely stating your view, and even referring to someone else stating the same view, doesn’t constitute biblical exegesis. This would require citing the biblical texts that justify your statement. As far as I can see, and I acknowledge that I am no biblical scholar, the only quotation that you might rely on is Luke 20:34 “Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are… Read more »

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

… There is little chance that we shall reach full agreement at this time, so the only alternative to an utterly unhelpful continuing argument, where neither side listens, is for the CofE to acknowledge that this is the situation, to accept that there are two genuinely held views, and allow both sides to operate as they believe in their own churches. No priest/minister should be required to celebrate a same-sex marriage or blessing; no priest/minister should be denied from doing so. Others have argued this very persuasively. It is a solution that will offend both extremes, but we have been… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

David: “There is little chance that we shall reach full agreement at this time, so the only alternative to an utterly unhelpful continuing argument, where neither side listens, is for the CofE to acknowledge that this is the situation, to accept that there are two genuinely held views, and allow both sides to operate as they believe in their own churches.”

Totally agree. This is the compelling logic of the situation.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

This proposal might avoid “utterly unhelpful continuing arguments” in the Synod, but only at the expene of exporting them everywhere else. Churches are not all monochromatic, and most congregations contain people of differing views. As long as their views are fairly insignificant, in the local context, it doesn’t matter. But once every parish/congregation/PCC/vestry/minister is empowered, and forced, to make a decision, it will become a matter of active and accrimonious conflict. In many cases it will be considered only in the context of an actual couple wanting to wed, and/or a minister or partisan wanting to make a stand. It… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

”May I suggest following the advice given to the 70 disciples: wipe the dust from off your feet, and move to one of the many CofE churches who are happy to welcome you and affirm your relationship? I remain thankful that I am a member of a church like that.

Fine if you are wealthy enough to have a car. As a household which cannot afford a car I really object to the “just go elsewhere” argument. And why should we have to? Opposite sex couples aren’t expected to do that so why should we?

Kate
Guest
Kate

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. – Matthew 7 Pretty obviously the… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

That’s not what I meant, Kate. I was using the word ‘celebrate’ in the liturgical sense, to officiate at a wedding. As far as I can tell, no Christian pastor does that in any NT church.

Tim Cnesterton
Guest

If the Church of England relied on the Gospels (and the whole NT for that matter) it wouldn’t be celebrating *any* marriages!

Susannah Clark
Guest

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… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

What this illustrates, yet again, is that the CoE desperately needs to adopt a realistic definition of membership. The old imperialist model that claimed dominion over the souls of everyone in England (barring dissenters and those pesky Catholics, who’d doubtless see the light down the road) is hopelessly outdated now that Christendom’s bitten the dust. Its ethical poverty does, I hope, speak for itself. Practice is essential to religion. If you’re not signed on at a parish and not regularly attending services (or, at the very least, regularly attending Anglican services elsewhere) in what meaningful sense are you an Anglican?*… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Totally agree, James.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

A heterosexual couple do not have to be Anglicans, or Christians of any kind, to marry in the Church of England. If it was a right enjoyed only by those professing to be Anglicans, then the views of those professing to be Anglicans would be highly significant, as to whether same sex marriage be treated the same. If it was only those who attend services often enough to satisfy some people, then perhaps that would be relevant. As the right to opposite sex marriage in the Church of England is not in any way tied to religious belief or practice,… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I didn’t even mention marriage entitlements in Anglican churches, and far from wanting to exclude people, I wish for it to be made available to couples regardless of their sex, in all provinces.

Membership should likewise be open to all who want it, on the basis of them turning up, no questions asked.

If you disagree with my position, fair enough, but please, enough of these straw men, they serve only to cloud matters.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

I apologise if I have misunderstood your position. I am, however, now at a loss to understand how a membership concept is relevant to the topic. I assumed it was that those who turn up at church services should have some collective right of veto over what happens in those churches. If membership would not actually make any difference to SSM, then I can’t see how this issue illustrates a desperate need to define it.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Not to put words into James’ mouth, but my own take on that would be that the Anglican church’s own understanding of what it means to be Anglican includes regular participation in worship as part of a congregation. So if you want to know what ‘Anglicans’ think about same-sex marriage, you ought to clarify whether the person you’re asking is indeed a practising Anglican.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Accepted, and I’ll try to make my points more clearly. 🙂

As a personal preference, I would like to see congregations vested with greater powers and responsibilities in general, but as regards this thread, I was just focusing on having a definition of “Anglican” that accurately reflects the number of regular attendees. That could of course be combined with zero changes to church governance.

Susannah Clark
Guest

For me, if you choose to be in an Anglican church, you attend church (unless sick). You share in the life of that church community. You live alongside other Christians, who are also serving that church and its week by week life. This survey we have been discussing reports predominantly on the views of so-called ‘Anglicans’ who are outside the week-by-week life of local Anglican churches. That’s a simple statistical fact, unless the whole survey was crock (which I don’t believe). By a margin of 11 to 1, the attitudes that are reported are not the attitudes of regular churchgoers,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Susannah, I found that so moving. Thank you! Even though I’m not a member of the C of E, I resonated with the language you used to describe the dedicated parish clergy and laity. The same is true here in the Anglican Church of Canada. So – thanks again!

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Susannah. This is such a helpful labour of love – a model of gospel engagement and belonging within a highly challenged and conflicted church. Thank you.