Church of England priests want change to LGBTQ policy – survey

The Church of England clergy want to see priests allowed to marry gay couples, gay priests to wed, and see the Anglican teachings against homosexuality changed at an upcoming General Synod, according to a survey by The Times. The majority of almost 1,200 respondents would also welcome a female leader and believe Britain is no longer a Christian country.

The survey, published on Tuesday, is the first of its kind since 2014, when the UK legalized same-sex civil unions. At the time, 51% of Anglican clergy said same-sex marriage was “wrong” while 39% supported it. 

Less than a decade later, 59% would bless same-sex couples, while 32% would not, and 63% think the Church of England should allow homosexual clergy to enter same-sex civil unions. According to The Times, 53.4% of the priests favor changing the law to allow them to marry gay couples, while 36.5% are against it. However, only 49.2% would be willing to officiate at same-sex weddings, while 41% would not. 

Almost two thirds of the clergy surveyed support changing the current Anglican doctrine that “homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture,” while only 29.7% favor keeping it. The church is nominally opposed to any sex outside of marriage, but 37.2% of respondents would accept it in “committed” same-sex relationships and 27.3% want to see the opposition dropped outright.

The Times extrapolated the results to mean that “more than 10,600 of the church’s 20,000 priests” would back same-sex marriage within the church. However, the survey was based on the responses of 1,185 serving clergy, after The Times reached out to 5,000 priests with addresses in England, randomly selected from the Crockford’s Clerical Directory of Anglican clergy.

The survey sample amounted to 6% of active clergy, defined as vicars, rectors, curates, chaplains, and retired priests who can still celebrate sacraments such as Holy Communion.

In addition to the sea change on the LGBTQ issue, the survey also showed 80% of the clergy in favor of having a female Archbishop of Canterbury. Likewise, 64.2% said Britain could be described as a Christian country “only historically, not currently,” 9.2% said no outright, and only 24.2% said yes.

“This is absolutely huge,” the Reverend Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who runs the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church, told The Times. The survey showed “really clear evidence of the direction of change the church needs to pursue,” said Foreshew-Cain, who married his partner in defiance of church rules. 

“The church is the church, and, as such, not a club. It has a distinct vocation that does not include seeking popularity,” said the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, speaking on behalf of the C of E. “Repentance means being open to changing our mind in order that society should encounter both love and justice. And this means sometimes going against the flow of popular culture, however uncomfortable that might be.”

The Church of England is a Protestant denomination created in 1534, when King Henry VIII rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope in a divorce dispute. Its titular head is the British monarch, while the Archbishop of Canterbury acts as its primate.

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