Unhelpful comments from Church House

by
10 May 2013

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From Professor Linda Woodhead

Sir, - The Church of England's Communications Office is making the C of E look ridiculous.

Last week, I published results of a survey on euthanasia which I designed with YouGov. The findings show that a large majority of Christians in this country - including Anglicans and Roman Catholics - support a change in the law.

Personally, I don't agree. I think the Churches are right to be wary of changing the law. But the survey was carefully designed, and its findings need to be taken seriously.

A Roman Catholic spokesman made a sensible response, saying: "It shows how little exposed even practising religious people are to the teachings of their Church. I can only remember hearing three homilies on the subject in all my years in church."

The C of E Communications Office simply attacked the survey (which it did not ask to see), and concluded: "This survey adds nothing of value to the current complex debate on assisted suicide, but seeks to reduce to 'sound-bites' issues that deserve proper and full consideration."

In fact, the survey adds considerable new knowledge. Its findings were extensively debated at the Westminster Faith Debate on euthanasia last week. It was also featured in The Times, the Telegraph and Guardian, BBC News Online, The Washington Post, the BMJ, on Radio 4, and elsewhere.

Last week, another large poll reported in The Independent found that many single Christians felt isolated and out of place in their congregations. A C of E spokesperson (unnamed) commented: "If the church doesn't fit then try another one."

"Get lost" is not a good message for the Church to give, whether directed at serious research, or at the Christians whose views it reports.

LINDA WOODHEAD

Director, AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme
Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, FASS Building
Lancaster University
Lancs LA1 4YD

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