THE proportion of self-identified Anglicans who agree that same-sex marriage is “right” has exceeded 50 per cent for the first time, a new YouGov poll published on Tuesday suggests.
Commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, the poll draws on a survey of 5120 people last week. The sample included 1177 who self-identified as “C of E, Anglican, or Episcopal” — 22 per cent of the total. Of this sub-group, 55 per cent agreed that same-sex marriage was right, up from 48 per cent in 2020 (News, 6 March 2020). Twenty-nine per cent selected “wrong” and 17 per cent “don’t know”. In 2013, the respective figures for Anglicans were 38, 47, and 15 per cent.
Anglican women in the latest survey were more likely to select “right”: 62 per cent, compared with 44 per cent of Anglican men. Support also declined with age. Among Anglicans above the age of 65, 42 per cent selected “wrong” and 40 per cent “right”.
Across the entire sample of the latest survey, almost two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) agreed that same-sex marriage was “right” — up from 46 per cent in 2013 — and just 21 per cent described it as “wrong”.
The poll is the latest in a series commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation. Its director, Jayne Ozanne, said on Tuesday that the results underlined “the urgent need for the Church of England hierarchy to bring forward proposals to accept and celebrate same sex relationships”.
The Dean of St Edmundsbury, the Very Revd Joe Hawes, who chairs the Foundation, said that the 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 survey does not indicate the practices of those who self-defined as “Anglican”. The C of E’s Statistics for Mission suggest that the Church of England’s worshipping community comprises about two per cent of the population, of whom one third are aged 70 or above.
The 2013 poll was conducted on behalf of Lancaster University and included a breakdown of the results by religious practice. Almost half (47 per cent) of Anglicans in the sample agreed with the statement “I would not describe myself, or my values and beliefs, as spiritual or religious,” and more than half (55 per cent) said that they had not prayed or read the Bible in the past month. Eight-five per cent said that they did not “engage in any religious or spiritual practices with other people, for example attending services in a place of worship”. In total, only 25 per cent of respondents who attended a religious service once a week or more agreed that same-sex marriage was “right”.
A 2014 YouGov poll of C of E clergy, commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debates, found that 39 per cent of respondents thought that same-sex marriage was “right”; 51 per cent selected “wrong”; and ten per cent “don’t know”.
In September, the College of Bishops will begin a discernment process that will include consideration of the grassroots response to the Living in Love and Faith resources designed to help the Church reflect on sexuality (News, 7 January). The College’s proposals will then be considered at the February 2023 meeting of the General Synod.
During a Synod debate in 2017, the then Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said that there was “very little appetite in the House [of Bishops] for any alteration of our doctrine of marriage” (News, 24 February 2017). With the retirement of the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, a former chair of the Ozanne Foundation, there are now no bishops in the House who have clearly articulated a desire to enable same-sex marriage in church (News, 14 February).
Yet a significant number of the Synod’s membership — 131 — were elected on an Inclusive Church platform, indicating that they are “committed to equality for everyone, at all levels and roles within the church, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, mental health or sexuality” (News, 22 October 2021).
The latest YouGov polling was welcomed by the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England. The group stated that the Church’s bishops “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 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.”