The time is ripe for a liberal revival of the Church of England


Things are looking up for the Church of England. Its painful era of disunity is behind it, or soon will be. A major revival is on the cards.

I am being ironic, you are probably thinking. For this is the poor old C of E we’re talking about, which lurches from crisis to crisis. No, I am not being ironic. We are so used to negative stories and predictions about our national church that good news is hard to process. But the new survey of clergy’s views by the Times is essentially encouraging. The Times itself assumed otherwise: its headline was that most clergy no longer see Britain as a Christian country. This is an irrelevant issue, or nonissue, of semantics.

The core findings of the survey are that a clear majority of clergy back reform on the gay issue and that an even clearer majority is tired of the older division over female clergy and wants the Church to reunite. There is a liberal majority that is getting a bit bolder. I call that good news.

On the gay issue, there are two significant findings. On the question of whether the Church should conduct gay weddings, 53 per cent are in favour, 36 per cent against.

This might not sound like a clear liberal majority but the survey also found that 64 per cent reject the official teaching that gay sex is sinful. The overall picture is that the clergy have got off the fence. For a few decades they were fairly evenly split over homosexuality. There was a narrow liberal majority all of this century but the gay marriage issue obscured this somewhat – most were moderately reformist but unsure about gay marriage so the division seemed deeper than it was. Now that gay marriage is part of the landscape, the picture is clearer: a clear reformist majority has emerged.

Read it all in The Spectator