Public don’t believe the Church offers a welcome to all in society

LESS THAN half of British adults believe that the Church of England is there for everyone, according to a recent YouGov poll.

According to the poll, commissioned by Jayne Ozanne, only 47 per cent of British adults agree that the Church of England is there for everyone who wants to go to Church, while less than a third (30 per cent) believe that Christian Churches are welcoming towards the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, told CEN that the Church needs to be concerned: “What worries me about it is that we talk about the national church and if you look at some of what has come out for Renewal and Reform, it says we are the Church that’s there for everybody and that’s why it’s worth asking everybody whether they agree,” he said.

“If they don’t then we need to be concerned about that and do something about it otherwise we just become inward looking and concerned with ourselves, a holy huddle on a Sunday morning and that’s what it’s all about.”

A total of 1,669 adults took part in the online survey, of which 415 identified as Anglican and 120 identified as Catholic.

“It is worth knowing that many of the people who we seek to serve do not believe that we are there for them and particularly when you look at the age, it is quite worrying,” said the Bishop.

“One of the stories we tell ourselves in the Church of England is that we are the National church: it’s very important to us actually, we invest quite heavily in that and we speak as though we were the National church,” he said.

Christian LGBT campaigner, Jayne Ozanne, who commissioned the research said: “What is of greatest concern is the fact it is those who the Church is most keen to reach – the young and those of ‘no religion’ – who believe that the Church is not there for everyone, and that they are not welcoming to the LGBT community.

“If the Church is serious about its commitment to mission, it needs to heed the concerns and perceptions of those it wants to attract, otherwise no one will want to listen.”

The Rev Dr Martyn Percy
The Rev Dr Martyn Percy

Commenting further, the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, said: “A national Church should serve the whole nation, irrespective of creed, colour, class — and identity. It is a tragedy for our mission and ministry that the Church of England continues to denigrate and discriminate against lesbian, gay and transgendered people.

“The Church cannot afford to cling to its establishment whilst colluding with its own institutional homophobia, and also continually capitulate to reactionary conservative lobby-groups. The manifest injustice of this will continue to impede all efforts to evangelise future generations, and will consign the Church to an inevitable irrelevance.”

The research was commissioned to understand how national perceptions towards the Church of England are changing, particularly in the light of its attitude towards the LGBT community. It follows a question on 13 October in the House of Commons by Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, to the Second Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, regarding the pastoral care of LGBT people in the Church of England. The Church Commissioner was asked: “Does [she] agree that now is the time for those of us who are Christian but not of the LGBT community to give more careful consideration to these issues?”