Reflections on the YouGov Poll

Firstly I am deliberately not engaging with arguments for and against same sex marriage here.

Secondly, the recent YouGov poll: what does it really say?

This is the section which deals with those who responded as 'members' of the Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal etc.). We know that actual worshipping members of our church are about 2%. Yet here 19% identify themselves as having an affiliation.

This is a remarkable figure, as it demonstrates the missional impact the Church of England has in the nation.

We are looking at commitment that is considerably more than associating with a political party (37% in the UK) and in most cases more than being a member of a political party (1%). This 'involvement' or 'gathering' group have the regular opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel and supernaturally meet with God.

This affiliation is not an indicator of active discipleship however. That might be discerned in terms of regular reception of the sacraments, commitment to one other church group (be it choir or home group), regular giving (of all forms) and participation in courses (be it a lent group or Alpha).

The knowledge that the largest view (45%) of those in this 'affiliated' group is that 'same sex marriage is right' is important and must be heeded, especially as we reach out in mission. But it is not the same as the views of the 'active membership' of the Church of England.

It is also worth noting that those (36%) who oppose same sex marriage do not necessarily oppose same sex relationships. It may not match my theological approach but many still see marriage as essentially heterosexual - despite affirming same sex relationships.

This is in practice what the Church of England teaches by supporting civil partnerships but not marriage in church.

Finally as I understand it from Ian Paul's blog the follow up questions do not help us unpack peoples views any further. In particular the question about scripture grates - 'There is nothing in the bible or other scriptures which explicitly prohibits same sex marriage'. 'Same sex marriage' could be replaced with 'the ordination of women' and it would be very hard to tick it, or it could be replaced 'polygamy', 'divorce', 'marrying your cousin' for a variety of different responses (answers on a post-card). There is little sense of a broader response to the witness of scripture or theological engagement.

I am grateful to Jayne Ozanne for commissioning this research. It is challenging to the whole of the Church: firstly as an encouragement in our mission, and secondly in developing a more robust theology of marriage and gender across theological perspectives.

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