Fr Robbie Low's Presentation to the Press Conference at Faith House
Friday, 28th June 2002
COST OF CONSCIENCE
DIVISION, DISAFFECTION, DISBELIEF and DECEIT
Over the last couple of years a number of surveys have been conducted, from academic to journalistic, to discover the beliefs of members of the Church of England. Because of the either partial or highly specialised nature of the inquiries, Cost of Conscience, a long-standing traditionalist think-tank, commissioned a wide-ranging independent survey from the leading analysts in the field of church statistics worldwide, Christian Research (C.R.). Using their unrivalled database C.R. constructed a sample of churchmanship, large/small parish, male/female, urban/suburban/rural etc according to the known proportions of the C.of E. at large.
Some 4000 clergy were approached and a staggering 46 per cent responded - equivalent to 20 % of the parochial clergy of the C.of E.
Lay response was even higher at 76 %! Sampling and analysis were left entirely in the hands of C.R. so that there could be no doubt as to the independence and accuracy of the subsequent figures.
With the press abounding with rumours of the possible appointment of a committed liberal to Canterbury, the following results may be of peculiar interest.
Previous surveys have suggested over 80 % in favour of this development. Our survey produced the following result:-
CLERGY 51 % in favour
25 % implacably opposed
24 % do not want women bishops to 'officiate' or 'stay' in
Provinces that do not have them (NIMBY)
The laity showed a 63 per cent acceptance of women bishops. (These figures are inevitably less reliable as the lay respondents had been chosen by their clergy, albeit according to age profiles given by C.R.)
In neither case is there a comfortable majority for change and the task given to the Rochester commission (women bishops) looks as if it is moving from difficult to impossible unless there is a solution offered to the opponents which is more reliable than the Act of Synod. If the previous figures were accurate there has been a huge swing back in the last 18 months.
94 % of clergy declared themselves confident of their ministry as priests.
But only 84 % declared themselves confident in their ministry in the Church of England as presently constituted. Only 81% of clergy confidently expect to remain Anglicansfor the rest of their lives. This leaves nearly 1/5 of the clergy in some state of disaffection with a firm
5 % indicating a definite intention to depart. This would be equivalent, at a minimum, to the scale of the post 1992 departures. Again, presumably, final decisions will hinge on whether there is to be any lasting and just settlement for traditional believers under the new Archbishop.
Responses to a series of credal statements were given under a number of headings from certain belief to certain disbelief. A category of believing but not really understanding a doctrine was also offered. This would imply an uncertainty at best and clearly an inability to teach with any confidence. Clergy signatories to this column were between 13 % and 20 % on every article!
'God the Father' enjoyed the highest degree of belief, understanding and competence to teach at 82 %.
Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation was down the bottom at 51 % and the Virgin birth scored 56 % . (Male clergy were almost twice as likely to believe in the Virgin birth as women clergy- 58 % to 33 % )
Liberal clergy registered a mere 23 % conviction of the Virgin birth, 15 % on Christ as the only road to salvation and an astonishing 33 % on the Resurrection.
In spite of the excellent database of C.R. a curious anomaly emerged. The clergy claiming affiliation to liberal lobby groups ( in favour of feminism, women bishops and homosexuality) were more than doubly represented in the sample, proportionate to the actual membership of these groups in the Church at large. ( Any correction for this over representation would remove the wafer thin majority for women bishops, for example )
Two other related facts emerged.
1) 80 % of clergy had moved parish since 1992, 50 % of them in the last five years.
2) Parishes that had declared, by resolution, A) they would not have women priests and B) they would not have a woman in charge of the parish now find themselves under alien 'management'.
'A parishes ' now have 25 % of their incumbents ' looking forward to a woman bishop'.
'B parishes' have 40 % of their incumbents ' looking forward to a woman bishop !
It is apparent from these three sets of figures that traditional catholic and evangelical parishes have been regularly and deliberately ' sold ' incumbents, by their diocesan bishops, who ' do not agree with you but will respect your position', as the phrase goes, in the hope of undermining opposition to the episcopal agenda.
The first in a series of articles on these and related findings appears in'NEW DIRECTIONS' in July.
Further information from Fr. Robbie Low on 0208 950 1424
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