Clergy Voices and Other News


Clergy voices

A majority (54%) of Anglican clergy thinks the Church of England should retain its current established status, seemingly without modification, according to the first results from a YouGov survey commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and Westminster Faith Debates for the new series of debates on ‘The Future of the Church of England’, which commenced in Oxford last week.

Respondents comprised 1,509 clergy under the age of 70 from the Anglican Churches in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland who answered 29 questions online between 14 August and 8 September 2014. They had been selected on a random basis (every third name) from Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and questionnaires sent to the 5,000 of the resulting sample of 6,000 for whom email addresses were available. The response rate thus appears to be around 30%. The full findings will not be published until 23 October, the day of the second debate, but data tables for three questions (with breaks by gender, age, church, and ministerial role) are already available at:

Only 14% of clergy backed the total disestablishment of the Church, with a further 27% favouring some loosening of Church-State ties. Nevertheless, 81% supported the preservation of the principle of an Established Church with some or all of its present privileges. There was also overwhelming acceptance (by 83%) of the importance of maintaining the (creaking) parish system, against 12% saying it was unimportant. Views were more divided about future options for housing the clergy, 49% wanting the Church to continue to provide accommodation, with 18% electing for a higher stipend so that incumbents could arrange their own housing, and 24% wishing both options to be on the table to enable freedom of choice.

An article about the survey appears in the current issue of the Church Times (10 October 2014, p. 4). This contains the toplines for one further question, about the constituency which the Church of England should prioritize. Two-thirds of the clergy replied England as a whole, 18% said Anglicans who do not go to church regularly, 5% regular churchgoers, 7% some other group, with 4% undecided. The article can be read online at:

Islamic State

Here is a round-up of the latest online polling on the subject of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Topline results only are given; for breaks by demographics, follow the links to data tables.

Britain: 7-8 October 2014

Nine in ten adults rated air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria as a very important (62%) or fairly important (28%) international news story, according to this YouGov poll. The proportion saying the same about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was similar (88%). Data tables are at:

Britain, 8-9 October

The Ebola outbreak (37%) displaced IS (28%) as the most noticed news story of last week, according to Populus interviews with 2,055 persons.

Britain, 9-10 October 2014

The latest YouGov survey for The Sunday Times, for which 2,167 were interviewed, revealed marginally increased majorities in favour of the RAF bombing IS in Iraq (59%) and Syria (54%). However, 60% doubted whether the combination of Western air strikes and Iraqi and Kurdish forces would be sufficient to defeat IS and considered that other ground troops would be needed, even though only 32% approved of the commitment of British and US troops in Iraq (with 47% disapproving). Two-thirds remained opposed to paying ransoms to free British hostages held by IS, with only 9% in favour, but 27% supported the negotiation of other deals with IS (such as prisoner-hostage swaps), with 49% opposed. Three people in ten did not consider that the British media should report the holding and murder of hostages by IS. Data tables are at:

London: 24-26 September 2014

A YouGov poll of 1,086 London residents, undertaken for the Evening Standard and published on 8 October, revealed overwhelming opposition (by 74%) to the readmission to the country of British nationals found to have been fighting with extremist groups in Iraq or Syria, such as IS. Just 13% were in favour of letting them back in. Support for Britain and the USA sending in ground troops to Iraq to combat IS was, at 36%, higher than in some national polls, and only 7% behind the disapproval score. Data tables are at:

Human rights

Four-fifths (79%) of the British public think that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion should be protected as a human right, according to a YouGov poll released on 8 October 2014 for which 2,155 adults were interviewed online on 6-7 October. Most of the other nine potential human rights enquired about also scored around the four-fifths mark, the extremes being the right not to be put into slavery and forced labour (92%) and the right not to be unlawfully arrested or detained without good reason and the right to marry and establish a family (70% each). Freedom of thought, conscience and religion was especially prized by Scots (88%), Labour and Liberal Democrat voters (86%), and the over-60s (84%). Data tables are at:

Methodists and drink

The latest issue of the Methodist Recorder (10 October 2014, p. 3) reports that University of Exeter doctoral student Jon Curtis has just launched a survey to determine the beliefs and practices regarding alcohol of current or former Methodists aged 18 and over living in England, Wales or Scotland. It forms part of the Coup D’Tea project on the history and future of alcohol in the Methodist Church in Britain. Curtis claims (although this could be disputed) that this is the first study of Methodist attitudes to drink for over 40 years. The questionnaire is intended for an entirely self-selecting sample, so, although it will doubtless generate some interesting illustrative material, it is unlikely to yield statistically representative data. It can be completed online at:

Abstinence is stereotypically associated with Methodism, yet, as Clive Field showed some years ago, its extent has often been exaggerated, especially among the Methodist laity: ‘“The Devil in Solution”: How Temperate were the Methodists?’, Epworth Review, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 2000, pp. 78-93. On the basis of a fairly systematic trawl of the available statistical evidence, he estimated that total abstinence among Methodists peaked around 1910, when it was practised by approximately 95% of ministers and 50% of members. By 1990 the proportion had sunk to one-fifth in both groups, and it has almost certainly declined further since. Just how far is hard to determine since, although sample surveys of the nation’s drinking habits are not uncommon, it is rare for them to control for religion and, even if they do, it is even rarer for them to identify Methodists. As the latest triennial statistics of mission confirm, Methodism has become such a minority denomination that it no longer shows up accurately in national surveys. Methodists tend to be bundled into an undifferentiated Christian category or classified as other Christians (apart from Anglicans and Catholics).

By way of example of the sort of analysis which is possible, we may cite one question from the 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey: ‘How often do you drink 4 or more alcoholic drinks on the same day?’ Results (weighted) are tabulated below:


Roman Catholic

Other Christian   Non-Christian No religion






Once a month or less often






Several  times a month






Several  times a week












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