Anglican Clergy Poll and Other News


Anglican clergy poll

As anticipated in our post of 12 October 2014, the complete results of the YouGov survey of Anglican clergy were published on 23 October. The poll was designed by Professor Linda Woodhead and commissioned on behalf of Lancaster University, Westminster Faith Debates, and other partners in connection with the current series of debates on the Future of the Church of England. Respondents comprised 1,509 clergy aged 70 and under from the Anglican Churches in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland who answered 30 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%.  Full tables (with breaks by gender, age, year of ordination, country, and ministerial role) are available at:

Additionally, a press release has been issued in which Woodhead makes the following points:

  • Anglican clergy are united by a strong faith in a personal God and commitment to the parish system, 83% in each case
  • They are marked out from lay Anglicans and the rest of the population by their left-wing, ‘old Labour’, views, including attachment to a generous welfare system
  • They tend towards morally conservative positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and – especially – assisted dying
  • Attitudes are often sharply split between the third of clergy who are evangelical and the rest, the former tending to dissent from the official Church line that Anglicans should learn to ‘disagree well’

An abbreviated version of the press release can be found at:

Some of the questions were specific to the clergy, but others replicated those put to a sample of adult Britons by YouGov on behalf of Westminster Faith Debates in June 2013. This permits comparisons between the clergy, the general population, and the Anglican section thereof, as follows:

% down




Since 1945 British society has become









Britain has benefited from immigration in

some ways




no ways




Welfare budget should be













Abortion time limit of 24 weeks should be













Same-sex marriage is









Legal prohibition on assisted suicide should be









Other surveys of Anglican clergy have been carried out in the past, but have mostly had a different focus, on religious beliefs, aspects of ministry, or psychological type. Comparisons with the current YouGov study are therefore difficult. However, we may note that clerical support for disestablishment appears to have diminished somewhat over the years. Whereas Gallup found it running at 30% of full-time clergy in December 1984 and 35% in August 1996, it had fallen to 14% 30 years later, 81% wishing to retain all or some of the trappings of establishment.

Heritage at risk

The latest debate in the Future of the Church of England series was devoted to heritage, and it was fitting that, on the very same day the debate took place (23 October 2014), English Heritage published the 2014 Heritage at Risk Register. This is the first since the register began in 1998 to include a fairly comprehensive inventory of places of worship judged to be at risk. In the past year the organization has visited all those considered to be in poor or very bad condition on the basis of local reports. As a result, it is now known that, of the 14,775 listed places of worship in England, 887 or 6.0% are at risk, accounting for 15.4% of all 5,753 sites on the at risk register. The greatest number (805) are Anglican. The regional breakdown of at risk places of worship is shown below. To search the register, and for more information about it, go to:


Places of worship at risk

As % of all sites at risk













East Midlands



West Midlands















In a complementary move, ChurchCare, the Church of England’s national agency for supporting its places of worship, has been working, with the financial assistance of English Heritage, to develop the Church Heritage Record, a publicly accessible database of church buildings integrated with a Geographic Information System. This will have an educational and engagement mission alongside its primary role in church planning. When launched in Spring 2015, it will contain over 16,000 entries on church buildings in England, covering a wide variety of topics from architectural history and archaeology to worship and the surrounding natural environment.

Number problems

The current issue (Vol. 16, No. 2, 2014) of DISKUS: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions is a theme issue devoted to ‘The Problem with Numbers in the Study of Religions’. Guest edited and introduced by Bettina Schmidt, it contains seven substantive research articles offering case studies of Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, and the British Isles (the latter including a further essay by Martin Stringer on superdiversity with reference to religion in Handsworth, Bitmingham in the 2011 census, as well as a qualitative study by Simeon Wallis of English adolescents who identify with no religion). There is an insightful afterword by BRIN’s co-director, Professor David Voas (pp. 116-24), which both offers a commentary on the individual papers and, drawing on his own research, illuminates the ‘serious problems of validity and reliability in measuring religion’ while simultaneously advancing a compelling case for quantification. The issue is freely available online at:

From the British perspective, perhaps the single most important contribution is by Kevin Brice on ‘Counting the Converts: Investigating Change of Religion in Scotland and Estimating Change in Religion in England and Wales Using Data from Scotland’s Census,  2001’ (pp. 45-69). Factoring in ethnicity, this cross-references the questions on religion of upbringing and current religion asked in Scotland in 2001 (but not in 2011, when only current religion was investigated) in order to quantify life-cycle change in religion, albeit not differentiating between Christian denominations. The overall extent of religious change was 13.5% in Scotland in 2001 (ranging from 2.2% for Pakistanis to 21.1% for Black Caribbeans), with 85.7% of all changes involving a move to no religion, and with leaving Christianity for no religion a very dominant trend for almost all ethnic groups. Notwithstanding, there were also subsidiary trends, including a not insignificant movement from none to Christian. This is a valuable piece of historical analysis, with the detail embedded in 11 tables, but its subsequent application to produce estimates for religious change in England and Wales in 2011 inevitably raises some doubts, with Brice himself conceding that some of the estimates are ‘far from robust’. As Voas suggests in his afterword, perhaps greater recourse to the potential of sample surveys for measuring religious change would have been revealing.

Church growth

Further to the release of its substantive findings at the beginning of 2014, the Church Growth Research Programme of the Church of England has been conducting some follow-on work. Particular mention should be made of a new report from Fiona Tweedie entitled Stronger as One? Amalgamations and Church Attendance. She finds that in urban areas benefice structure does not have any statistically significant effect on the likelihood of growth or decline in attendance, and that in other areas the relationship between the two variables is complex, but with no evidence to suggest that the more churches are amalgamated, the greater the chances of numerical decrease. Moreover, attendance patterns in parishes with a team ministry do not differ substantially from those without. In letters to the Church of England Newspaper (17 October 2014) and Church Times (24 October 2014), her conclusions have been challenged by David Goodhew and Bob Jackson, who point to ‘problematic data’, ‘technical statistical issues’, and failure to distinguish between different sizes of church as the source of their misgivings. The 45-page Stronger as One? report can be read at:

A further conference in connection with the Church Growth Research Programme has now been scheduled for 4 December 2014, at the Cutlers Hall, Sheffield, with BRIN’s David Voas as one of the keynote speakers. Entitled ‘From Evidence to Action’, conference details can be found at:

Islamic State

The so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria was the fifth most noticed news story of last week, mentioned by just 7% of 2,038 Britons interviewed online by Populus on 22 and 23 October 2014. It had been in second position the previous week and in the top spot (currently occupied by the Ebola outbreak) for several weeks before that. In third place last week was the (Islamist-related) shooting in Ottawa, noted by 9%.

In another newly-released Populus poll for We Believe in Israel and the Jewish Leadership Council, and principally concerned with British attitudes toward Israel, 77% entertained a very cold and unfavourable view of IS (the bottom of a 10-point scale), with a further 11% regarding them unfavourably (points 1-4). Nevertheless, 5% held IS in a favourable light (points 6-10), rising to 14% among the 18-24s. The word most often used to describe Israel was Jewish (40%), 63% endorsing Israel’s right to exist as a majority Jewish state, albeit more than two-thirds of these qualified their support with the proviso that Israel should agree to the existence of a separate Palestinian state. Fieldwork was conducted online between 10 and 12 October 2014, among a sample of 2,067. Data tables are at:

The latest Ipsos MORI Political Monitor asked a half-sample of 501 adults, interviewed by telephone on 11-14 October 2014, what role the British military should play against IS. In reply, 59% backed their deployment abroad to fight IS, 17% giving as their reason the direct threat to British interests and 42% the threat to other people’s rights and freedom. Opposition to the intervention of Britain’s armed forces against IS stood at 34%. The question was somewhat ambiguous because intervention could have been interpreted to mean RAF bombing of IS, the engagement of British troops in Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, or the commitment of British ground troops in direct combat with IS, the first two of which are already happening. Data tables are at:

In its most recent poll for The Sunday Times, undertaken on 23-24 October 2014 on the basis of 2,069 online interviews, YouGov found that 76% of the population supported the removal of British citizenship from those who possess dual nationality or are naturalized Britons and who have been fighting with IS, with only 10% opposed. Two-thirds (with 19% against) also wanted to see Parliament change the law so that British citizenship could be removed from people born in Britain and who have no other nationality but have been fighting with IS. Responding to the Islamist gun attack on the Canadian Parliament, 77% thought there was a risk of a similar attack occurring in this country. Data tables are at:

Media coverage

Thanks and congratulations are due to regular BRIN contributor Ben Clements for his two recent posts on religion data in the British Election Study 2015 panel. These seem to have excited some media interest, with coverage thus far in The Catholic Herald, 24 October 2014, p. 6 (also quoting BRIN co-director David Voas); The Tablet, 25 October 2014, p. 29; and The Times, 25 October 2014, main section, p. 92.


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