A new survey of Anglican clergy has been published.
Its findings are reassuringly unsurprising. For example, almost one-third of the clergy identify as evangelical; exactly one-third as Catholic; and just over one-third as something in the middle. In a different question, a quarter identify as conservative. Just over half want to keep the established Church in its current form; the rest want some sort of reform. Most call for the Anglican Communion to be more accepting of diversity, rather than seek stricter uniformity. Same in relation to the national Church. Sensible middle-way muddling-through remains the dominant approach: half the clergy think that Christians are discriminated against in some way by our secular society; half oppose same-sex marriage. (39 per cent are in favour of it, which I suppose is a strong body of dissent from Church teaching, but hardly surprising.)
As to politics, the Church’s left-wing image is confirmed. 44 per cent of clergy think that Britain’s welfare budget should be increased, which is three times higher than the general population. Similarly, less than one-third of clergy think the current welfare system creates a culture of dependency, compared with three-fifths of the population. In both cases, lay Anglicans are somewhere between the lefty clergy and the mainstream position.
I, a lay Anglican, am reassured by this. I want the clergy to be a bit more left-wing than me. It’s a sign that they are deeply involved in the lives of the poor, that they have a sense of solidarity with them and give those on welfare the benefit of the doubt. It is proper that a large sector of them should advocate a greater redistribution of wealth, and criticise capitalism. (There are plenty of other voices to cheer capitalism.) Ideally, they should do with great caution, rather than Guardian-leader self-righteousness. But it’s OK for a few to dabble in more radical campaigning – that’s part of the Christian tradition. Overall, the survey suggests to me that the Church is in pretty good shape.