UK poll points to mistrust of clergy, lack of moral leadership

LONDON Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:50pm BST

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stands at the West Door as he arrives for his enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013.REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stands at the West Door as he arrives for his enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - Only around a half of Britons trust the clergy to tell the truth and a similar proportion think the Church of England does a bad job of providing moral leadership, a poll showed on Sunday.

The survey by pollster YouGov commissioned by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper further showed that 69 percent of respondents thought the Church of England, mother church of the world's 80-million-strong Anglican communion, was out of touch.

Forty percent of those polled said they did not trust priests, vicars and other clergy to tell the truth, and overall doctors, teachers and judges were rated as more trustworthy.

Fifty-four percent believe the Church of England has struggled to give moral leadership, the poll found.

The survey highlights the challenges facing the church in Britain amid falling believer numbers and controversies over whether to ordain women bishops and government plans to legalise gay marriage by 2015.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey suggested on Saturday that gay marriage plans made Christians feel "persecuted". Last month, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Hinting at turmoil within the Anglican church, current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged a softer response to divisive issues such as same-sex weddings than that taken by Carey, and called for differences to be dealt with "gracefully".

"That is the challenge for the church and that is the challenge if the church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues," Welby said in an interview with Premier Christian Radio broadcast on Easter Sunday.

The Anglican church is also at odds with the government on welfare spending cuts imposed in efforts to rein in a big budget deficit. Welby has argued that "children and families will pay the price" for welfare reforms due to take effect on Monday.

While Welby may be reflecting wider views in society on the perils of benefit spending reductions, the Anglican church has increasingly found itself opposing prevailing cultural trends, particularly on the issues of gay marriage and women bishops.

In November, the Church of England voted against ordaining women bishops, but the Sunday Times poll showed 80 percent of respondents backed the move. It also showed almost half of Britons think the church is wrong to oppose same-sex weddings.

Only 39 percent back the church in opposing gay marriage.

YouGov surveyed 1,918 adults between March 27-28.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (2)
EdwardH1 wrote:
This is a confused and confusing article on what constitutes the “UK”, in contrast to what constitutes “Britain”, and what constitutes “England”. The article headline is about “UK”, then the text includes references to “Britain”. But the poll references are wholly about the Church of “England”, and this is reinforced with references to “Anglican”. England is not the “UK” it is only part of it – the Church of England is – unsurprisingly – an English body. There is, for example, a separate, independent and wholly different, “Church of Scotland” (Scotland being the other major, but not only, component that is part of the “UK”).
The text includes a reference to “the challenges facing the church [of England] in Britain”. That serves to further compound the confusion in this article.

Mar 31, 2013 10:01pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Pathfinder1 wrote:
An odd coincidence of a survey –

A pre-emptive piece of undermining by the government’s poodle newspaper against an anticipated range of criticism from religious organisations.

Or simple interest by a sound source of journalism that no objective person would suggest was drifting rapidly down hill in quality and impartiality.

Disappointing that such cheap smear tactics need to be so transparently employed.

Apr 01, 2013 4:40pm BST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.