Most think CofE could do better on women

New research suggests most people want the Church of England to change its approach to women. 

YouGov asked more than 4,000 people the extent to which they approve of the Church of England's "current policies towards women".

Among the more than 1,200 Anglicans surveyed, only 11% said they approved.  This was only slightly higher among Catholics (12%) and Baptists (16%).  The highest level of approval was found among Muslims (26%). Only 3% of people with no faith said they approved.  Approval was also low among Presbyterians (7%) and Methodists (10%).

The survey comes as the Church of England returns to the drawing board on women bishops legislation following last year's defeat in General Synod. 

When asked whether they approved of the Church of England's "treatment of women at local parish level", only two-fifths of Anglican respondents said they approved.  The highest level of approval was found among Muslims (24%).  The lowest approval levels were among Jews (2%). 

When asked whether they approved of the Roman Catholic Church's "current policies towards women", just over a fifth of Catholics (22%) said they approved.   Support was low across members of the other denominations - Anglicans at 11%, Presbyterians at 7%, Methodists 10%, and Baptists slightly higher at 16%.  Muslims were most likely to approve (26%).

Opinions were divided as to whether having more women in senior positions would make major religions better.  

While 43% of Anglicans said it would make them better,  40% of Anglicans said it would make them neither better nor worse.  Only 5% thought it would make them worse.

Among Catholics, 43% felt it would make the religions better, while 34% chose neither.  Ten per cent said more women in senior positions would make the religions worse.   

Methodists were the most likely of the Christian denominations to agree it would make them better (50%), with just 6% saying it would make them worse and only 29% choosing neither.  

Over half of Hindus (57%) said it would make them better. Just 2% said it would be worse.  Among Muslims, 35% agreed the religions would be better, with 18% saying they would be worse.  Just under a half of people with no faith (46%) thought they would be better, while 39% said they be neither better nor worse.  

The poll was commissioned for a Westminster Faith Debate on whether it was right for religions to treat men and women differently.

Linda Woodhead, a professor of religion at Lancaster University and panelist in the debate, commented: "These new findings show that the churches are seriously out of step not only with society but with their own members.

"In failing to allow women's leadership in the churches, church leaders are privileging the views of a tiny, disproportionately male, group of people over the views of the vast majority of people in their own churches and in the country as a whole."

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