Major Church of England study sheds light on same-sex marriage views

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

A major study by the Church of England has offered new insights into the strength of support for same-sex marriage among Anglicans.

The results of a sweeping survey reflecting the views of 6,448 members of the Church of England have been published in two new reports on Living in Love and Faith (LLF) - a process of dialogue and reflection around human sexuality, identity, marriage and gender that was launched at the end of 2020.

The reports also include opinions raised in LLF focus groups and creative submissions, although this data was not quantified.

"A persistent theme in the survey answers was same-sex marriage," the Findings Report revealed.

"Most of the comments on this theme expressed hope that the LLF Course might contribute to the 'acceptance of same sex marriage' or 'blessing of same sex partnerships'. This came up in focus group discussions as well.

"A smaller number presented the opposing view, speaking against such a change in doctrine."

The findings suggest that members of the Church of England have also had enough of talking about sexuality and want "a clear decision soon" on the issue, with bishops leading the way.

"Most, but not all, accepted that the episcopate should lead the approach of moving forward in love and faith," the report said.

Asked what message they had for bishops, the general consensus among respondents was for them to be "bold, brave and true".

"Participants in focus groups were asked what message they would pass on to the bishops, and the majority of respondents understood that, overall, the House of Bishops have a difficult but essential task, and that a decision on moving forward needs to be made soon," the report states.

"Most people in the focus groups suggested that the decisions made by the House of Bishops needed to be bold, courageous, clear and honest.

"While some advocated strongly for change and some to maintain the Church's position on questions of sexuality, all agreed that coming to a clear decision soon is vital." 

Other findings showed a broad desire for the Church to be "welcoming to all": "This desire for welcome is shared by those with otherwise diverse views. Some said that they hope for increased 'acceptance' and others spoke in terms of 'active inclusion'."

The Church of England said the results of the survey had revealed "the diversity of views that exist and their complex interactions". 

LLF discussions will enter their final stage in the autumn. In October, bishops will start working on proposals for a way forward, which will be presented to the February 2023 General Synod for consideration.

The Church of England said, "These and the LLF resources will support the bishops in their ongoing discernment process as they seek to discern what they believe God is saying to the Church of England today."