Majority of Church of England priests support same-sex weddings

A Pride flag flies at the Church of St Peter & St Pauls in Bromley, Kent.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

A survey of Church of England clergy by The Times newspaper has found widespread support for a change in rules to allow priests to conduct same-sex weddings.

The survey of 1,200 serving priests found that over half (53.4%) support a change in Church law to allow them to wed gay couples, compared to over a third (36.5%) who are opposed. 

The Church of England's parliamentary body, the General Synod, backed plans to introduce same-sex blessings in February. Asked where they stand on the issue, most of the priests surveyed (59%) said they plan to offer same-sex blessings to couples, versus 32.3% who said they will not.

More than three in five (63.3%) said gay priests should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners.

A sizable majority (62.6%) support a change in position on premarital sex - 21.6% support an end to the teaching of abstinence before marriage, and 41% say opposition to premarital sex should be dropped for people in "committed relationships".

Just over a third (34.6%) say the Church's traditional teaching on premarital sex should not be changed.

The findings reflect a dramatic change in attitudes among CofE priests since 2014, when 51% said in a Lancaster University study that same-sex marriage was "wrong", compared to 39% who supported it. 

Linda Woodhead, who led the 2014 study, said The Times survey revealed "a very rapid change" in attitudes.

The Rev Canon John Dunnett, director of the Church of England Evangelical Council, said the study "signposts a thoroughly divided Church of England".

"The question it raises, the million-dollar question, is how is the [Church] is going to face a situation in which the level of division is both so substantial and runs so deep?" he told the newspaper.