Tuesday, 28 October 2014

No Surprise Here

From the Independent today:      

Two per cent of Anglican priests don't believe in God

“As a prerequisite for the job of being a Church of England priest, it would seem not unreasonable to expect a belief in God to be fairly essential.
But this is not the case, according to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.

It is 30 years since David Jenkins, then the Bishop of Durham, caused controversy by casting doubt on the resurrection, but it appears that such unorthodox views are widespread amongst Britain’s priests.

In addition to those who describe God as a human creation, the YouGov poll found that three per cent believe there is some sort of spirit or life force and 9 per cent argue it is impossible to imagine what God is like.

Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered.

The General Synod, the Church’s parliament, rejected moves to introduce “heresy trials” to take action against clergy over “doctrinal, ritual and ceremonial” matters, leaving clergy and bishops relatively free to deviate from doctrine without punishment.”  

Some, of course, see the glass as half full – one Anglican website commenting on the survey proudly announces “Anglican clergy are united by their strong belief in a “personal God” (83%) rather than in more impersonal understandings of God – like “spirit or life force.”.  Strong belief?

So, if you attend a random Anglican church on any given Sunday rejoice in the fact that there is an 83% chance that the pastor might believe in God.  

Not that atheism has been a barrier to progress and promotion in the Anglican or Scottish Episcopalian Church.  Richard Holloway rose to become a bishop and primus in the Scottish Episcopal Church, despite having jettisoned belief in a personal God in the early years of his “ministry”.  Read the fascinating interview with Holloway in the Scotsman.

The survey actually showed a higher level of atheism in Scottish Episcopalian clergy, at 3%.  Presbyterians were not surveyed, but canny Scottish liberals have a way of not saying what they don’t want people to know. Personally, I am suspicious that a number of Kirk ministers are already fuzzy on this issue and could not honestly and unequivocally affirm belief in a personal God.

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