ENGLAND: Profile of Anglicans

By Clive Field

Today’s mix of religious statistical news stories includes a segmentation analysis of self-identifying Anglicans, support for St George’s Day as a public holiday, the faith of undergraduates, and an updated interactive gateway to important serial survey data covering religion in Britain.

Profile of Anglicans

The YouGov survey which Professor Linda Woodhead commissioned to inform the 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates, and which BRIN has been reporting after each debate, is likely to prove a very valuable dataset for subsequent secondary analysis. To illustrate the point, Professor Woodhead, with statistical support from the Revd Professor Bernard Silverman, has used the poll (conducted online among 4,437 Britons aged 18 and over on 25-30 January 2013) to undertake a segmentation analysis of contemporary Anglicans (1,261 identified themselves as such in the survey). Her findings are presented in her article ‘”Nominals” are the Church’s Hidden Strength’ in the current issue (26 April 2013, p. 16) of the Church Times. This is only available online to subscribers of the newspaper.

The analysis proper, which forms the first part of the article, distinguishes four types of Anglicans:

Godfearing Churchgoers (5% of Anglicans) – These are Anglicans who attend church, are very certain in their belief in God, and who say that God is the main source of authority in their lives. They are also likely to score highly on other indicators of religiosity (such as prayer and Bible-reading) and to hold conservative views on many issues of personal morality, particularly sexuality (setting them apart with Baptists and Muslims rather than fellow Anglicans).

Mainstream Churchgoers (12% of Anglicans) – These have more in common with Non-Churchgoing Believers than with the Godfearers. Apart from their churchgoing, they differ in being a little more religious than Non-Churchgoing Believers on a number of measures and a little more morally conservative.

Non-Churchgoing Believers (50% of Anglicans) – These share a good many of the attributes of Mainstream Churchgoers, notwithstanding that they do not attend church. They all believe in God (although some prefer the word Spirit), and significant numbers practise religious or spiritual activities regularly. ‘These “nominals” are more than Anglican in name only: they believe, practise, and identify with Anglicanism.’

Non-Churchgoing Doubters (33% of Anglicans) – These Anglicans are also more than merely nominal. Only 15% are outright atheists, most being agnostic or unsure about God, and more than one-fifth claim to practise some religious or spiritual activity in private. They are the most morally permissive of the four groups.

The second half of the article is an impassioned – some may say occasionally idealized – plea for the Church of England to take more seriously non-churchgoing Anglicans in general, and Non-Churchgoing Believers in particular, rather than representing Godfearing Churchgoers as the ‘most real Anglicans’. Woodhead contends that the Church is in danger of becoming too clerical and congregationally-based, and of abandoning its sense of being a lay institution governed by monarch and Parliament, and responsible to the people.

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