Analysis of Church of England churches with the largest under-16 attendance demonstrates no visible support for same-sex ‘marriage’, refuting claims that churches need to change their beliefs on LGBT issues to reach younger people.
The study, conducted by Christian Concern, looked at the online presences of 33 churches listed in 2019 as having the largest numbers of under-16s, along with the public views of their leaders.
The research found that:
- 20 of the churches (61%) could be clearly identified as supporting the church’s historic view that sex is reserved for one man, one woman marriage.
- None of the churches listed, nor their leadership, were publicly supportive of a change to the doctrine of marriage or other views that indicated opposition to conservative beliefs on sexuality and gender.
- The remaining 13 churches were unclear – views of the church or its leaders could not be found online.
Concerns about reaching young people unfounded
In December, one of the first Church of England bishops to publicly call for same-sex ‘marriage’ was the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft. In his argument, Together in Love and Faith, he wrote:
“In paying attention to our prevailing culture, particularly as expressed by the under forties, I am aware of their sense of this manifest unfairness, and of anger and alienation among a whole generation. If the Church believes this clear injustice, the argument goes, then what does this say about the rest of the beliefs of the Church? Is this an organisation that is to be taken seriously at all as a moral and ethical force in the 21st century?”
However, the analysis suggests that the bishop fears are unfounded – if anything, young people are drawn to teaching that says something different to the society around them.
‘God has spoken clearly on sexuality’
Christian Concern’s chief executive Andrea Williams, who served on the Church of England’s General Synod for ten years commented, “The complete absence of churches which publicly support for revisionist beliefs on marriage shows that it is entirely possible for churches in the 21st century to reach and retain young people while teaching historic, orthodox beliefs on sexuality.
“Young people are bombarded by messages that sow confusion about who they are. They have seen the damage caused by broken marriages, pornography and sexual liberation and they want something different. Faithful, loving Christian churches and youth groups which don’t preach LGBT ideology are places of comfort and healing for them.
“God has clearly spoken on sexuality through his word: sex is reserved for one man, one woman marriage. Nevertheless, one of the arguments of those who want to change doctrine is that it is necessary to reach the next generation. This research shows the complete lack of evidence that any change is required.
“Blessings for same-sex partnerships would be wrong in principle, but it could well hasten the church’s decline in practice. Faithful churches and ministers with vibrant and growing congregations might reconsider their relationship to the Church of England. And those preaching the same message as the world, with no sin, no need for repentance and therefore no need for Christ will find themselves with no congregation to pay the bills.
“God does not bless sin, and he does not bless those who bless sin.”
The 33 churches studied were those that appeared on a list provided to General Synod in 2019, which had over a hundred under-16s attending in all of the years 2015. 2016 and 2017 – the most recent available public data.
Researchers read through the church’s website and social media presence, including online sermons where available to categorise what was taught at the church. They also looked at the profiles and public statements of senior church leaders that indicated their views on sexuality and gender.
Where the church or leaders’ views were unclear, they were contacted and invited to clarify their position or point to any public teaching. In one case, this led to a confirmation that the church and minister held and taught historic, orthodox views.
Amongst the ‘unclear’ churches, two publicly stated that they wouldn’t make their views on sexuality known. Three had little teaching or public comment available online. The remaining eight did not have clearly available teaching on the subject, but are believed to hold conservative views.
Researchers also visited other church websites and church leader profiles. In several cases, it was quickly possible to see support for revisionist views, through statements of church leaders on social media, public signatures and website statements on inclusivity.