A while back (in other words I can’t be bothered to look up the exact date) Professor Linda Woodhead, director of the Religion and Society Programme based at Lancaster University, published the results of a survey she had conducted that showed that many (in other words I can’t be bothered to look up the exact figure) members of the Church of England had a much more easy going attitude towards same sex marriage and the like than most of the bishops of the church. When I saw the results I felt quite proud. Us English Anglicans were obviously as progressive and inclusive in our thinking as our brothers and sisters on the other side of the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, it now appears from the results of another survey Professor Woodhead has just conducted that the reason for the results of her survey on gender may not be down to any sort of moral thinking that could be considered altruistic or good. According to THE TELEGRAPH, “Research by Prof Linda Woodhead, one of Britain’s leading authorities on the place of religion in society, found that more than half of Anglicans actively support cutting the (welfare) benefits budget” which is completely contrary to the anti-cuts stance of the House of Bishops.
I would suggest that if you put the results of the two surveys together you can see that a high proportion of the membership of the Church of England ascribes to a libertarian moral philosophy rather than a morality governed by concepts of justice and compassion. In the light of the second survey my guess is the reason for the results of the first survey was that most Church of England members have an easy going attitude towards same gender marriage and the like simply because it does not affect them. Middle of the road, broad church Anglicans are a particularly suburban and selfish lot. Their main concern is for their families and the enrichment of themselves in order that their families might benefit. Therefore, increasing welfare benefits, that have to be paid for out of general taxation, would reduce their family wealth and is, in their view, a bad thing. Two men marrying each other at their own expense does not make the average Church of England nuclear family poorer so, as far as the members of these families are concerned, there is no reason to deny gay people the right to wed.
I do not have a demographic breakdown of the results of the survey concerning welfare cuts. But I would hazard a guess that most happy clappy, wishy washy and bells and smells Anglicans who were polled, would have not supported the welfare cuts. Most evangelicals may well have stated that they were against same gender marriage in the first survey and, ironically, this would have been due to the same reason that they will have stated that they were against welfare cuts. Basically, like liberals and catholics within the Church of England, they tend to be able to put moral beliefs before personal gain (at least in theory if not always in practice). But, although the sects within the Church of England tend to make a lot of noise and get their men into the top jobs, they are not the Church of England, by any means. The church membership consists mainly of social Christians who believe in God only (and briefly in a “If he does exist” sort of way) when they are near death (their own or somebody else’s), who like the idea of their children getting into the local Church of England school with the good Ofsted report, enjoy a bit of communal singing once a week, are eager to belong to lots of committees, attend an almost infinite number of bring and buy sales and who appreciate the opportunity to catch up on the local gossip every week over a cup of fairly traded tea or coffee. In other words, as in their heart of hearts they don’t really believe there is a heaven and certainly do not believe there is a hell, because they don’t really believe in any divine being other than the most nebulous Paul Tillich type of non-personal entity, there is no need for them to adhere to any of the commandments of God taught by Jesus Christ that have eternal (or even temporal) rewards or punishments attached to them. In other words they can be as selfish as they wish and they can be as blatant about it as they wish if some research assistant from the University of Lancaster rings them up to ask them what they think about the poor being kept from disease and starvation by government hand outs.