Most Anglicans in UK See 'Nothing Wrong' With Premarital Sex, Gay Relationships Despite Church Doctrine

Customers sit outside the Fernandez & Wells Cafe in Kensington in London, Britain, May 29, 2017.
Customers sit outside the Fernandez & Wells Cafe in Kensington in London, Britain, May 29, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters)

A strong majority of Anglicans in the U.K. say they no longer adhere to biblical beliefs on premarital sex and same-sex relationships, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.

The Moral Issues section of the survey, which was conducted last year of nearly 3,000 people but was released on Wednesday, found that 73 percent of Anglicans within the Church of England approve of having sex before marriage, which was also supported by 76 percent of Roman Catholics.

Back in 2012, only 54 percent of Anglicans said they approved of sex before marriage, which the CofE speaks out against.

For the first time, the majority of respondents from both the Church of England and the Catholic Church said they supported same-sex relationships, the survey found. Fifty-five percent of Anglicans said there was nothing wrong with such relationships, despite the CofE banning gay marriage, up from 31 percent in 2012.

Catholics and those designated as "other Christian" experienced a similar change, with 62 percent of Catholics and 53 percent of those in the other Christian category backing gay relationships.

Atheists were most in favor of same-sex relationships, at 76 percent, while those designated as "non-Christian" remained the most opposed, with only 30 percent approval.

Furthermore, as many as 67 percent of Anglicans said they were in favor of a mother being allowed to abort her child if she does not want it. That stance was also taken by 61 percent of Catholics, despite the Vatican's strong disapproval of the practice, and Pope Francis speaking out on pro-life causes throughout his papacy.

"The increase in approval of this type of abortion by those of religion in general appears to have been driven in part by a change in views among Christian groups, in particular Catholics, among whom there has been a 22 percentage point increase in the view that abortions should be allowed if the woman does not wish to have the child (from 39 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2016)," the BSA wrote.

"However, we need to treat these within-Christianity trends with some caution as the sample sizes are small," it added.

The majority of British respondents also continued to support euthanasia for people who have painful, incurable diseases, with 89 percent of people who don't identify with any religion supporting it, compared to 67 percent of those who identify as religious.

"However, views toward euthanasia where someone is completely dependent appear to behave somewhat differently to views toward other forms of euthanasia, as there is little difference among the major religious subgroups for this specific scenario," the survey stated.

The BSA said in its conclusions that Britain as a whole is becoming "more socially liberal in its response to these questions of personal autonomy."

"It seems clear from these issues that 'social liberalism' is a growing feature of British society and will seemingly remain so as the older age cohorts are replaced by young ones," the survey authors added.

Some observers, such as Abby Day of Goldsmiths, University of London, have warned that the CofE is facing a "catastrophic" loss due to its elderly, more religious adherents dying out.

"While elderly laywomen have never been given a formal voice or fully acknowledged by the Church, they are the heart, soul and driving organizational force in parishes everywhere. Their loss will be catastrophic," Day said in April while promoting her book, The Religious Lives of Older Laywomen: The Last Active Anglican Generation.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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