Comments: Profile of Anglicans

I'm interested in how they define that first category--what makes one a "God-fearing believer" as opposed to a "mainstream believer"?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 11:28am BST

Pat - The BRIN article does include the definitions of the four categories.

Posted by Peter Owen at Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 2:28pm BST

Another week, another tendentious survey telling us not-very-much about the state of the church. I don't know how many people are kept in work creating these bloody things. In an age of austerity, Anglican market-research must be one of the few growth areas of the British economy. No doubt it single-handedly kept us out of recession this quarter. Who says the Church of England no longer has anything to offer the people of the UK?

While I don't particularly disagree with Linda Woodhead's summary (one of the few occasions, I note, when I haven't profoundly disagreed with Professor Woodhead), one does wish she hadn't felt the need to divide us into the sheep and the goats in order to make her point. Now I have to search my soul and work out whether I'm a homophobic God-fearing crypto-Baptist or just a Laodicaean secular milquetoast like everyone else.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 3:21pm BST

Thanks, Peter.

OK, I guess my problem then is that "God-fearing" translates (for the BRIN folk) to "very conservative". I'd like to think that we liberal Christians can be "God-fearing" as well, in the good sense of that phrase. (Of course, it's a phrase that is often misinterpreted, including by those who use it to describe themselves. It does not mean being afraid that God will punish you.)

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 6:52pm BST

It's not surprising that the CofE has become more dominated by the conservative. It's always tempting to see the most extreme forms of any religion as "more authentic".

You can see this in Richard Dawkins, going around telling the religious what they should be believing to be considered religious. His survey some months ago which purported to show that many Christians weren't really Christian imposed a set of requirements that no-one other than a particularly narrow set of American evangelicals would recognise (daily bible study? really?). The same thing happens around Islam, where government and quasi-governmental bodies are magnetically drawn to unrepresentative fanatics, who are then implicitly held up as examples to use to measure other's faith.

Hence why Stephen Green and his "Christian Voice" organisation and Andy Choudrey under whatever banner he's current trading are fixtures on Newsnight. Both would struggle to field a football team, indeed would struggle to field a five-a-side team, but because they're colourful nutters with absolute certainty in their voices they appear more "authentic". Compared to their sort of vitriol, visiting parishioners who are ill and appreciate the company, collecting money for good causes and campaigning for debt relief aren't really very newsworthy, are they?

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 11:04pm BST

Maybe I should get out a bit more, but I know almost no one who self-identifies as an Anglican. Turning "Oh I'm C of E" into "self-identifies as an Anglican" is part of the problem.

Posted by american piskie at Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 3:30pm BST

Linda uses "God-fearing" as a shorthand for those who, when asked which of the following they rely on _most_ for guidance in their lives or in making important decisions:

(1) Their own judgement or intuition
(2) The advice of close family or friends
(3) God, religious teachings or religious leaders
(4) Others---eg great literature, science, etc.

give one of the answers in (3). As Linda points out, the majority of those who have a strong belief in God answer (1) or (2). To be a God-fearer in Linda's sense, you also have to be a regular worshipper or participate in a religious group.

This is, I think, explained in Linda's article. I hope it expands Peter's response to Pat's question.

The point of the analysis is not to divide the population into groups. It is to understand the factors that most fully differentiate between different views on social questions. It turns out that, for several issues, so-called "God-fearers" tend to have distinctive views. This means on the average (ie in terms of the percentages holding any particular opinion.) It does not mean that every single person in whichever group holds the opinion.

In doing the analysis, no particular question was given primacy. I won't go into the stats here, but the basic idea is to look at a whole range of factors (including age, gender, social class, religious affiliation, degree of belief in God, and, yes, what authority people use) and see which of these is most determinative of attitudes.

There was no prior assumption that "God-fearers" turned out to be "conservative"...which, by the way, "Conservatives" in the political sense don't really. It just turns out that way when you look at the data. They do genuinely tend to support shorter time limits for abortion, oppose changing the law on euthanasia, oppose gay marriage, etc---more than those who have just as strong belief in God, but may well think that God speaks to us through our own consciences or the voices of those close to us.

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 5:33pm BST


It does no harm at all to remind PCCs, the House of Laity, and Parliament, from time to time, that the church electoral rolls contain only a tiny minority of the believing Anglicans in England. That fact has a strong bearing on what are appropriate ways for all three institutions to behave.

Posted by Feria at Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 10:15pm BST
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