Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Anglicans in Ulster

The Belfast Telegraph has a report today Ulster & its Churches: How attitudes have been changing which is the first of two to summarise the findings of recent research undertaken by the Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive, known as ARK. The main source document is a pdf file available here.

Here is part two of the Telegraph feature.

Here is the part of the Telegraph article about Anglicans in Northern Ireland:


AROUND 14%-18% of the population claim membership of the Church of Ireland but, in common with the other denominations, regular church attendance has dropped in recent years. While 35% of respondents said in 1989 that they attended church every week, this had fallen to 30% in 2002.
However, the proportions who never attended church have remained strikingly unchanged over the period at around 18%.
The report reveals that there has been some decrease in the proportion of members who pray frequently but no increase in those who never pray. When it comes to involvement in activities or organisations connected with the Church, however, there has been a significant drop - from 17% to 7% - in those who took part nearly every week or more frequently. Those who never take part in church activities have risen by 3% to 43%.

WHEN it comes to political allegiance Church of Ireland members have remained staunchly unionist at 69%-71% in the period 1989-2002. However their feelings of national identity have been less constant. In 1989, 65% considered themselves British but this had risen to 76% by 2002. This rise concealed several significant fluctuations.
In 1996, two years after the paramilitary ceasefires the proportion identifying themselves as British dropped to 58%. Three years later the figure had soared to 76%.

THERE has been a considerable liberalisation in Church of Ireland members’ views on mixed marriages over the years from 1989 to 2002. Figure 4 reveals that in 1989, 47% of Church of Ireland members said they would not mind a close relative marrying someone of a different religion. By 2002 this figure had increased to 66%. Correspondingly, the proportion who would mind a lot on this issue fell from 21% in 1989 to 13% in 2002.
The figures reveal that Church of Ireland members are more generally tolerant of mixed marriages than Presbyterians or the general Protestant population.
James Mehaffey, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, says the figures reflect the reconciling work of the Church. “The Church of Ireland is widely held to be a reconciling Church and has worked over the years to promote better inter-Church relations and increased ecumenical activity.”

ATTITUDES to pre-marital sex have become much more liberal during the 1990s. In 1989, 46% of respondents felt sex before marriage was always, or mostly always, wrong. By 1998 this figure had fallen to 27%. However, the vast majority do not condone extra-marital sex. In 1998, 84% said it was always, or almost always wrong, just a slight fall from the figure of 90% in 1989.
Church members have also become more liberal in their attitudes towards homosexuality. In 1989, 82% thought that sex between people of the same gender was always, or almost always, wrong. Indeed 79% thought it was always wrong. By 1998, those thinking it was always, or almost always, wrong had fallen to 67%.
Homosexuality is a topic of much debate within the Anglican Church, especially in relation to the ordination of openly gay clergy.
Bishop Mehaffey says that in spite of the softening in attitudes towards homosexuality it is clear that such debates will continue.
And he added: “It must be noted that a more liberal attitude toward homosexuality in general does not necessarily imply an increased acceptance of the appointment of openly gay clergy”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 May 2004 at 10:00 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion