Daily Telegraph (England), July 31, 2002
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
A third of Church of England clergy doubt or disbelieve in the physical Resurrection and only half are convinced of the truth of the Virgin birth, according to a new survey.
The poll of nearly 2,000 of the Church’s 10,000 clergy also found that only half believe that faith in Christ is the only route to salvation.
While it has long been known that numerous clerics are dubious about the historic creeds of the Church, the survey is the first to disclose how widespread is the scepticism.
Few bishops would now share the views of the former Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev David Jenkins, who caused a scandal in the 1980s when he contrasted the Resurrection with a “conjuring trick with bones”.
Nevertheless liberal clergy, who represent about one in eight of the total, remain profoundly uncertain about the Church’s core doctrines. In the survey, two thirds of them expressed doubts in the physical Resurrection and three quarters are unconvinced by the Virgin birth.
Similar levels of belief were found in organisations such as Affirming Catholicism, a liberal Anglo-Catholic group of which the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is a founding member.
Although Dr Williams holds firmly orthodox views on the Resurrection and the Virgin birth, the proportion of members of Affirming Catholicism who believe without question in the two doctrines is 35 and 24 per cent respectively.
The survey, carried out by Christian Research, did find that clergy were more orthodox on other doctrines.
More than 75 per cent overall accept the doctrine of the Trinity and a similar proportion believe that Christ died to take away the sins of the world. More than 80 per cent were happy with the idea that God the Father created the world.
Unsurprisingly, the organisations whose members were the most traditional were Reform, a conservative evangelical group, and Forward in Faith, a traditionalist umbrella body.
The Rev Robbie Low, a member of Cost of Conscience, the traditionalist organisation which commissioned the survey, said: “There are clearly two Churches operating in the Church of England: the believing Church and the disbelieving Church, and that is a scandal.
Dr Peter Brierley, the executive director of Christian Research, said the survey had been undertaken among 4,000 churches and reflected a representative sample of clergy, in terms of churchmanship and belief.