Poll: Half of Brits Mistrust Pastors and Priests

Church of England
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gestures after being enthroned during a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, Southern England, March 21. A new poll shows 54 percent of Britons believe the Church of England has struggled to give moral leadership to its constituency. (Reuters/Gareth Fuller/Pool )
Only around a half of Britons trust the clergy to tell the truth, and a similar proportion think the Church of England does a bad job of providing moral leadership, a poll showed on Sunday.

The survey by pollster YouGov commissioned by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper further showed that 69 percent of respondents thought the Church of England, mother church of the world's 80-million-strong Anglican communion, was out of touch.

Forty percent of those polled said they did not trust priests, vicars and other clergy to tell the truth, and overall doctors, teachers and judges were rated as more trustworthy.

Fifty-four percent believe the Church of England has struggled to give moral leadership, the poll found.

The survey highlights the challenges facing the church in Britain amid falling believer numbers and controversies over whether to ordain women bishops and government plans to legalize gay marriage by 2015.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey suggested on Saturday that gay marriage plans made Christians feel "persecuted". Last month, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Hinting at turmoil within the Anglican church, current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged a softer response to divisive issues such as same-sex weddings than that taken by Carey, and called for differences to be dealt with "gracefully".

"That is the challenge for the church and that is the challenge if the church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues," Welby said in an interview with Premier Christian Radio broadcast on Easter Sunday.

The Anglican church is also at odds with the government on welfare spending cuts imposed in efforts to rein in a big budget deficit. Welby has argued that "children and families will pay the price" for welfare reforms due to take effect on Monday.

While Welby may be reflecting wider views in society on the perils of benefit spending reductions, the Anglican church has increasingly found itself opposing prevailing cultural trends, particularly on the issues of gay marriage and women bishops.

In November, the Church of England voted against ordaining women bishops, but the Sunday Times poll showed 80 percent of respondents backed the move. It also showed almost half of Britons think the church is wrong to oppose same-sex weddings.

Only 39 percent back the church in opposing gay marriage.

YouGov surveyed 1,918 adults between March 27-28.

Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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