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What Does the Liberal-Conservative Scale Measure? A Study among Clergy and Laity in the Church of England

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
Author:
Andrew Village York St John University York UK

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Abstract

The Liberal-Conservative (LIBCON) scale is a seven-point semantic differential scale that has been widely used to measure identity within the Church of England. The history of the development of liberalism in the Church of England suggests that this scale should be associated with specific beliefs and attitudes related to doctrine, moral issues and church practices. This study tests this idea among a sample of 9339 lay and ordained readers of the Church Times (the main newspaper of the Church of England) using twelve summated rating scales measuring a range of beliefs and attitudes. Of these twelve variables, eleven were correlated with the LIBCON scale. Discriminant function analysis produced a linear function of these variables that correctly identified 35% of respondents on the scale, and 69% to within one scale score. The best predictors were scales related to either doctrine or moral issues, and these performed consistently across traditions (Anglo-catholic, Broad church or Evangelical) and between clergy and laity. Scales related to church practices suggested ‘conserving tradition’ was also involved in the liberal-conservative dimension, but this was less so for clergy and for Evangelicals. The scale is commended as an empirical measure of one dimension of Church of England identities, especially if used alongside a parallel scale measuring church tradition.

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