Shaping Attitudes toward Church in a Time of Coronavirus: Exploring the Effects of Personal, Psychological, Social, and Theological Factors among Church of England Clergy and Laity

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
Andrew Village School of Humanities, York St John University England UK

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Leslie J. Francis University of Warwick England UK

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This paper reports on the effect of personal, psychological, social, and theological factors in shaping attitudes toward church buildings, the lockup of churches, and the trajectory into virtual church among 4,374 clergy and lay people from the Church of England during the first UK COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Data from an online survey were used to create three scales, Pro Church Buildings, Anti Church Lockup, and Pro Virtual Church, which were shown to have adequate internal consistency reliability. Five sets of predictor variables were tested using hierarchical multiple regression: personal factors (sex and age), psychological factors (psychological type scores), social location (ordination status, education, geographic location), theological stance (modern versus traditional worship, liberal versus conservative doctrinal belief, liberal versus conservative views on morality), and Church tradition (Anglo-Catholic, Broad Church, Evangelical, and Charismaticism). The three scales were predicted by slightly different sets of variables, but in each case personal factors and psychological factors retained some predictive power after controlling for other sorts of factors. The results suggest that those most likely to embrace a future with a significant role for church life online are women (rather than men), the middle-aged (rather than younger or older people), intuitive (rather than sensing) and feeling (rather than thinking) psychological types, clergy (rather than laity), those living outside the inner cities, those who prefer modern (rather than traditional) forms of worship, those with more liberal (rather than conservative) views on doctrine and morality, and those who embrace Evangelical and Charismatic (rather than Anglo-Catholic) church traditions.

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