The survey of 1,509 Anglican clergy, published on 23 October for the Westminster Faith Debates, contains many interesting findings. Our own Linda Woodhead, organiser of this research, has drawn attention to a number of them in the associated press release.

It is little surprise, probably, that clergy are more 'left-wing' than most people in their attitudes to the Welfare State and immigration for example. Nor that, on issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion, they are rather more conservative than average.

Maybe also it is not surprising that a number of more conservative clergy would be prepared to see the Church of England split, if necessary, on theological or ethical issues. Most clergy would endorse Archbishop Justin’s call for 'gracious disagreement' within the one Church, but there are clearly those who would not.

But Professor Woodhead has not drawn attention to one of the most striking aspects.

Of course the results are split by gender, and nearly a third of the respondents are women. These are markedly more 'liberal', or less doctrinaire, than their male counterparts on just about every measure.

Of course, we would not expect to see many women in the really conservative catholic or evangelical camps, where they are not welcome! But far more of them than the men identify with a liberal or “mainstream” theological position, and they are generally more liberal on social issues also. They are far less willing to see the Church split on doctrinal or ethical lines, and place a slightly higher value on the traditional established and parochial nature of the Church.  

As women move increasingly into leadership roles in the Church, these findings should give liberals great cause for hope.