Church members have been in constant fear of being ostracised in the mainstream world, and this fear is leading them to seek out spiritual journeys, according to a new study.
Church members are often driven by their personal beliefs to seek the answers of God through spiritual journeys and to live in a way that reflects this.
But in the UK, the Church of England has not taken the same steps, according a new survey by the research group The Journey Church.
The church’s mission statement, published on its website in November 2015, states: “Church members should be able to live their lives in the way that they find the most comfortable, meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding, not only for themselves but for others.”
The report, published by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) at the University of Cambridge, shows that, when the church takes these steps, it is a “subtle form of self-indulgence”.
It states that members of the church have been “ignorant and insecure” about how they feel, how they live and what they believe, and that this is creating a “hidden” and “invisible” Church.
It also shows that they are “in danger of not being seen as authentic, as the authentic voice of their faith”.
The survey was commissioned by The Journey church, which is led by the Rev Richard Grieve, who is an associate professor of religious studies at the university.
It asked 5,000 UK-born adults, aged 18 and over, to fill in surveys and write down their beliefs about the church, their religious experiences and the way they relate to others.
It found that about half of the respondents had experienced some form of persecution or discrimination at some point in their lives, such as being banned from a job or being barred from attending church events.
Almost all of those surveyed said they were worried about being seen in public as “inauthentic”, “not honest” or “not trustworthy”.
Many of those who had experienced discrimination also believed that church members had been harmed by it.
Many also had “negative experiences” with the Church, such a being told they were “not good enough” or being told that their religion “isn’t for them”.
“There’s a fear that there’s not going to be an answer and that there might be someone who says, ‘I don’t want to hear about it’,” Grieve told New Scientist.
“There has been a lot of talk about this in recent years and this is a way of people thinking about how we’ve been stigmatised, about the fact that we’re not really accepted in society.”
But Grieve believes that, at the moment, this fear has not been enough to persuade people to seek spiritual journeys.
“We don’t see people as being able to be a church member, we see people being the church member,” he said.
“The reason why we see this is because people are not in a position to do this on their own.”
The survey also found that many people who had been ostracized at school, the workplace or the wider society were also in a state of self doubt.
It concluded that while there is a positive aspect to having faith, it also comes at the cost of “a deep sense of inadequacy and inadequacy of others”.
Grieve said he believed that many in the church “just don’t get it”, but that they did not want to be “a burden”.
“People who feel the way I do, the way Richard Gough does, have this feeling that they’ve been left out, they’ve not been seen as an authentic voice, that there are others that they don’t agree with,” he told New Science.
“I don [believe] that in some way, they’re trying to be the other person, because that’s not the way to do it.”
The findings come as the Church is facing increasing scrutiny over allegations of abuse, including allegations that clergy members are responsible for sex abuse by paedophiles.
The Church of Ireland has also faced a backlash for its handling of the abuse crisis.
The inquiry into the abuse of children in Ireland has now reached the second phase and is expected to be completed before the end of the year.
Grieve believes there is more work to be done.
“In a society where so much is happening at once, the idea that we should not have an open discussion about the problem, I think is really wrong,” he explained.
“It makes people feel uncomfortable and it makes people who have had negative experiences feel that they have been a burden.”
And then, of course, it creates this hidden Church.
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