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 yesterday.

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

Forty per cent 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 per cent 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 legalise gay marriage by 2015.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey suggested on Saturday that gay marriage plans made Christians feel “persecuted”. 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 yesterday.

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