Thinking Anglicans

Church of England statistics

updated Friday evening and Saturday morning to include more press reports

The Church of England has released provisional attendance figures for 2008: Provisional attendance figures for 2008.

There is a press release summarising and commenting on the figures. The full text of the press release is reproduced below the fold.

The think-tank Ekklesia has published its views on the figures: Church of England sees greater decline in church attendance.
Andrew Brown writes in his blog in The Guardian Church statistics: not many dead.
Riazat Butt writes in The Guardian Church of England attendance falls for fifth year in row.
Andy Bloxham and Martin Beckford in the Telegraph write Average age of churchgoers now 61, Church of England report finds.
Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times Church of England congregations fall again, and half are pensioners.

Also published today is research surveying of the diversity of Church of England congregations: Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England.

Provisional attendance figures for 2008 released: attending a local CofE church is part of a typical week for 1.1 million people
22 January 2010

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that around 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a typical week – and not just on a Sunday.

Regular attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people regularly attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the six years since 2002, with the 2008 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2007. The number of under 16s increased by three per cent over the year, returning to two per cent below their 2002 level.

People continue to attend church on other days than Sunday. For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37 in total over a month.

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, comments: “The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church. They paint a mixed picture for 2008. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church increasing and growth in church attendance in 14 out of 44 dioceses, are some disappointments, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

“It is important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people are willing to join and take part in membership organizations. Political parties have seen their memberships fall by around 40 per cent in recent years. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on Sunday.”

  • In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,145,000 (2007: 1,160,000; 2006: 1,163,000), as was average Sunday attendance at 960,000 (2007: 978,000; 2006: 983,000) and average monthly attendance at 1,667,000 (2007: 1,690,000; 2006: 1,694,000). The average number of children and young people at services each week rose by three per cent to 225,000 (2207: 219,000; 2006: 228,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis also grew three per cent to 438,000 (2007: 424,000; 2006: 442,000).

Marking life events

The total number of baptisms remained stable, with increases in the number of ‘child’ and ‘adult’ baptisms (those aged one year and older). The number of ‘infant’ baptisms (under one year old) fell by two per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth of a child fell by five per cent.

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches fell by three per cent to 53,100 (significant changes to marriage law which widened the number of churches where couples are eligible to be married did not take effect until October 2008 and their effect is not, therefore, fully reflected in these figures). Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by three per cent, to 4,400). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2008 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling by around three per cent each year in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by three per cent, to 188,100), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by five per cent, to 93,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 1.4 per cent between 2007 and 2008).

More than nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts, representing the highest participation rate ever. These have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council. The provisional figures can be seen on the web at:

Celebrating festivals

The trend detected in recent years whereby attendance dips when Christmas Day falls on a weekday continued in 2008, with attendance over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day remaining similar to that in 2007. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday fell by around four per cent against 2007.

  • In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2008 remained broadly similar at 2,647,200 (2007: 2,656,800; 2006: 2,994,100). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas ,for example, carol services during Advent. Easter observance dropped back by three per cent to 1,415,800 (2007: 1,469,000; 2006: 1,484,700).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches remained stable, as expected following the major revision reported in 2007’s statistics. The historic ‘usual Sunday attendance’ measure (see note below for definition) fell three per cent to 845,000 (2007: 868,000; 2006: 871,000).

Separate research published today surveying the diversity of Church of England congregations, called Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England, is available at:


* Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones ( Fresh Expressions are being formed in a variety of ways, from new congregations targeting particular groups such as Goths, to café churches and skateboard parks.

** The Youth Evangelism Fund is supported by the Archbishops’ Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust. It aims to enable more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith within the life of the Church by allowing young people to share faith with their peers in ways that make sense to them. Each year for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to resource new ideas for mission.

Membership of the three main political parties has fallen from a total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House of Commons Library research paper, August 2009:

Definition of terms

Average Sunday attendance: the average number of attendees at Sunday church services, typically over a four-week period in October.

Average weekly attendance: the average number of attendees at church services throughout the week, typically over a four-week period in October.

Each of the above measures is provided separately for adults and children/young people aged under 16 years. The highest and lowest counts over the four-week period are calculated as follows:

Highest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the highest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period. The ‘highest’ figures on the accompanying tables are proxies (in fact under-estimates) for monthly attendance levels.

Lowest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the lowest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period.

Attendance figures are only included where local churches held at least one church-based service (which included adult presence) during the week under examination.

The traditional usual Sunday attendance (uSa) measure is interpreted differently across the dioceses and is therefore not regarded as statistically accurate as a comparison.

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Fr Mark
Fr Mark
14 years ago

One does get fed up with the endless positive spin from Church House when these statistics come out annually. Ours is an institution clearly in serious and protracted decline: why is it regarded as disloyal to say this openly and ask why? Far better to be honest and say that we are getting lots of things wrong in our relationship with English society, and need to address them and reform our institution urgently. Indigenous English people have by and large lost interest in their national church. Is the C of E currently committed to thinking through why that might be… Read more »

Fr Ross Northing
Fr Ross Northing
14 years ago

The Ekklesia think tank makes an outrageous statement that cannot go uncommented on: “Many Church of England schools, which make up one quarter of primary schools, require church attendance in order to gain priority in admissions.” This is simply not true for the overwhelming majority of Church of England Aided Schools are community schools and take all comers. The fact that they have good results and are some of the best schools does not mean they cream off the brightest but rather that the Headteachers and Teaching Staff are extremely dedicated and committed to providing children with a first-class education… Read more »

14 years ago

One thing I’ve learnt about decline is that although there are general trends, and it is decline not dressed up, the business of tackling it is local. In a church I attend, the issue of decline was critical, and there has been some sorting out as regards internal strategy and attitude, with quite a positive feeling replacing a long period (before I returned) of even despair, and it is strange how now there is a visible bounce, with faces unseen before now coming along and some staying. There is probably some randomness to this, but there does seem to be… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
14 years ago

I’m with you all the way Fr Mark. Of course there are all sorts of reasons why the decline is not simply the C of E’s fault but I’m sure an excellent PhD in the sociology of religion could be done on how C of E policies, attitudes, strategy and practice in the last, say, 40 years, have produced self-inflicted decline.With so many younger clergy now schooled in congregational chaplaincy rather than parish ministry and official attitudes on gays and women doomed to ultimate failure, decline is unlikely to be arrested and may well accelerate in the next decade..

14 years ago

I too agree with Fr Mark. This failure is replicated at parish level. I have been fighting for years for our (young) rector to recognise the problem, but he’s in denial and English/British embarrassment prevents proper acknowledgement, still less proper address, of this problem on the part of the PCC. One can understand, to an extent, but it’s deeply dispiriting, destructive, and, of course, completely stupid.

toby forward
14 years ago

Perhaps this may seem to be counter-intuitive, but I suspect that the decline in overall church numbers is associated with the growth in numbers in a few parishes. The success of Alpha and the growth of the evangelical constituency in the church now gives the impression that this is what the Church of England is like. Why would any serious person with a mature understanding want to become part of a church like this? It presents a narrow, anti-intellectual, homophobic face to the world.
The more that its evangelical parishes grow, the more the Church of England will shrink.

Jonathan Bartley
14 years ago

Fr Ross Northing – Very happy to receive the figures to back up the claim that the “overwhelming majority” of Church of England schools don’t give priority to church goers. Can you point me in the direction? I have asked the C of E for them, and was told that they don’t have them, but maybe you have a good source? But whatever the actual figures, to say that “Many Church of England schools, which make up one quarter of primary schools, require church attendance in order to gain priority in admissions” is both fair and relevant. It has a… Read more »

14 years ago

This is a further indication that religion is becoming a largely immigrant affair, and will be in future, a fringe activity mostly carried out by religious extremists

And the church has only itself to blame.

Father Ron Smith
14 years ago

“One reason for the decline, along with the rising age profile, could be the Church’s public quarrelling over homosexuality and women bishops.” – Ruth Gledhill, Times article – For once, I tend to agree with Ruth’s concise summarisation here one of the most important reasons for the decline in Church attendance – especially in the C. of E., with it’s official policies towards women and gays. Most young people, whose sexual education has included an enlightened overview of gender and sexual differentiation, are very wary of seeming to subscribe to an outdated institutional view of the place of women and… Read more »

14 years ago

Just a note: the two Muslims returned, so that was super (though we told them where to find the mosque they couldn’t find!), and another new face as well. It puts a lot of pressure on the many providers of our services internally and without to get things right, as well as having a welcoming attitude (and the new face said, after coffee, before a church meeting, “Thank you for making me feel so welcome.” So something was right.

H. E. Baber
14 years ago

I suspect that the decline in overall church numbers is associated with the growth in numbers in a few parishes. The success of Alpha and the growth of the evangelical constituency in the church now gives the impression that this is what the Church of England is like. Why would any serious person with a mature understanding want to become part of a church like this? This is exactly what’s happened in the US (vide e.g. the latest ARIS study) during the last 20 years. The percentage of Christians in the population has declined but within that declining population the… Read more »

toby forward
14 years ago

Jonathan Bartley, I see that Mrs Miliband has put in two years hard labour in her local parsh church so that Master Miliband doesn’t have to go to his local school.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for those admission figures, will you?

Marcus Fergusson
Marcus Fergusson
14 years ago

I work for Demos, the London think tank. I have been examining the disparity between the monthly and weekly attendance figures and conclude that over a third of the official stats are made up of parents and children who go simply to secure places in the C of E primary schools… This is in part a speculative calculation – owing to the lack of accurate figures on this subject provided by the C of E – but I think the broader point is valid.

My blog post on this subject is here –

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