Thinking Anglicans

Church of England numbers

The British Social Attitudes survey has today released a summary of some figures from its latest survey:

Church of England numbers at record low

The most recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved in the last fifteen years.

The proportion of Brits who describe themselves as ‘belonging to the Church of England’ is at a record low, halving in the last fifteen years, with the sharpest decline among 45 to 54 year olds.

The most recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved since 2002, falling from 31% to 14%.The sharpest decline happened among 45 to 54 year olds (35% in 2002 vs 11% in 2017). The proportion of people who describe themselves as Roman Catholic (8%), belonging to ‘other Christian affiliations’ (10%) and ‘of non-Christian faiths’ (8%) have remained fairly stable. 52% of people now say they have no religion, compared with 41% in 2002. Men are more inclined to say they follow no religion than women (57% compared with 48%)…

This has attracted the attention of the press.

Tim Wyatt Church Times British Social Attitudes finds ‘C of E’ respondents halved in 15 years

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church in crisis as only 2% of young adults identify as C of E

Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Fears for Church of England’s future as people no longer turn to God in old age

Christian Today CofE facing ‘unrelenting decline’ as number of Brits identifying as Anglican halves in 15 years

There is also this press release from the Church of England.

British Social Attitudes survey

Dave Male, the Church of England’s director of Evangelism and Discipleship, has commented on the latest figures from the British Social Attitudes survey, showing a fall in the number of people self-identifying as Anglican.

He said: “The headline figure here only gives us part of the picture.

“It has been clear for some time that we have moved from an era of people automatically, and perhaps unthinkingly, classifying themselves as Church of England or Anglican to one in which identifying with a faith is an active choice.

“We also know from research that people, particularly younger people, are less aware of denominations.

“Yet Research, especially amongst young people, shows an increase in willingness to engage in faith.

“Our experience is that people – of all ages – haven’t stopped searching for meaning and answers in their life.

“Ultimately the Church exists to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

“That was never meant to be easy and that work goes on whatever the figures may say.”

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Mark Hart
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Mark Hart

The spin provided by the C of E’s spokesperson must be particularly gratifying to the editors of this site: that if you only count thinking Anglicans, numbers are actually rising.

CRS
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CRS

“The proportion of people who describe themselves as Roman Catholic (8%), belonging to ‘other Christian affiliations’ (10%) and ‘of non-Christian faiths’ (8%) have remained fairly stable.”

One can wonder whether the idea of a Church of England — a church identifying as the church of the nation — is losing its appeal. Numbers are stable in churches that have no claim to a national identity. Perhaps that is their appeal.

Jo B
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Jo B

Or both categories are being boosted by immigration, with people largely sticking with the religious tradition of the country of their ancestors.

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

I’ve never heard an objection to the ‘national’ nature of the C of E (of course what I hear is hardly an objective representative sample, nevertheless…). Unfortunately, it’s hardly the case that flag-waving is going out of fashion . Perhaps it’s more about the decline of unthinking cultural Christianity, from which of course the Church of England benefited hugely? When Christianity in general is declining it’s no surprise that the biggest decline is going to be in the “default“ cultural church, while the “niche” churches with stronger if narrower identities decline less rapidly/steeply. Unless the Church of England wishes to… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
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What a surprise. Why would young people be attracted to an arm of the Evergreen club that as some see it provides a “safe space” for abusers, that denies biology, that lives in the past, and that is governed by yesterday’s men. I marvel at the spin that comes not only from Lambeth but also from diocesan officials about “pockets of growth” and similar Goebbelsisms, and conclude that annual returns (October figures etc) are fictional. Having recently reread Orwell’s 1984 I’m struck by ecclesiastical parallels, most especially newspeak.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Thank goodness. Fr Monkhouse has been resurrected.

Stanley Monkhouse
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FrDavidH: ascension to come. Some spots just have to be scratched.

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

The actual figures produced by the Church statistics department are certainly not fictional. As I’ve said before, the essential thing is to read past the press release and to look at the figures themselves. That is, unless you are training to be the sort of communications officer whose motto is “don’t confuse me with facts”.

Stanley Monkhouse
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Fictional perhaps in the sense that the parish officer who week by week records numbers in the book, or who forwards them to the officials (“what does online mean?”) adds a few “to make us look better”. According to a friend of mine (no, not me), we have a duty in filling in official forms to confound big brother wherever possible by not being accurate – unless there’s a danger of prosecution.

T Pott
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T Pott

As regards the British Social Attitudes survey is there any actual data available? The Summary seems to equate “following”, “belonging to” , “identifying as” and “describing themselves as”. Which was it? They are not the same. It seems to think a drop from 31% to 14% is a fall in numbers of more than a half, which given the rising population of “Brits” is probably not so, although allowing for rounding it could be. Presumably “Brits” includes Scottish, Irish and Welsh which is strange given the C of E is only for England. And if the sharpest decline is in… Read more »

Stacy
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Stacy

I find it interesting that the data talks about the 45-54 year old band and the response talks about young people have an increased willingness to engage in faith. How does that respond to the data as presented?

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

The summary tells us that 30% of over 65s identify as C of E, whereas only 2% of 18 to 24 year olds do so. Expressed crudely, this means that for every 30 C of E members that die, they are replaced by 2. A ratio of fifteen to one. The writing is on the wall. In the Catholic Church in England, I believe that the equivalent figures are more like one replacement for every two that die. Whilst the Catholics have nothing to boast about, their plight is far far less serious than the C of E. Someone has… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

A lot of the complexity comes from lumping everyone aged “over 65” into a single bucket. In era when life expectancy was 70, “over 65” was demographically pretty homogenous. Now, it’s a useless category. At one end: 90 year olds, born at the end of the 1920s, educated during the second world war, highly unlikely to have gone to university. Homosexuality and abortion illegal until they were nearly 40, children born long before reliable contraception was available, etc. At the other end: 65 year olds, born in 1953, slightly too _young_ for the Beatles in their heyday, educated in the… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

So if we add IO’s observations to Paul W’s analysis it makes things worse, because those dying will have a larger proportion than 30% of CofE.

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

I don’t disagree with a word that Interested Observer says. However, his observations make no difference to the fact that, according to the British Social Attitudes evidence, the C of E is losing 30 members at the top of the age range for every two for every two that enter at the bottom.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Clearly the rise of secularism has drowned out any meaningful message from the Church of England which thinks that singing worship songs at evangelical ‘meetings’ will appeal to an irreligious population. Mr Welby’s most notable pronouncements concern the now defunct pay-day lender Wonga and, more recently, a call for higher taxes. Little has been heard about a meaningful theology which might appeal to rational secularists who see religion as unscientific mumbo-jumbo. The CofE has become an insular club for a minority who like drums and guitars. It is taking years for bishops to produce a teaching document on human sexuality… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

The CoE’s reason for being — a “comprehensive” church for the nation — evaporated when England passed the Toleration Act in 1689. Thanks to establishment support, she lingered on for centuries, especially after the Methodists gave her a much-needed boost in the 18th and 19th centuries. But after Christendom was blown apart in WWI, never to recover, this was always gonna happen, and now it’s time has come, it’ll happen fast. We must remember that the institution isn’t the religion: English Christianity may well revive, but only when it’s freed of the millstone dragging it down. Her time is past.

CRS
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CRS

Thank you, millstone is just what — a “comprehensive” church for the nation?

James Byron
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James Byron

The remnants of that long-abandoned desire for religious comprehension have left a church in a perpetual identity crisis, Balkanized into warring factions that barely believe one another to be proper Christians, don’t mix, and are constantly looking for an opportunity to rout their opponents and take the crown. All the while, the CoE’s financial and cultural dominance prevents “nonconformist” denominations from ever really taking off in England. Worst of all worlds. It’d be much better if the religious monopoly were ended, and England at last had a truly free market in religion. The various branches of Christianity would could then… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Je suis d’accord entiérement.

Tim Cnesterton
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I absolutely agree with this.

Bernard
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Bernard

So do I. Imagine if all the energy (and human and material resources) expended on trying to reach agreement on issues where we aren’t going to agree were more constructively directed.

Roderick Gillis
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Roderick Gillis

“It’d be much better if the religious monopoly were ended, and England at last had a truly free market in religion.” Yeah, if only the government would end farm subsidies, then the small independent turnip farmer could get some market share ( :

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

Methodism hardly gave support to the Established Church. It became a new denomination at a time when the “Old Dissent” was also re- invigorated. In 1760 90%of english people were technically C of E …by the 1851 Religious census C of E churchgoers were third, Nonconformists another third and the other third non-attenders.

James Byron
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James Byron

Regarding Methodism, I wasn’t referring to direct support (although, however strained relations get, the two churches have always been close), but the CoE indirectly benefiting from the Wesleyan religious revival, particularly as evangelicalism filtered in. Just compare the dismal state of the early Hanoverian church, derided as a dumping ground for second sons (Hogarth had this down to an art), to the muscular Christianity of the Victorians.

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

Most recent historians of the Church of England would reject the sweeping suggestions that its state was “dismal” (see e.g. contributors to the recent Oxford History of Anglicanism). The Australian situation is not the same, of course, but as an hon. hospital chaplain for almost 20 years, those identifying as Christian remain overwhelmingly the majority of patients – C.of E. by far the second largest group, next to RCs, though of course a hospital has comparatively few young people. The number stating “no religion” has increased in recent years but “no religion” can mean various things, e.g. not identified with… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I’m sure they would, since, to stay in gainful employment, historians must revise accepted opinion every decade or two. Few years back, t’was the fashion to declare that the American Revolution had nothing to do with politics, but was driven by what the English used to refer to as religious enthusiasm. Maybe the CoE reassessment will stick for a while, we’ll see in due course.

Personally, I’d put most weight in the actions of the early 19th century church reformers: even if the institution wasn’t really in crisis, its members certainly thought that it was.

Agreed about the nebulous “no religion.”

T Pott
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T Pott

David Male (Evangelism and Discipleship) says the Church exists to share the good news of Jesus Christ, which he claims is not easy. In a country with eleven years schooling, Christian for a thousand years, very high literacy and churches everywhere, how hard can it be? What is meant presumably, is that it is difficult to get his particular spin on the good news accepted, what James Byron so well describes as balkanisation. The Church of England exists to minister to the spiritual needs of the people of England. Part of people feeling they do not belong to the Church… Read more »

april
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april

The theories of the clueless abound here. I am one of those who does not self identify as an Anglican anymore. I havent done so for a number of years in fact. Before that I went to Church every Sunday ( twice), went to mid week Bible Study and house groups. I went to youth group when I was a little younger. Now I have joined the many who go nowhere and do nothing on Sundays. ( I have not given up my Christian faith, just my Anglicanism and religious practice in general….) But has anyone ever asked me why… Read more »