Church of England

"No religion" outnumbers Christianity in England and Wales for the first time

Justin Welby

Justin Welby

No-one is making any inroads at all into the non-religious population or non-Christian religions. The vast majority of all ‘conversion’ is inter-denominational musical chairs.

Dr Stephen Bullivant

For the first time on record people of no religion outnumber Christians in England and Wales.

No religion beats Christian in England and Wales

No religion beats Christian in England and Wales

The proportion of people who identify as having no religion has risen from 25% in 2011 to 48.5% in 2014.(It’s important to note that saying you have “no religion” does not equate to saying you are an atheist.)

  • London has the highest proportion of people who say they are religious due mainly to having high levels of people who identify with non-Christian religions.
  • Wales has the highest proportion who say they have no religion, largely due to the low number of immigrants.
  • The Christian population is ageing, half of all Christians in England and Wales are over 55 [ed. what’s wrong with that!]
  • The proportion of the population who describe themselves as Anglican plunged from 44.5% in 1983 to 19% in 2014.
  • While over a third of the population* were brought up Anglican, only a fifth now identify as such
  • For every new member they gain, churches are losing eleven existing members.
  • Most new members are Christians swapping from other denominations.

The Church of England expects attendance to continue to fall for another 30 years as its congregations age and the millennial generation spurns the institutions of faith.

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury (above) has urged Christians not talk to people about their faith unless they are actively invited to do so.

Download the report.

Church of England — the decline will last at least 30 years

Between 2012 and 2014, the proportion of Britons identifying themselves as Anglican dropped from 21% to 17%–a fall of about 1.7 million people.

Over the same period, the number of Muslims in Britain grew by nearly one million.

Previously the church hoped to turn the decline around within five years. Now it’s 30 years — at least.

The Church of England is facing at least another 30 years of decline according to internal projections revealed for the first time.

Even if it sees an influx of young people to services, the sheer numbers of older worshippers dying in the next few decades mean it is unlikely to see any overall growth in attendances until the middle of this century, officials now believe.

The stark calculations were revealed during discussions at the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which has been meeting in London, about ambitious plans to tackle declining numbers.

It is preparing to pump £72 million into a “reform and renewal” drive which includes plans to ordain 6,000 more clergy in the 2020s to build a younger priesthood which is less male dominated and less white.

So approaching the year 2050, after generations of decline, the Anglican church will somehow spring back to life.

Bad news: Only 19% want to know about Jesus. Good news: 19% want to know about Jesus!

Finally some evidence to back up our silence,

The Church of England is set to signal to members that speaking openly about their faith could do more harm than good when it comes to spreading Christianity.

Stark new research findings being presented to members of the Church’s ruling General Synod suggest that practising Christians who talk to friends and colleagues about their beliefs are three times as likely to put them off God as to attract them.

The numbers confirm it,

Non-believers were asked if a practising Christian had ever spoken to them about their faith. Of those who said yes, only 19 per cent said it made them want to know more compared with 59 per cent who said the opposite. While 23 per cent said it made them feel “more positive towards Jesus Christ”, 30 per cent said it left them feeling more negative.

If only Jesus had known these facts, he would never have spoken to the rich young ruler, or preached in the synagogue at Nazareth. Think of all the Pharisees he upset! Peter and John would have saved themselves imprisonment and a beating. Paul would have avoided all the damage he did in Arabia, and on Mars Hill, and the riot he caused in Jerusalem which led to his arrest and ultimate execution.

If only Jesus, Peter, Paul had had the advantage of opinion polls to guide their mission. Instead they went looking for the 19% who wanted to know more.

Can good management save the Church of England?

A report from the Spectator 

A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken. This action, laid out in a flurry of high-level reports, amounts to the biggest institutional shake-up since the 1990s. Red tape is to be cut, processes streamlined, resources optimised. Targets have been set. The Church is ill — and business management is going to cure it.

Reformers say they are only removing obstacles that hinder the Church from growing. Opponents, appalled by the business-speak of some of the reports, object to what they see as a ruthless focus on filling pews.

According to the report two reforms in particular have generated headlines.

One is the plan to swipe £100 million from the Church’s investments to pay for more priests (target: a 50 per cent increase in trainee clergy by 2020).

The other is to give business-school training to bishops and deans and, more controversially, to identify a ‘talent pool’ of future leaders — in the official language, people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’.

What can we say about all this from a movements perspective?

The Anglican church is right to be worried. All the signs are evident of institutional decline and decay.  Even worse, they are lagging indicators of a  demise that has been going on for a long time and there are no signs that it is going away.

On the not necessarily brighter side, religious institutions are incredibly resilient. Even if the trends show a terminal decline, life is more complicated than statistical predictions. The Anglican church is likely to be around for a very long time.

The Anglican church in Britain is not a movement. Movements risk what they have for a cause beyond themselves. Institutions protect what they have for their own survival.

By all means, cut red tape and rationalise resources. Sure this is good business practice, it’s also good family practice, good sporting club practice, good local school practice. Nothing wrong with that.

What about spending £100 million for a 50% increase trainee clergy by 2020?

More paid clergy does not equate to more and better leadership for the church of England. Dynamic movements are led by “lay” people unencumbered by traditional constrains. Yes, John Wesley was an ordained Anglican clergyman, but overwhelmingly the Methodist movement was led by ordinary people who did extraordinary things. They signed up for a cause, not a career.

The plan is to identify a talent pool of future leaders and develop people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’. But what on earth does that mean?

So Jesus walks up to a bunch of ordinary fishermen mending their nets and says, ‘Lads, I’m looking for some people with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact.’ And they left everything and followed him.

Jesus didn’t commission any reports on the decline of God’s people. He didn’t have access to £100 million pounds to invest in future leaders. He wasn’t trying to save an institution. If there is any hope for new life in a declining institution it is by making an innovative return to tradition. Get back to first things—what did Jesus do? What did he train the Twelve to do? What did the risen Lord empower Paul and the early church to do in Acts and the Epistles? Get back to that heritage and ask, What does that look like today?

Mission is not about us, or saving our institutions. It is about God revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s mission is always advanced when his people obey his call and put their hope in the power of the Gospel — his dynamic Word, and the Spirit — his dynamic presence. Obedience to the Great Commission is just the beginning. God has not given up on Britain.

UPDATE: Church of England defends sale of assets for recruitment plan


Archbishops of Canterbury and York warn of Anglican collapse

John Sentamu & Justin Welby

John Sentamu & Justin Welby

From John Bingham at the Daily Telegraph:

The Church of England will no longer be able to carry on its current form unless the downward spiral its membership is reversed “as a matter of urgency”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned.

It could face a dramatic shortage of priests within a decade as almost half of the current clergy retire, according to the Most Rev Justin Welby and Dr John Sentamu.

Meanwhile dwindling numbers in the pews will inevitably plunge the Church into a financial crisis as it grapples with the “burden” of maintaining thousands of historic buildings, they insisted.

But the two archbishops also called for the Church to invest more in building up its presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get its message across online as part of a “major programme of renewal and reform”.

Sunday attendances have halved to just 800,000 in the last 40 years – although the Church has previously claimed the decline has been levelling off in recent years.

Every year the figures are released, reports are written, and statements are made.

One thing for sure, this is not the solution:

If the Church of England is to return to growth, there is a compelling need to realign resources and work carefully to ensure that scarce funds are used to best effect.

Nor is this:

Last year The Rt Rev Christopher Goldsmith, the Bishop of St Germans, in Cornwall, warned that the church in the areas was facing a “death spiral” unless parishioners put more money in the offering plate.

This is not the real problem:

[The Archbishops] said the Church’s current arrangements for deciding each diocese’s allotment of clergy and cash are increasingly viewed as out of date and widely ignored.

Nor is this:

There is no central investment in reaching out into the digital and social media world.

No answer here:

The burden of church buildings weighs heavily and reorganisation at parish level is complicated by current procedures.

Perhaps it’s time for General Synod to reconsider progress on Challenges for the Quinquennium. That makes 21 things to do while you’re not multiplying disciples and churches.

The burden of buildings is crushing the Church of England


There’s a debate in Britain right now over whether it still is or a “Christian” country. There’s no doubting Britain Christian heritage. Wherever you go you’ll find church buildings dating back hundreds, even a thousand years or more. 

There’s a downside. The cost of repairing all England’s 14,500 listed places of worship is almost £1,000,000,000. Who is going to pay the bill? Church attendance is declining and the age of parishioners is rising.

Here’s a legal solution that just may dampen the ability of a local church to reach its community…

The Church of England has been denounced as “evil” and “unholy” as parishes around the country enforce an archaic law dating to Henry VIII’s reign telling unwitting residents they could face bills exceeding £100,000 for building repairs.

At least 250 Parochial Church Councils, who administer Anglican parishes, have registered Chancel Repair Liability (CRL) against 12,000 properties where ancient deeds permit this. Under the medieval law affected landowners, whether or not they are Anglicans let alone Christians, can be liable for repair of their local Anglican church if built before 1536 even though this was not shown in their deeds when they purchased the property.

Andrew and Gail Wallbank became responsible for maintaining 13th century St John the Baptist Church in Aston Cantlow, Stratford, when they inherited a farm. After centuries of not being enforced the local PCC invoked the liability in 1990 demanding £100,000. Their 18-year legal battle ended in 2009 with the Law Lords ruling in the PCC’s favour landing the Wallbanks with an overall bill of £350,000. They auctioned the farm to pay for their costs.

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(Thanks to readers Dave and Jay)