Anglican/Episcopal

"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.

Newbigin's shift — from a traditional to a movements paradigm

 
Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin

I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.
— Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin was one of the great missionary statesmen of the 20th Century. He spent much of his life in India. He began with a tradition paradigm of ministry that relied on foreign workers, funding and supervision. He soon discovered its limitations.

I have lived and worked as a missionary within the structure typical of modern missions, responsible for the conduct of institutions, for the supervision of Indian workers, for the employment and control of teachers and others in charge of congregations. I have seen this system come to a practical standstill: funds were not available to increase the number of salaried workers. ... Only if some fresh resources came from ‘home’ could the mission become a mission again. As it was, it was plain that any talk of ‘winning India for Christ’ was not serious. I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.

Rather than fix what was broken, Newbigin became a careful observer of what God was doing on the fringes.

The answer came through various experiences. Firstly, through seeing how ordinary lads from village congregations ... could themselves become active witnesses and evangelists among their comrades. Secondly, through learning to call on the services of all kinds of lay men and women as volunteer pastors and evangelists for the village congregations left without the guidance of a full-time worker. And thirdly, most decisively, through the experience of a small group-movement in a very backward area where the Gospel had only recently been preached for the first time. ...

Here’s what happened next…

the churches began to multiply themselves by a kind of spontaneous growth which was not dependent upon increasing outside resources. In an area almost entirely pagan, the number of Christian congregations rose from thirteen to fifty-five in twelve years. ... In the midst of a movement of this kind, one could speak seriously about winning India for Christ.

Lesslie Newbigin, Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission (London: Paternoster Press, 1998), 74-77.

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

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2067: the end of British Christianity

The Spectator announces the end of Christianity in Britain. Don’t worry, it’s over 50 years away.

It’s often said that Britain’s church congregations are shrinking, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the scale of the disaster now facing Christianity in this country. Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.

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London supplies England with wealth, culture—and, increasingly, Christians

NewImage 

It’s not all doom and gloom. The Economist reports on signs of life in the UK church.

Since the late 1960s overall church attendance in Britain has dropped steadily, along with adherence to the Christian faith. The proportion of people calling themselves Anglican fell from 40% in 1983 to 20% in 2012.

But in pockets, mostly in London and the south-east, churches are thriving.

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According to the article, church planting is an American invention.