Churchgoing on its knees as Christianity falls out of favour

May 8, 2008 by

By Ruth Gledhill, The Times Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests. The fall – from the four million people who attend church at least once a month today – means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. A lack of funds from the collection plate to support the Christian infrastructure, including church upkeep and ministers’ pay and pensions, will force church closures as ageing congregations die. In contrast, the number of actively religious Muslims will have increased from about one million today to 1.96 million in 2035. According to Religious Trends, a comprehensive statistical analysis of religious practice in Britain, published by Christian Research, even Hindus will come close to outnumbering churchgoers within a generation. The forecast to 2050 shows churchgoing in Britain declining to 899,000 while the active Hindu population, now at nearly 400,000, will have more than doubled to 855,000. By 2050 there will be 2,660,000 active Muslims in Britain – nearly three times the number of Sunday churchgoers. The research is based on analysis of membership and attendance of all the religious bodies in Britain, including a church census in 2005. Coming just months after the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that the introduction of aspects of sharia into British law was unavoidable, the report is likely to fuel calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Martin Salter, the Labour MP for Reading West and a member of Reading inter-faith group, said: “I think all faiths could be treated equally under our constitution. These figures demonstrate the absurdity of favouring one brand of Christianity over other parts of the Christian faith and the many other religions that grace our shores.” Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary with responsibility for community cohesion, said: “We will look at these findings very closely. Britain is a secular democracy with a strong Christian tradition but many faiths have a home in Britain.” The report makes it clear that Christianity is becoming a minority religion. It also reflects the changing nature of religious practice worldwide and will further aid the stated aim of the Prince of Wales who, on his Coronation, hopes to become Defender of Faith rather than Defender of the Faith. Only in the large, evangelical churches of the Baptist and independent denominations is there resistance to the trend, but many of these churches also show some decline. One small area of growth is in Northern Ireland, where the enthusiasm of Pentecostals and other independents has led to a slight increase in numbers of churches – a trend expected to continue to 2050. The three growing denominations are the Orthodox, Pentecostals and smaller denominations, all dependent to a degree on immigration. The crisis is particularly acute for Methodists and Presbyterians, as many worshippers are aged over 65. The report predicts that these churches might well have merged with others by 2030....

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MPs remove free speech clause from 'gay hate' law

May 7, 2008 by

From The Christian Institute The Government last night succeeded in deleting a free speech protection from its proposed homophobic hatred offence. But the House of Lords has another chance to reinsert one tonight. MPs in the House of Commons backed a Government motion to delete the free speech amendment. They voted 338 to 136. The Government will attempt to address concerns by tabling a different amendment in the Lords tonight which would require the Government to publish statutory guidance on the new law. But critics say this falls short of the protection which would be offered by a specific free speech protection written into the Bill. The Lords will have an opportunity to reinsert the free speech protection tonight. The protection seeks to make it clear that criticising homosexual practice or urging people to refrain from such conduct will not, in itself, be a crime. The amendment says, "for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred." But the Government says the amendment is not necessary because the law has a high threshold which only catches threatening words or behaviour intended to stir up hatred. Opponents disagree. They say that a free speech clause is needed because overzealous police officers have misapplied laws in the past and investigated incidents that are not criminal. Andrew Selous MP warned of overzelous police action. Speaking in last night’s Commons debate, Conservative MP Andrew Selous said: "An elderly pensioner couple, a bishop of the Church of England, a Roman Catholic archbishop, a leading Muslim figure and a leading author have been investigated by the police, and when that happens people worry about the nature of our society." The Government claims that people need not worry becasue the Attorney General must approve prosecutions and will have a duty to consider European Convention rights on free speech and religious liberty. However, Ann Widdecombe MP pointed out: "The cases cited by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) did not reach the Attorney-General. They did not come under her discretion, and the convention on human rights did not apply, as they were dealt with at a much lower level, by the police. "One reason to put something explicit on the face of the Bill is to ensure that the need to have regard for religious freedom and freedom of conscience is taken into account at all levels." Ann Widdecombe MP said free speech needs to be taken into account at all levels. Minister of State, Maria Eagle said: "We have looked carefully at some of the examples cited in which the police have allegedly been over-zealous in investigating incidents; the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) referred to some of them. "I think that we would...

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No Pulpit Ban for Bishop Robinson

May 3, 2008 by

From The Living Church Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has not been banned from pulpits in the Church of England according to a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who denied press speculation that the Archbishop Rowan Williams was attempting to silence Bishop Robinson. A press officer confirmed on May 2 that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had not issued Bishop Robinson a license to officiate in the Province of Canterbury. However, Church of England canon law does not grant the archbishop the authority to ban preachers, the spokesman noted. While traveling in Britain to promote his book, Bishop Robinson told the BBC “in the past [Archbishop Williams] has… declined to give me permission to preach and to celebrate the Holy Communion and I would never do so without his permission.” Episcopal News Service reported April 30 that Archbishop Williams would not permit Bishop Robinson “to preach or preside at a Eucharist while he is in England, according to reports.” Under the Church of England’s Canon C17.6 “by statute law it belongs to the archbishop to give permission to officiate within his province to any minister who has been ordained” by an “overseas” province of the Anglican Communion. All visiting clergy who seek to perform the sacraments within the Province of Canterbury must secure the permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The same rules apply for the Province of York in the northern part of England. But another canon gives the authority to preach to a parish incumbent, with the permission of the diocesan bishop. Bishop Robinson has sought permission to officiate in the past and Archbishop Williams has declined to accede to the request, the spokesman said. Bishop Robinson broached the topic again in a letter to Archbishop Williams, seeking permission to officiate in the province this summer and seeking his endorsement to preach. Archbishop Williams again declined to license Bishop Robinson to officiate, and had given “no endorsement for any of the invitations [Bishop Robinson] has received” to preach, said the Rev. Jonathan Jennings, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s press secretary. The Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishop of York, said he was unaware of any request from Bishop Robinson to officiate in the Province of York. (The Rev.) George Conger...

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Williams won't allow Robinson to function as priest in England

Apr 30, 2008 by

From Episcopal Cafe Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning. Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August. The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates’ statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson’s episcopacy, not his priesthood. Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams’ ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate. The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion. Read the article HERE....

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Peter Jensen interviewed on ABC Radio

Apr 17, 2008 by

From Anglican Church League, Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen was interviewed by Richard Glover on ABC Radio in Sydney yesterday. The topic was sexuality and the controversy over the Anglican Church of England Grammar School in Brisbane. The interview runs for 12 minutes and may be heard at the ABC Sydney website. also has a roundup on the latest....

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The Shrinking Church of England

Apr 16, 2008 by

By David W. Virtue 4/8/2008 The Church of England (CofE) is shrinking even as its leaders argue over whether women priests should become bishops and if homosexual behavior is acceptable among its clergy. Provisional numbers attending on any given Sunday during 2006, and also the latest edition of "Population Trends", a report from the UK’s National Statistics Office, reveal that the CofE has been declining in Sunday attendance at least since 1970. In his blog (Anselmic’s Place) The Rev. Lee Proudlove, a CMS Mission Partner in CEBU, said that the figures are "worrying at least for the future of the Church of England." Each year on the same Sunday, every parish counts how many people there are "in the pews." Naturally, membership and regular attendance numbers are different, but it is a good guide to the health of the church and enables comparison of trends across the years. Recently, the method of collecting this was changed slightly. Now an average is taken across four Sundays for greater accuracy, but it doesn’t make much difference in the numbers. Since 1968, the record of Usual Sunday Attendance has gone from 1.6 million to something less than 900,000 in 2005. In 2006 the attendance is down just -1.14% from 2005. In the 1970’s, the church lost about 30,000 members per year. In the 80’s, it decelerated to around 10,000 members per year. In the 90’s, the loss was around 10,000 members per year. In the 35 years from 1971 to 2006, the Church of England has declined by 43.5%. It has just about halved in terms of its Sunday attendance. Church attendance has been declining as the population of England has been growing. The latest edition of "’Population Trends"’ has revised figures for the population of England based on more accurate fertility rates and taking into account the latest figures on immigration. Based on this report, the Church of England has been shrinking little by little over the last 35 years while the population of England has been growing little by little. In the 35 years from 1971 to 2006, the Population of England has grown by 9.37% that is about a tenth. The chart reveals that the growth in population has been relatively steady, as has the decline in attendance in the Church of England. Neither of these two trends could realistically be dismissed as "blips" or "uncharacteristic".Both should give serious pause for thought to everyone concerned about the life, vitality, and future of the Church of England, says Proudlove. What about the future? If the predictions are accurate, in the next 15 years the English population will have grown by 12% while the church will have declined by another 230,000 people (26%). To compare with the baseline of 1970/1, by 2031 the population will have grown by 30% and the Church of England declined by 65%. The ratio of Anglicans to the rest of the English population looks like this: 1970 – 1 in 30 were in the Church...

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