Nominal religion is swiftly becoming 'no religion', says Church leader

PA

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has said that churches need to change if they are to reverse the decline in religious affiliation in Scotland.

Bishop David Chillingworth was responding to the latest figures from the 2011 Census, which revealed that in Scotland, 54% of people identify themselves as Christian, a decrease of 11% since 2001.

At the same time, the number identifying themselves as atheist has risen by 9% over the last 10 years to 37% today.

"The figures for religious affiliation in Scotland are a significant challenge for churches. Nominal membership of traditional churches is swiftly changing into 'no religion'," said Bishop Chillingworth.

"The reasons are clear. Traditional patterns of church life have difficulty attracting people in a mobile, fast-changing and increasingly sophisticated society. Congregations are communities of affection which gather in time-hallowed buildings and they find change challenging."

However, he went on to say that all was "far from lost" for Scottish churches, with a majority of Scots still identifying themselves as Christian.

He suggested churches needed to be more open and creative, and see the present situation as a "mission opportunity".

"Rising levels of interest in spirituality - evidenced by growing interest in pilgrimage, prayer and other faith-related activity - show that many people are searching for depth and meaning in their lives," he said.

"Many are open to exploring discipleship even if they are unlikely to become church members in the traditional sense.

"Churches need to change and I welcome that. We need to become more creative and flexible. We need to think less about surviving and more about thriving.

"We need to help people to develop their experience of the spiritual. And we need to learn to work together in mission to this new kind of society."

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