Church of Ireland 'might as well close' if it can't stop decline, says Archbishop

Archbishop Richard Clarke said the Church of Ireland must "relate to reality".Reuters

Only 15 per cent of Irish Anglicans attend church on Sundays – and unless the situation improves, "we may as well close the doors now", according to the leader of the Church of Ireland.

Speaking at the General Synod in Armagh last week after a survey showed that only 58,000 out of the claimed membership of 378,000 actually attend services, Archbishop Richard Clarke said: "The statistics present the scale of the missional challenge ahead of us as a Church, but nevertheless it is one that if we cannot embrace it with confidence and hope, we may as well close the doors of our churches now.

"We must relate to reality, and we must relate to the future ahead of us."

The survey counted the numbers attending on each of three Sundays in November 2013, reports the Belfast Telegraph. The Archbishop admitted that the methodology was potentially flawed because it was not clear whether it was the same 58,000 who attended each time.

"This seems unlikely, but we would be unwise in the extreme to assume that there was little or no overlap," he said.

The survey also shows that only 13 per cent of those attending are between the ages of 12 and 30, with 19 per cent between 46 and 60 and 24 per cent aged from 61-74.