English Church Census 2005 Reveals Hope Amid Further Decline

The 2005 English Church Census has been published this week, with the news that Church congregations in England continue to decrease at an alarming rate of 2.3 per cent per year.

The research, conducted by Christian Research, came after a survey was distributed to all 37,500 known churches in England in May 2005, with approximately 50 per cent responding.

The title being given to the research is 'Pulling Out of the Nosedive', referring to the lower rate of decline found compared to the 2.7 per cent a year that occured in the 1990's.

It has been seven years since the last survey, and since that time a 15 per cent overall decline has been witnessed, with various denominations faring differently.

The Church of England for instance declined only 11 per cent over the past seven years - 4 per cent better than the average.

The Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches were the denominations most severely affected by the decline in attendance numbers.

|QUOTE|It was not all doom and gloom however, as a significant rise in congregants at Pentecostal Churches was seen by the census.

The figures reveal that the Methodist Church in England has now dropped to the fourth most attended denomination in the Church, falling behind the Pentecostal Church.

It is believed that if the current trends continue, the Church of England will overtake the Roman Catholic Church as the largest denomination in England within four years.

Ethnicity was also an interesting factor in the figures, with black-majority churches, especially those that attract immigrants, having grown considerably over the past seven years. It was also shown that about 10 per cent of all churchgoers in England that responded to the survey were now of non-white ethnic origin.

The Evangelical Church saw a 9 per cent decline in attendance, but shockingly the figure rose to 17 per cent if non-white Evangelical congregants were taken out of the equation.

London did offer a sign of hope in the figures, but the city is showing signs of a large cultural shift as 44 per cent of churchgoers in the country's capital were non-white. London is home to 11 per cent of all churches in England, but holds 20 per cent of the total Church congregants across the country.

Looking at youthful congregants, London is the place where 57 per cent of all English congregants in their 20s attend church. The Director of Christian Research, Peter Brierley said, "I couldn't believe that figure myself, and had to check it again."

London was not the only region in the country that saw significant growth, as Anglican Churches in Herefordshire grew by 4 per cent, and Kent also by 1 per cent.