National Church census abandoned after CofE pulls out


A national count of churchgoers in England has been abandoned after the Church of England pulled out.

The established church decided not to take part because of the additional "burden" that doing a count of worshippers would have placed on thousands of parishes across the country.

Jim Currin from Churches Together in England, the ecumenical group that was organising the census, said in a statement: "It has become clear that despite the commitment of denominations around the table and dedicated website to capture information electronically, national church leaders and the steering group recognise that there remains too much still to be done in too short a time, resulting in the issue that the data will not be either accurate or useful enough for the aims of a national census planned for October 2016. I am sorry to say that this means we will not now proceed with the Church Census 2016."

A Church of England spokesman told Christian Today that "conversations" had taken place at the admininstrative headquarters, Church House in Westminster, London, and also with the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who chairs the census steering group.

The spokesman said: "The census would have required churches to identify champions for distribution and collection of forms and data entry. We have concluded that the census would have put a burden on our parishes at a time when we are seeking to lighten the load. Our priority now is to improve the collection, reporting and analysis of existing data, rather than adding another data collection requirement. We remain committed to the use of data and statistics to inform decision making, with the annual Faith in Research conference due to take place next week in Birmingham on 18 May."

The Church Times reported that the census had been dropped due to growing concerns over the administrative workload and time constraints.

There have been three previous church censuses in England, taking in all denominations, but none in the last ten years. The United Reformed Church pulled out in March.

According to latest official Government Census in 2011, Christianity remains largest religion in England and Wales, but numbers are in decline. Muslims are the next biggest religious group and have grown, while those reporting no religion has reached a quarter of the population. In 2011 Christians made up 59.3 per cent of the population compared to 71.7 per cent a decade earlier.