Number of Christians in England and Wales falls to half the population

(Photo: Unsplash/François Genon)

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed a marked decline in the number of people identifying as Christian in England and Wales.

Figures from 2019 show that only 51 per cent are Christian, while those with no religion account for over a third.

It marks a considerable drop from the 2011 Census, when Christians made up 59 per cent of the population.

The fall in Christian affiliation coincides with an increase in those recording no religion, which has grown from 32.3 per cent in 2011 to 38.4 per cent now. 

Young adults accounted for the smallest proportion of Christians - 35.2 per cent of 20- to 29-year-olds, and 39.8 per cent of 30- to 39-year-olds.

This compared to two thirds of 60- to 69-year-olds, just under three quarters (74.6 per cent) of 70- to 79-year-olds, and 81 per cent of those aged 80 and over. 

By contrast, over half (53.4 per cent) of 20- to 29-year-olds said they do not have any religion, followed by 30- to 39-year-olds (46.3 per cent). 

The proportion of Muslims in England and Wales saw a small increase from 4.83 per cent to 5.67 per cent.

The results of the 2021 Census are due to be published next year and are expected to show a further decline in Christian identification.

A snapshot of the Church of England's in-person services in October 2020, during a lull in lockdowns, showed attendance to be 57 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The Church's figures for 2020 also show a 7 per cent drop in the worshipping community on the previous year.

A spokesperson for the Church said the figures were "very much in line with expectations and really underline the scale of the challenge churches faced in the first year of the pandemic".

The Church of England has been grappling with a steadily declining attendance for many years and as part of its response has launched a Vision and Strategy to double the number of children and young people in its churches, and attract more diverse congregations.

Reflecting these priorities, the Church announced this month that it would be investing nearly £5m in supporting projects in its dioceses aimed at reaching younger and more diverse groups. 

Debbie Clinton, Co-Director for the Church of England's Vision and Strategy, said: "Becoming a church that is younger and more diverse emerged as a clear priority for the Church of England as part of its Vision and Strategy for the next ten years."