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Church of England halves in fifteen years in 'unrelenting decline'

Church of England halves in fifteen years in 'unrelenting decline'
Fewer than one in seven are Church of England followers, it has been revealed
The CofE following has dropped by half in just 15 years, new figures show
Church leaders say young people are faithful but do not select denominations

6 September 2018

The number of people pledging allegiance to the Church of England has halved in just 15 years, researchers said yesterday.

Fewer than one in seven now say they belong to the CofE after its following dropped from 31 per cent to 14 per cent between 2002 and 2017.

Allegiance has slipped from 16 per cent since the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, took up his post in 2013.

The British Social Attitudes survey said the loss of support has been worst among young people, with only one in 50 in the 18 to 24 age group identifying with the CofE.

Church leaders said the figures gave 'only part of the picture'. They added that many, especially the younger generation, were less aware of denominations but more willing to engage in faith.

Church of England congregations are dwindling as the number of followers halves in fifteen years, it has been claimed

The survey carried out annually with the help of Whitehall departments said ever-larger numbers of people are declaring themselves as without religion.

But the CofE's decline has been faster than other Christian denominations, which have remained 'fairly stable', it said. The figure for those seeing themselves as Roman Catholic was 8 per cent while 10 per cent said they belong to other Christian groups and 8 per cent aligned with non-Christian faiths.

Catholics are twice as likely to attend a service compared to Anglicans, with 42 per cent going once a month against 21 per cent of Anglicans.

Roger Harding, of the NatCen research group which carried out the survey, said: 'Our figures show an unrelenting decline in Church of England numbers. While the figures are starkest among younger people, in every age group the biggest group are those identifying with no religion.

'We know that views are becoming more socially liberal. With growing numbers belonging to no religion, faith leaders will no doubt be considering how to better connect to a changing society.' The steepest fall in those saying they were part of the CofE was among people aged 45 to 54, with the level dropping from 35 per cent to 11 per cent from 2002 to last year.

In the same period, those aged 18 to 24 saying they had no religion rose from 56 to 70 per cent.

In response to the report, Dave Male, CofE director of evangelism and discipleship, said: 'The headline figure here only gives us part of the picture. It has been clear for some time that we have moved from an era of people automatically classifying themselves as Church of England or Anglican to one in which identifying with a faith is an active choice.

The number of people who are faithful is higher than figures suggest, according to the church, whose leaders said younger people to not select a denomination

'People are less aware of denominations. Yet research shows an increase in willingness to engage in faith. People of all ages have not stopped searching for meaning and answers in their life.' Church officials said 1.1million people go to a CofE church to pray during a typical month. There are also 1.2million followers each month who pray online.

The attitudes survey found the numbers holding allegiance to non-Christian religions has risen from 2 per cent in 1983 to 8 per cent in 2017.

The report does not break this down but the 2011 census gave the total for Muslims in England and Wales as 2.71million and 817,000 for Hindus. The other main faiths were Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism.

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