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Church attendance

July 2015

Declining attendance at the Church of England has accelerated over the past ten years, data from the NatCen Social Research has revealed.

According to the figures, the Church of England (CofE) has been in decline for the past 30 years. And, over the past decade, this has sped up considerably, with far fewer people in the country classing themselves as Anglican. The organisation’s British Social Attitudes survey revealed that, although, in 1983, 40 per cent of British adults claimed they were Anglican, this figure had fallen to just 17 per cent in 2014.

The number of Anglicans in Britain fell by as many as 4.5 million over the past ten years, from about 13 million to 8.5 million people. By contrast, atheism has risen slowly, from 31 per cent in 1983 to 49 per cent by 2014.

Yet the survey also revealed other Christian denominations have remained fairly stable over the past 30 years. NatCen Social Research found that Roman Catholics, and those grouped together as ‘other’ (including Methodists, Presbyterians and non-denominational Christians), made up 8 per cent and 17 per cent of the population respectively — little different to data from 1983.

The fastest-growing religion in the UK is Islam, rising from 2 per cent in 1983 to 8 per cent in 2014.

In a statement, Naomi Jones, head of social attitudes for NatCen Social Research, said, ‘We know from previous analysis of British Social Attitudes that the main explanation for the increase in British people saying they are not religious is generational displacement. ‘In other words, each generation is less religious than the next, so, as older generations die, the overall population becomes less religious. But this does not explain why the Anglican Church alone continues to decline’.

One explanation might be that the numbers of Catholic and non-Christian people in Britain may have been supplemented by migrants with strong religious beliefs, or that people do not now identify being ‘British’ as being ‘Christian’.