The indefatigable Dr Peter Brierley has done it again! For almost 40 years he has towered over the UK religious statistical scene, authoring a series of influential books and reports aimed at specialist and generalist audiences.
Now we must salute him for pulling another quantitative rabbit out of the hat, in the shape of his UK Church Statistics, 2005-2015 (Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2011, 136pp., ISBN 978-0-9566577-2-5).
At first glance, this densely-printed and sectionalized A4 volume might easily be mistaken as the continuation of the UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends, seven printed editions of which were produced by Brierley during his time as Director of Christian Research, the last volume in 2008.
In fact, the successor management at Christian Research has its own continuation in the form of Religious Trends Online. This has been making fairly slow progress since its launch six months ago. It is only accessible to paid-up members of Christian Research. See BRIN’s coverage at: http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=815
UK Church Statistics, 2005-2015 is underpinned by a fresh compilation of the number of churches, ministers and members in the UK, conducted by Brierley in mid-2010 by means of a form sent to each denomination, large and small.
Missing data were either estimated from previous figures or repeated from the last edition of Religious Trends, as explained in the notes to each set of tables. In this way, statistics are given for each denomination for each year between 2005 and 2010, with a forecast for 2015, and disaggregated by the four home nations.
Overall, there were 340 Christian denominations in the UK in 2010 (as against 275 four years earlier), with 50,700 churches or congregations (2% more than in 2005), served by 36,600 ministers (4% up on 2005), and with 5,515,000 members.
Membership, as applied by Brierley, is a composite measure, with church attenders substituted for denominations which have no concept of membership (such as Roman Catholics and most New Churches and Pentecostal churches).
Church membership in 2010 was equivalent to 11% of the population, the proportion having declined fairly consistently since 1900 (when Brierley reckons it as 33%). There has been a UK-wide fall of 6% since 2005.
Membership has been static in England between 2005 and 2010, increases in the New Churches, Orthodox churches and Pentecostal churches offsetting decreases in the traditional mainline denominations (with Methodists shrinking fastest).
By contrast, membership in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland fell by 15% during the quinquennium, largely due to decreases in the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church in Northern Ireland.
UK religious statistics besides churches, ministers and members are also covered more selectively, where available from denominational or other sources. They relate to matters such as church attendance, rites of passage, religious affiliation, religious bookshops and book sales, and examination results in religious studies.
There is a somewhat eclectic section on international religious statistics and a part-section on UK demographic and other social statistics. There are five essays (all by Brierley) on mid-week ministry, Christian conference centres, generations of older people, the Sunday school movement, and the efficacy of youth workers.
A full (1,000-entry) index completes the book. This is an essential tool, given the lack of continuous pagination and the somewhat odd location and juxtaposition of certain items.
Copies of UK Church Statistics, 2005-2015 may be obtained from Brierley Consultancy, The Old Post Office, 1 Thorpe Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent, TN10 4PW for £25. Cheques should be made payable to Peter Brierley. Enquiries can also be sent by email to email@example.com.