St Andrew’s Day and Other News

Today is St Andrew’s Day, as you might have noticed from the latest and attractive ‘Google doodle’. However, their patron saint’s day is not going to be much celebrated by Scots, according to the first of nine reports in today’s BRIN post. Religious decline is a theme running through several of the other stories.

St Andrew’s Day

St Andrew is the favourite Scottish saint (from a list of nine) of 35% of 1,225 Scots interviewed online by YouGov on 12-14 November 2013, easily beating St Mungo (9%) and St Columba (8%). Notwithstanding, no more than 20% had plans to celebrate St Andrew’s Day in any way this year, even though it falls on a Saturday, while 64% definitely had none. The highest proportions intent on celebration were to be found among the 18-24s (32%) and full-time students (37%), the lowest among 25-34s (13%) and Glaswegians (12%). The low figure for Glasgow seems to be related to the fact that St Mungo is the favourite saint for 17% of the city’s residents, perhaps because he features in Glasgow’s coat of arms. The data tables, published on 28 November, are available at:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/o9p509n5op/YG-Archive-St-Andrew’s-131112.pdf

Is Christianity dying in Britain?

BRIN’s co-director, Professor David Voas of the University of Essex, published an interesting post on The Conversation blog (run on behalf of a consortium of 13 British universities) on 27 November 2013. Entitled ‘Hard Evidence: Is Christianity Dying in Britain?’ the article was prompted by the recent prognostication of George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Church of England is ‘one generation away from extinction’. Voas contends that ‘the reality is less dramatic, but the story is not altogether wrong’. Using British Social Attitudes Survey data from 1983 to the present, Voas demonstrates that young adults are far less likely than their parents or grandparents to profess a religion, and that the Church of England has been particularly badly impacted by this trend. The same phenomenon can be seen with regard to churchgoing and ‘orthodox’ religious beliefs. Although more ‘unorthodox’ supernatural beliefs have been sustained, Voas does not think they amount to much: ‘these “beliefs” are casual in the extreme: cultivated by popular culture and its delight in magic and Gothic romanticism, held in the most tentative and experimental way, with no connection to any meaningful spirituality’. In short, ‘Lord Carey is at least half right’. The post can be read at:

https://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-is-christianity-dying-in-britain-20734

Is the Church of England dying?

Another blogger to have been inspired by Carey’s remarks is John Hayward, of the University of South Wales, who has been applying mathematical models to church growth for the best part of twenty years now. He runs a fascinating (if not always easy to follow) Church Growth Modelling website, which includes a blog. In his latest post, on 20 November 2013, he writes (positively) about ‘George Carey and Church Decline’. Hayward’s preceding post, on 9 October 2013, concerned ‘The Decline of the Church of England’, informed by an analysis of Anglican attendance data for 2001-11 (which were published earlier in the year). In this article Hayward deployed the ‘general limited enthusiasm model’ (based on the theory that church growth is driven by a sub-group of church members – enthusiasts – who are instrumental in bringing about conversions) to reach the following conclusion: ‘although the church is slowly declining, the most likely scenario is that it will avoid extinction and start growing again around 2035. The enthusiasts in the church, those responsible for the growth, should start increasing around 2020. Although church attendance will stabilise, it will be well below current levels. The church has some work to do in conversion and retention if it is to see the revival-type growth needed to regain its impact on society.’ For more information, go to:

http://www.churchmodel.org.uk/LongDecline3.html#summary

Episcopal psychology

Bishops in the Church of England differ from their male clergy on three of the four aspects of psychological type, being more likely to prefer extraversion over introversion, sensing over intuition, and judging over perceiving. Although there are no differences between bishops as a whole and clergy in respect of the fourth aspect, preference for thinking over feeling, thinking was found to be privileged more among diocesan than suffragan bishops. These conclusions derive from data gathered from 168 Anglican bishops (75 of whom are currently in office, and 93 not), and reported in Leslie Francis, Michael Whinney, and Mandy Robbins, ‘Who is Called to be a Bishop? A Study in Psychological Type Profiling of Bishops in the Church of England’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2013, pp. 135-51.The findings are mostly in line with hypotheses developed from present expectations regarding the office of bishop, but the authors suggest that, in making future episcopal appointments, the Church might be served better by an alternative psychological type profile than manifested in the past and present. Access options to this article are explained at:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13617672.2013.801647#.UpZUhTZFDX4

Urban and rural religion

Professing Christians are more likely to live in rural than urban areas of England and Wales, according to 2011 Census Analysis: Comparing Rural and Urban Areas of England and Wales, published by the Office for National Statistics on 22 November 2013. Whereas Christians accounted for 59.3% of the total population at the 2011 census, the proportion was 66.9% in rural locations against 57.6% in cities and towns. The rural-urban Christian differential of 9.3%, which was somewhat greater than in 2001 (8.2%), is probably largely age-related, the median age being eight years higher in rural than urban areas, but another contributing factor is that rural dwellers are more likely to have been born in the UK. By contrast, non-Christians are concentrated in urban areas, where they represent 9.9% of residents, compared with just 1.5% in rural districts; this distribution tracks the concentration there of ethnic minorities and persons born outside the UK. The disparity is especially large for Muslims, who constitute only 0.4% of people in the countryside but 5.8% in cities and towns. The number professing no religion is marginally higher in urban than rural areas (25.4% versus 24.1%) but urbanization alone can hardly be said to explain the loss of faith. Overall, 81.5% of English and Welsh reside in urban and 18.5% in rural areas. The report is at:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_337939.pdf

Godless Norwich

When the 2011 census results for religion in England were published last December, Norwich stood out as being the local/unitary authority with the largest number of those professing no religion (42% against a national average of 27%), earning the city the sobriquet ‘godless’. As one might expect, the reality is a little more complex than that, and Peter Brierley has now prepared an interesting 4,000 word briefing on the religious scene in Norwich (and Norfolk more generally), which he has circulated to subscribers with the December 2013 (No. 30) issue of FutureFirst, the magazine of Brierley Consultancy. In addition to explaining the high incidence of ‘nones’ in terms of the disproportionate presence of young people (notably students) and Asians (especially Chinese) in the city, he shows that Norwich does not come at the bottom of the league table with respect to self-identifying Christians and church attenders. Indeed, estimated churchgoing in 2012 was higher in Norwich than in Norfolk, and just 0.1% short of the English mean, even if it had reduced by one-half since 1989. To obtain a copy of the paper, contact Dr Brierley at peter@brierleyres.com

London, the exceptional case?

Further to our preliminary notice, in our post of 14 June 2013, we can now report the publication of far more detailed results from, and commentary on, the Greater London church census held on 14 October 2012, undertaken by Brierley Consultancy on behalf of the London City Mission: Peter Brierley, Capital Growth: What the 2012 London Church Census Reveals (174pp., including 95 tables and figures, ADBC Publishers, ISBN 978-0-9566577-6-3, £9.99, from peter@brierleyres.com). Still more data (especially regarding individual boroughs) will become available in April 2014, in the London church census section of UK Church Statistics, 2010-2020.

In essence, London, once a byword for irreligion, is currently bucking the national trend of declining church attendance, thanks largely to immigration, changing patterns of churchmanship (52% of London churchgoers are now evangelicals), and church planting (with 17% more churches in the capital in 2012 than 2005). The headline all-age attendance figures (grossed up from data for 54% of places of worship, derived from a combination of census forms and extrapolations from previous information) are tabulated below, with comparisons from four previous church censuses:

 

1979

1989

1998

2005

2012

1979-2012

% change

Anglican

140,500

98,500

101,100

90,300

84,800

-39.6

Roman Catholic

333,700

293.000

237,200

195,400

198,300

-40.6

Methodist/Baptist/URC

101,200

83,400

86,100

76,100

68,200

-32.6

Pentecostal

57,500

82,700

93,700

152,700

229,000

+298.3

Other

63,100

92,000

99,800

108,500

141,200

+123.8

Total

696,000

649,600

617,900

623,000

721,500

+3.7

Total as % population

10.1

9.6

8.6

8.3

8.8

Thus, in absolute terms, total churchgoing was 16% more in 2012 than in 2005, and even 4% more than in 1979. Relative to population, London churchgoing is now restored to the level of the late 1990s. However, the increase was concentrated among newer manifestations of Christianity, particularly Pentecostal and New Churches, with Anglican, Catholic, and traditional Free Churches all struggling.

Brierley comments on the overall growth between 2005 and 2012 (p. 53): ‘That is a considerable increase, almost offsetting the national decline in churchgoing outside London in the same period. So, because of London’s increase, national church attendance in England remained virtually static (instead of declining) between 2010 and 2012! This remarkable impact is because London’s church attendance in 2012 is about a quarter (24%) of that of the whole country.’ However, he cautions that: ‘the increase seen between 2005 and 2012 in London is not expected to continue. The number of people attending church in Greater London is likely to fall slightly in the immediate future, dropping to perhaps 704,000 by 2020.’ The principal reason for this forecast lies in the large number of small churches whose attendance is collectively declining.

Paul Flowers

Reverend Paul Flowers, ex-chairman of the Co-op Bank, who has suffered a fall from grace through perceived failings in both his professional and private life, has the dubious honour of being the first Methodist minister ever to feature in a British opinion poll. Several questions about him were included in YouGov’s weekly omnibus for the Sunday Times on 21-22 November 2013 for which 1,867 adult Britons were interviewed online. Asked to apportion blame for his appointment as chairman, 45% laid the responsibility at the door of the Co-op board, while 19% pointed the finger at the former Financial Services Authority for inadequate regulation and 16% at politicians in the co-operative movement for supporting Flowers. Two-thirds (67%) backed Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to set up an independent enquiry into how Flowers was appointed chairman (17% dissenting), and 72% wanted Flowers prosecuted for his alleged use of hard drugs (and 13% not). The full data appear on p. 6 of the tables at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/q0ir85hkfv/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-221113.pdf

Religious education

The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) published its fifth survey on the impact of the English Baccalaureate on religious education (RE) in secondary schools on 29 November 2013. Data were gathered in May-June 2013 by means of an online questionnaire completed by a self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) sample of 580 schools. The survey revealed that at Key Stage 4 26% of all state schools are failing to meet their legal or contractual obligations to teach RE to all under-16s (rising to one-third of community schools and academies without a religious character), with 12% failing at Key Stage 3. The number of RE subject specialist staff was set to decline in 2013-14 in one-fifth of schools, with one in five RE lessons currently being delivered by non-specialists in 31% of schools. The timetable for RE had been reduced in a minority of schools, especially at Key Stage 4, and in 2013-14 29% of schools will be attempting to deliver the full GCSE course in Religious Studies in less than the recommended number of learning hours. The survey is available at:

http://www.retoday.org.uk/media/display/NATRE_EBacc_Survey_2013_final.pdf

 


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