The results of the 2011 religion census for England and Wales continue to reverberate around faith communities. The lead item in today’s BRIN post concerns coverage of the census in the country’s conservative evangelical newspaper for the Church of England.
Church of England Newspaper and the census
In the current issue (13 January 2013) of the Church of England Newspaper (CEN) no fewer than three of its columnists devote space to the religion results of the 2011 census of England and Wales, which were published on 11 December 2012.
The most extensive treatment (‘Making Sense of the Census’, p. 15) is by Peter Brierley, the veteran church statistician. He is unsurprised by the 11% fall in the number of professing Christians between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, which he sees as foreshadowed in the estimated 6% drop in church membership between 2000 and 2010 and the 14% decline in church attendance during the same period. He advances three possible explanations for decreasing Christian ‘adherence’: a) the surge in immigration (with Brierley reckoning the majority of the new immigrants to be non-Christians, although this claim is unevidenced); b) the death of elderly Christians since 2001 (said by Brierley to account for 8% of the 11% decline, which seems a rather high proportion in comparison with the calculation by David Voas on BRIN on 13 December last); and c) the relative lack of new people becoming Christians, the transmission of the faith being said to be at ‘an all-time low’.
The other two columnists take to task Arun Arora, the Church of England’s Director of Communications, who, from his press statement issued on 11 December onwards, has tried to cast the census results in the best possible light for the Church of England. In a CEN short entitled ‘Militant Communicator’ (p. E2), the compiler of ‘The Whispering Gallery’ explicitly criticizes Arora for his selective use of statistics (especially of baptisms) in his recent letter to The Times (31 December 2012), written in response to the call (28 December 2012) by that newspaper’s Phil Collins for the disestablishment of the Church. Arora should realize, the CEN continues, ‘inertia is the best defence of the establishment, not statistics that unravel when they are examined carefully’.
In his CEN column on ‘The Future for Evangelicalism’ (p. 16), Paul Richardson also fixes his sights on Arora, without actually naming him: ‘it will not do to dismiss the census as just showing the disappearance of “cultural Christians” … People who in the past wrote “C of E” on forms now write “no religion”. Long term this is going to make it difficult to sustain the Church of England’s position as an established church’. Richardson further contends that the Roman Catholic Church is in similar denial in its statement about the census, Richardson pointing out that ‘the census shows … large numbers of people entering Britain over the past 10 years from Poland and other Catholic areas but that this influx is not reflected in figures for mass attendance. These figures have risen only slightly, suggesting there has been a large exodus from the pews of indigenous Anglo-Irish Catholics’.
The Church of England released figures on 8 January 2013 for its Christmas campaign on Twitter, #ChristmasStartsWithChrist (or #CSWC), aimed at the UK’s estimated 10 million ‘Twitterati’. In all, 8,878 Christmas-related tweets were sent by Anglicans (from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York downwards) using these two hashtags, with peak traffic occurring on Christmas Day around 11 am and a smaller peak on Christmas Eve around 11 pm. Over a 24-hour period from 11 pm on 24 December to 11 pm on 25 December there were an average of 370 tweets an hour. See the Church’s press release at:
As the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government continues to press ahead with its legislative plans for same-sex marriage, there are continuing indications that many Conservative Parliamentarians have serious misgivings about them. The latest evidence (published on 9 January 2013) comes from a ComRes poll (on behalf of the Coalition for Marriage) of 106 members of the House of Lords during the autumn of 2012, with 69% of Conservative peers wishing to see the proposals postponed until after the next general election and 100% opposing any use of the Parliament Act to steamroller opposition in the Lords.
Moreover, although Government believes it can ensure that churches and other places of worship will not have to perform same-sex marriages against their will, 51% of Conservative peers and 40% of all peers believe that there is no effective way of guaranteeing such an outcome. The proportion thinking this is four times as great for peers born before 1940 as after 1950, and more than 10% higher for peers who have sat in the Upper Chamber since before 1997 as those who became members after that date. Full results available at: