Church of England Health Check and Other News

Church of England health check

Further to our post of 31 January 2014, we now note the appearance of the second and third instalments of the ‘Church Health Check’ series being run in the Church Times. In the issue for 7 February 2014 (pp. 21-8) there were various essays by academics and insiders focusing on the leadership and structure of the Church of England. Those which had a particularly quantitative dimension were by:

  • Professor Linda Woodhead who examined (pp. 21-2) the Church’s statistics of ministry for 2012, concluding that ‘there are no longer enough troupers left to keep the show on the road, and the show will have to change’ – see further the BRIN post of 24 October 2013 at
  • Professor Leslie Francis who summarized (pp. 26-7) his research into psychological type profiling of Anglican bishops, to determine whether the Church has the right sort of episcopate – see the BRIN post of 30 November 2013 at
  • Professor David Voas who reported (pp. 26-7) on the importance of clergy leadership qualities to church growth, noting ‘there are strong associations between growth and personality type, but none between growth and attendance on leadership courses’ – see the BRIN post of 18 January 2014 at

The same issue of the Church Times also contained (p. 2) two shorter reports quoting further findings from the newspaper’s 2013 readership survey, which attracted 4,620 self-selecting respondents. They revealed that 73% expressed confidence in the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury (7% disagreeing), but just 23% had confidence in the General Synod (37% disagreeing and 41% undecided), and 37% in the Archbishops’ Council. Sub-nationally, 69% (71% among laity) had confidence in their local clergy and 63% in their diocesan bishop. On matters of sexual morality, Anglo-Catholics and Broad Anglicans were shown to be more liberally disposed than Evangelicals, suggesting that the Church of England’s internal strife over homosexuality is far from over. Among Evangelicals, 63% disapproved of ordaining practising homosexuals as priests and 65% as bishops, while 75% were opposed to same-sex marriage in church and 51% to the blessing of such relationships. There was more sign of consensus on another historically contested issue (but now with just one final hurdle to clear in July’s General Synod following this week’s debate), that of women bishops, with support running at 76% for Anglo-Catholics, 77% for Evangelicals, and 93% for Broad Anglicans. These two reports are freely available online at:

The third instalment of the ‘Church Health Check’ can be found in the current issue of the Church Times (14 February 2014, pp. 21-7) and is devoted to the social impact of the Church of England. This has a rather limited quantitative element. However, the lead article by Professor Linda Woodhead (pp. 21-2) draws upon her 2013 Westminster Faith Debates surveys to illustrate how people still connect to the Church in ways apart from regular attendance at public worship, while also noting that take-up of all three church-based rites of passage has diminished. Some of the Opinion Research Business polling for the Church of England over the last decade or so is also relevant in this context, a couple of examples of which can be viewed through the Research and Statistics link webpage (which, incidentally, is in desperate need of an overhaul and update to consolidate the archival material) at:

The same issue of the Church Times (p. 3) carries further results from the 2013 readership survey, revealing that 67% of this sub-set of Anglicans are currently involved in some form of unpaid community work (volunteering), with 35% active in two or more fields. Education (19%), local community action (18%), cultural activities (18%), children’s work (12%), and social welfare services (10%) were most frequently mentioned by the self-selecting sample. Volunteering by these clergy and lay churchgoer respondents is said to be at least twice as great as by the population at large, as recorded in Government surveys. See further:,-turn-to-a-churchgoer

Finally, the issue of 14 February 2014 contains a full page (p. 17) printing nine letters from readers in response to the first two instalments of ‘Church Health Check’.

Catholics polled on family life – the sequel

On 8 November 2013 BRIN reported on the Roman Catholic Church’s global consultation of the views of the faithful on family life, including vexed issues such as contraception and same-sex relationships, in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be held in the Vatican on 5-19 October 2014. The consultation, by means of a 40-question survey instrument, attracted significant attention, not to say controversy, inside and outside the Catholic Church. It was criticized in some quarters for its inadequate methodology and theologically opaque content, although the Vatican was at pains to point out that it was not an opinion poll and that the Church’s teaching is not determined by majority popular vote.

Notwithstanding, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales took the lead in putting the questionnaire online and received a healthy response (albeit small in relation to the size of the Catholic population). According to the Catholic Herald (7 February 2014, p. 2) and The Tablet (8 February 2014, p. 28), the Conference received some 16,500 completed questionnaires. The bulk of these (12,266) were filled in online, mainly by laity (80%), with 69% being married and 38% parents. One-fifth of respondents were in ‘positions of responsibility within the Church’, including priests, teachers, and pastoral assistants, while 24% were aged under 45 years and 30% 65 and over. The figures exclude 1,163 responses from 57 other countries, which were forwarded to the relevant Church authorities.

In deference to the Vatican, the Conference has declined to publish its report on the results of the English and Welsh consultation in advance of the Extraordinary Synod (as have the bishops in the United States, Canada, and Australia), despite the fact that both the German and the Swiss Bishops’ Conferences have already published their respective national reports, containing a strong message on the need for ‘reform’. It would be surprising if any different message emerged from England and Wales, given that polling of Catholics in Britain during recent years has demonstrated a wide gulf between opinions in the pews and the Magisterium of the Church. Newly-released polling of 12,000 Catholics worldwide (excluding Britain) by Univision (the television network serving Hispanic America) has revealed similar disaffection, with the partial exception of Africa, as have national surveys by Catholic media and institutions in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. There is a helpful summary of some of this international research in The Tablet for 15 February 2014 (p. 30).

2011 census: Church of Scotland parish profiles

Overseen by Revd Fiona Tweedie, the Statistics for Mission Group of the Church of Scotland has now completed the task of preparing parish profiles of selected data from the 2011 census of population for Scotland. The profiles, which take the form of attractive 12-page PDF documents comprising charts and tables, include details of religious affiliation. They are available to download through the ChurchFinder on the Church of Scotland website (using the ‘Parish statistics’ link from the table of search results) at:

Invisible church

Speaking of the Church of Scotland, Steve Aisthorpe (the Kirk’s Mission Development Worker, North) has recently written an interesting 26-page preliminary report on Investigating the Invisible Church: A Survey of Christians who Do Not Attend Church. It is based on a survey of a random sample of 5,523 people in the Highlands and Islands contacted by telephone in the autumn of 2013, 2,698 of whom gave a short interview. Of these 934 identified themselves as Christians who do not attend church and agreed to take part in a more detailed study, and 430 (46%) eventually completed and returned the online and postal questionnaire, comprising almost 80 items. Critical Research oversaw the recruitment of participants, data entry, and statistical analysis, while funding came from the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council and three other partners. The report is at:

The headline finding from the study was that 44% of the population of the Highlands and Islands, representing some 133,000 individuals, are professing Christians who are not currently engaged with a local congregation, although only 15% had never attended church regularly in the past and 23% had attended for more than 20 years (with a further 27% for more than 10 years). Inevitably, a good proportion of these are ‘cultural Christians’, but a surprisingly large number (50%) scored highly (more than 30 out of 50) on the Hoge Intrinsic Religiosity Scale, which aims to measure the extent to which faith underpins everyday life. Disillusioned respondents may have been with the Church, and their reasons for church-leaving were explored in detail, but 72% were not disappointed with God, with 50% regarding themselves as part of a worldwide Christian community and 41% as on a spiritual quest beyond religious institutions. There was no simplistic partition into ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ here.

The areas explored in the quantitative phase emerged from a previous qualitative phase in 2012-13, in which 30 Christians not attending a local church were interviewed in depth. The report on this qualitative phase (dated July 2013) is also available at:

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust (CST)’s 32-page Antisemitic Incidents Report, 2013 was published on 6 February 2014. It revealed that the number of such incidents recorded in the United Kingdom in 2013 was, at 529, 18% lower than in 2012 and only just over half the post-1984 high of 931 incidents in 2009. CST believes the fall in anti-Semitism since 2012 to be genuine and to reflect the lack of anti-Jewish ‘trigger events’ in 2013, such as had caused two temporary spikes in 2012. However, CST still reckons there is ‘significant underreporting’ of anti-Semitic incidents both to itself and the police, and that the true figure is considerably higher. Of the 529 recorded incidents in 2013, over three-quarters took place in Greater London and Greater Manchester, with 69 categorized as violent assaults, although none constituted ‘extreme violence’ (amounting to grievous bodily harm or a threat to life). The most common category, with 368 incidents, was of abusive behaviour, including verbal abuse, albeit these were 23% down on 2012. One-quarter of all incidents were assessed as having far right, anti-Israel, or Islamist motivations. In the minority of cases where a physical description of the perpetrator could be obtained, 62% were white and 25% South Asian. The report, including a profile of incidents by category and month for each year from 2003 to 2013, can be read at:

Values profile of Britain

The January 2014 issue of Modern Believing (Vol. 55, No. 1) is a special theme issue, devoted to ‘What British People Really Think’, and guest-edited by Professor Linda Woodhead. Using data from a variety of sources, but especially from her January and June 2013 YouGov polls for the Westminster Faith Debates, it depicts what the British think about abortion (pp. 7-14); women bishops (pp. 15-26); same-sex marriage (pp. 27-38); euthanasia (pp. 39-48); God, religion, and authority (pp. 49-58); and society, politics, and religious institutions (pp. 59-67). There is also an introduction (pp. 1-5) and conclusion (‘A Values Profile of Britain’, pp. 69-74) by Woodhead. Non-subscribers to the journal, and non-members of subscribing institutions, may struggle to access these articles. The new publisher (Liverpool University Press) does not appear to be offering the option to buy a print copy of this special issue only, while downloads cost an eye-watering £25 per (shortish) article via the following link:

POSTSCRIPT [18 February 2014] BRIN has now ascertained that single copies of this entire issue can be purchased for £15.00, more cost-effective than the article download option. To order a copy, contact

Faith under fire

Do soldiers turn to God when they are on the front line? Some provisional answers to this question are apparently contained in a postgraduate thesis submitted to the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies by Revd Peter King, who was chaplain to the Queen’s Royal Hussars during a bloody tour to Helmand province between October 2011 and April 2012, during which 23 British soldiers were killed and dozens more severely wounded. The research was featured in The Sunday Times, 9 February 2014, Main Section, p. 20 in an article by the newspaper’s defence correspondent, Mark Hookham. King surveyed more than 200 men in his 400-strong battle group, finding that 80% professed some religion and 63% reported that they were more likely to frequent religious services while on operations than when in barracks. An Easter service held by King in a cookhouse in Afghanistan had been attended by about 100 men, of whom one-quarter received Holy Communion. Almost half (46%) of the soldiers interviewed by King said they had prayed in Afghanistan, and the same proportion carried or wore a symbol of faith. An awareness of the presence of God had been felt by 17%, and a few even described a religious experience at the front.

POSTSCRIPT [7 April 2014]: The research has now been published as Peter King, ‘Faith in a Foxhole? Researching Combatant Religiosity amongst British Soldiers on Contemporary Operations’, Defence Academy Yearbook, 2013, pp. 2-10, freely available online at:



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Discrimination, Identity, and Other News

The eight stories in today’s post feature a range of topics, but religious discrimination and religious identity especially stand out. It should be noted that the latest statistical bulletin for the Government’s Integrated Household Survey, covering the calendar year 2012 and published on 3 October 2013, did not report on the religious identity question.

Religious discrimination (1)

Perceived discrimination against Muslims has increased during the past three years, but they are still not the group most discriminated against in British society; that unenviable position is thought to be occupied by people with mental health problems, followed by gypsies, transsexuals, and immigrants. This is according to a YouGov poll published on 2 October 2013 and undertaken online on 29-30 September among a sample of 1,717 adult Britons. Interviewees were shown a list of groups and asked how much discrimination they thought each suffered in Britain today, the percentages replying ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ being combined in the table below, with comparisons for January 2011 (where available). Twelve of the 15 groups covered in both surveys were believed to have suffered more discrimination over the three years, only Christians and white persons experiencing a reduction, with no change for atheists (who were the group considered to be least discriminated against). Perceived discrimination against Muslims is now 32% more than against Christians, compared with a gap of 22% in 2011. Discrimination against Jews is believed to be up by one-third.

























Ginger haired












Mentally ill















Working class



The data table for the survey can be found at:

Religious discrimination (2)

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published Identity, Expression, and Self-Respect, Briefing Paper No. 9 in its Measurement Framework series, with some accompanying data in Excel format. The paper considers five indicators in detail, the first of which is freedom to practice one’s religion or belief, which is quantified from the 2010 Citizenship Survey (CS) for England and Wales and from HM Inspectorate of Prisons statistics. In the CS 93% of adults overall felt able to practice their religion freely, but somewhat fewer among the under-45s, several ethnic minorities, and Muslims and Sikhs (for detail, see pp. 17-18 and the table accompanying measure El1.1). Breaks by religion are also sometimes shown in connection with the secondary analysis of data for the other four indicators. The briefing paper and tables are at:

Under a veil

The recent public and media debate about whether Muslim women should be permitted to wear the full face-veil or niqab started in connection with specific cases involving courtrooms and colleges. In canvassing popular opinion on the matter, ComRes therefore decided to take the prohibition of the veil in courts, schools, and colleges as ‘a given’, and to ask respondents whether female Muslims should otherwise be free to wear the veil. One-half (including 61% of over-65s and Conservatives, and 79% of UKIP supporters) thought the veil should not be worn even outside courts, schools, and colleges, and just 32% that it should be. The poll was undertaken by telephone for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror on 18 and 19 September 2013, among 2,003 Britons aged 18 and over, and the data can be found on pp. 113-16 of the tables posted at:

Religious identity (1)

Details of the religious self-identification of the UK’s regular armed forces personnel as at 1 April 2013 were published by the Ministry of Defence on 26 September 2013 in Table 2.01.09 of the 2013 edition of Statistical Series 2 – Personnel Bulletin 2.01. Although the proportion professing no religion has risen steadily, from 9.5% in 2007 to 16.4% today, the overwhelming majority of our service personnel continue to subscribe to some faith, and invariably (81.7% in 2013) to Christianity. Profession of no religion is highest in the Navy (22.3%) and lowest in the Army (13.5%), with 18.7% in the Royal Air Force. Non-Christians are under-represented in relation to society as a whole, which is probably mainly a reflection of the ethnic profile of the armed services. The full table is at:

Religious identity (2)

In our coverage of the 2011 Scottish religion census on 28 September 2013, reference was made to potential comparisons with national sample surveys of religious self-identification in Scotland. By way of example, we show below a ten-year percentage comparison from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS), which employs a larger than average sample. The 2012 data are extracted from p. 13 of the 2012 edition of Scotland’s People (published on 28 August 2013), those for 2001-02 from the dataset accessible via the UK Data Service (applying the random adult sample weights). Although the question asked is identical to that in the census (‘what religion, religious denomination, or body do you belong to?’), these statistics refer to adults only and are thus not directly comparable to the initial census results (which are for all ages). The SHS figures also omit non-responses (because the dataset for 2012 is not yet available). The general direction of travel, of course, is similar to the changes seen in the census between 2001 and 2011, with a big increase in the number of Scots professing no religion and a large decrease in support for the Church of Scotland.




No religion



Church of Scotland



Roman Catholic



Other Christian






Scottish marriages

Section 7 of Vital Events Reference Tables, 2012 [for Scotland], published by the General Register Office for Scotland on 27 August 2013, contains three tables dealing with Scottish marriages which will be of interest to BRIN readers:

  • Table 7.5 lists the number of marriages solemnized by celebrants from 50 different religious and belief traditions for each year between 2002 and 2012. The key stories are the steep fall in marriages conducted by the Church of Scotland (down by 50% over this period) and the Methodist Church (down by 70%) and the rapid growth in ceremonies conducted by the Humanist Society Scotland since they were legalized in 2005; by 2012 they had overtaken Roman Catholic marriages and were closing fast on the Church of Scotland.
  • Table 7.6 lists the number of civil and religious marriages (the latter disaggregated by Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, and other religions) for each year between 1961 and 2012 and each quinquennium between 1946-50 and 2006-10. Whereas civil marriages represented only 17% of the total in 1946-50, by 2006-10 the figure stood at 52%.
  • Table 7.7 lists marriages by ‘denomination’ for 2012, when 51% were civil, 18% Church of Scotland, 10% Humanist Society Scotland, and 6% Roman Catholic.

The tables can be found at:

Time use

Since the earliest days of sample surveys, it has been evident that interviewees have a tendency to overstate their recalled religious activities. This is no more so than in the case of churchgoing where claimed attendance can exceed by a factor of two the totals arrived at by actual censuses of public worship. Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning of the University of Aberdeen have sought to illustrate the point by repurposing diary data from English respondents (aged 16 and over) to the UK Time Use Survey, 2000-01, which was conducted by the Office for National Statistics. Participants, who were drawn from a random sample of households, were required to record their main and secondary activities for each 10-minute period on the day in question, which included Sundays (3,317 individuals appear to have completed Sunday diaries). Bruce and Glendinning’s methodology and findings are contained in a four-page report on The Extent of Religious Activity in England, which is being disseminated by Brierley Consultancy, an abridged version of which appears in the October 2013 issue of FutureFirst (contact to obtain copies of either or both versions). The authors conclude as follows:

‘There is little religion of any form practised, public or private. Less than 11% of adults in England engage in any religious activity whatsoever (including personal prayers and meditation and consuming mass media religious programming) of any duration at any point during a typical week. Only 8.25% of adults engage in any episodes of communal practice in the company of others. Less than 7% attend church on a Sunday. Read the other way round – 7% going to church on Sunday, 8% doing some communal religion and 11% doing any religion at all – these data offer little support for the claim that the decline of conventional churchgoing has been offset by an increase in alternative religious activities.’ Of course, it must be remembered that the survey embodied a snapshot of religious activity on the day the diary was completed, and that those who do not engage in such activity on one Sunday may do so on another.

Fossil free churches

This item is not a politically incorrect reference to the age or traditionalism of churchgoers but to a new campaign by Operation Noah (an ecumenical Christian climate change charity) to encourage churches (particularly the Church of England) to disinvest in companies seeking expansion in fossil fuel reserves. The campaign, and its accompanying report (Bright Now: Towards Fossil Free Churches), was launched on 20 September 2013 and underpinned by data from Christian Research’s Resonate panel, 1,520 churchgoers replying to its August 2013 omnibus. Although more than nine out of ten churchgoers agree that churches should invest their money ethically, the majority does not see climate change as a key issue relative to other priorities (such as women bishops). In the case of Anglicans, 63% want the Church of England to take the lead in addressing man-made climate change, yet only one-quarter supports the Church disinvesting in companies extracting fossil fuels. As with most Resonate polls, full data are not in the public domain, but Operation Noah’s press release can be read at:





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Faith Schools and Other News

Seven religious statistical stories feature in today’s post, including five newly-released YouGov polls, four touching on aspects of religious prejudice, and leading with a major study of attitudes to faith schools.

Faith schools

In our post of 2 September 2013, we referred to new research into faith schools commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead in connection with the Westminster Faith Debates. It was undertaken on her behalf by YouGov, 4,018 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online between 5 and 13 June 2013. That research was published on 19 September, in the form of a press release on the Religion and Society website and the data tables on the YouGov website. Some fascinating results emerged, which, as the press release indicated, will offer ‘little comfort for either those who defend or those who oppose faith schools’. Findings include the following:

  • Only 32% believe the Government should fund faith schools generally, 18-24s being most supportive (43%), with 45% opposed, peaking at 57% in Scotland (where the existence of Catholic schools has often been a matter of controversy), and 23% undecided
  • Government funding of any type of faith school fails to find majority support, but opposition is notably lowest for Anglican schools (38%) and greatest for Islamic schools (60%) – hostility to Hindu and Jewish schools (59% and 55% respectively) is also high, but falls to 43% for Christian schools other than Anglican
  • Only 24% would choose a faith school for their own child, the proportion not exceeding 30% in any demographic sub-group, with 59% being unlikely to do so (peaking at 77% in Scotland)
  • Academic standards (77%), location (58%), and discipline record (41%) are the major factors in choice of school – just 5% attach importance to grounding of a pupil in a faith tradition and 3% to transmission of belief about God, and no more than 23% cite ethical values
  • A plurality (49%) finds it acceptable that faith schools should have admission policies which give preference to children and families who profess or practice the religion with which the school is associated (with 38% deeming it unacceptable, ranging from 31% of women to 51% of Scots)
  • Just 23% (never exceeding 28% in any demographic sub-group) agree that all faith schools should have to admit a proportion of pupils from a different religion or none at all, while 11% think it better for faith schools to admit pupils only of the same faith and 30% that schools should determine their own admissions policies

Analysing the factors which determine favourability to faith schools, Woodhead found strength of belief in God to be the most significant. When it came to attitudes to non-Christian faith schools, an insular (as opposed to a cosmopolitan) outlook was a key influence. In general, while there was some age effect, gender, social grade, and voting intentions appeared to make little difference to opinion.

The press release can be found at:

and the data tables (with breaks confined to gender, age, social grade, region and voting intention) at:

Y-word in football

Yid is slang for a Jew, deriving from Yiddish. On 9 September 2013 the Football Association (FA), which is ‘cracking down’ on undesirable behaviour in football, issued a governance statement about what it described as the ‘y-word’, concluding that ‘the use of the term “Yid” is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer’ and encouraging football fans ‘to avoid using it in any situation’. The statement was clearly directed at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (the ‘Spurs’) which historically had many Jewish supporters. In consequence, its fans often still describe themselves as ‘Yids’ or as belonging to ‘the Yid Army’, and the team’s opponents, in turn, call Spurs supporters ‘Yids’. The FA’s statement has led to controversy and debate, in which even the Prime Minister has become involved.

To test public opinion on the topic, YouGov questioned 1,878 British adults aged 18 and over online on 18 and 19 September 2013. Although three-fifths of those interested in football felt that it was acceptable for Tottenham fans to use the y-word in describing themselves, fewer (46%) of the sample as a whole agreed (with 26% disagreeing and 28% undecided). One-quarter contended that such self-description encouraged anti-Jewish abuse, albeit one-fifth argued the contrary, suggesting that anti-Jewish abuse was actually discouraged by reclaiming the y-word as a positive. A plurality (41%) deemed it unacceptable for Spurs’ opponents to call Tottenham fans ‘Yids’, but people interested in football were more inclined to tolerate use of the word in this context (47%) than Britons overall (34%). Roughly half of both the public and those interested in football seemed to approve of the FA’s intervention in the matter, but 34% thought there were other (implicitly more important) issues for the FA to focus on, UKIP voters (56%) particularly subscribing to this view. Data tables were published on 20 September at:‘Yid-Army’-results-190913.pdf

By way of footnote, some BRIN readers may be interested to know that a forthcoming exhibition tells the story of Jews and football in Britain. Entitled Four Four Jew: Football, Fans, and Faith, it runs at the Jewish Museum in London from 10 October 2013 to 23 February 2014.

Banning the burka (1)

Recent high-profile cases, involving courts and a college, have reignited the controversy surrounding Islamic women’s dress, the debate having now spilled over into other arenas such as hospitals. The specific point at issue has been the desirability of permitting the wearing of the full face veil or niqab in public, but The Sun commissioned YouGov to run a poll about the burka (a whole-body garment) more generally, 1,792 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online on 16 and 17 September 2013. Three-fifths (61%) supported a total ban on the burka in Britain, 5% less than in April 2011, while 32% were opposed to such a prohibition and 8% undecided. The strongest backing for a ban came from UKIP voters (93%), the over-60s (76%), and Conservatives (71%), with the 18-24s (55%), Liberal Democrats (46%), and Scots (42%) most hostile. Opposition to a ban effectively increased when the question was asked in a more roundabout way, 38% agreeing with the proposition that people should be allowed to wear whatever clothing they want in public, including the burka, 54% being in disagreement. At the same time, many respondents wanted officials and employers to have discretion to ban the burka in specific locations: 86% at security checkpoints, 83% in courtrooms (for defendants), 79% in courtrooms (for witnesses), 68% in schools and colleges, and 63% in universities and the workplace. Full data tables were published on 18 September 2013 at:

Banning the burka (2)

YouGov’s polling for The Sunday Times, conducted online on 19-20 September 2013 and published on 22 September, was more nuanced, differentiating between the burka, the niqab, and the hijab (a headscarf which does not cover the face). Whereas two-thirds of the 1,956 respondents supported a ban in Britain on both the burka and the niqab, with fewer than one-quarter disagreeing, only 25% opposed the wearing of the hijab (with 65% against its prohibition). Rather more (76%) wanted schools to be allowed to ban their students from wearing burkas or niqabs, and 81% wanted hospitals to be permitted to ban their staff from wearing the garments. Referring to the recent court case involving a female defendant with a veil, just 6% thought she should be allowed to wear it throughout the entire trial; 54% favoured removal of the veil in court at all times and a further 35% while the woman was giving evidence. The usual demographic variations can be seen in the answers to all these questions, with UKIP and Conservative voters and the over-60s least sympathetic to Islamic dress, and the under-40s (especially), Londoners, and Scots disproportionately more tolerant. The data tables are at:

Churchgoers and evolution

A non-random and disproportionately northern ‘convenience sample’ of 1,100 attenders at 132 Protestant churches, who completed questionnaires in 2009, is used by Andrew Village and Sylvia Baker to examine ‘Rejection of Darwinian Evolution among Churchgoers in England: The Effects of Psychological Type’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 557-72. The principal conclusions are set out in the abstract: ‘The main predictors of rejecting evolution were denominational affiliation and attendance. Individuals from Pentecostal or evangelical denominations were twice as likely to reject evolution compared with those from Anglican or Methodist churches. In all denominations, higher attendance was associated with greater rejection of evolution. Education in general, and theological education in particular, had some effect on reducing rejection, but this was not dependent on having specifically scientific or biological educational qualifications. Psychological type preferences for sensing over intuition and for thinking over feeling also predicted greater rejection, after allowing for the association of type preferences and general religiosity.’ For options to access the article, go to:

Ecumenism in Scotland

A report on ecumenical activity at congregational level has been prepared by the Church of Scotland’s Committee on Ecumenical Relations and the Ministries Council, based on research carried out in February-March 2013. A questionnaire was sent to all the Kirk’s parishes of which 823 (over half) replied online or by post, a significant minority of which recorded the absence of any other denomination in the parish. Where there was a presence, Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal and Baptist churches and independent fellowships were thickest on the ground. However, in practice working relationships were closest (in terms of frequent ecumenical contacts) with the United Reformed Church, followed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, Congregational Federation, and Salvation Army. The commonest inter-denominational activities involving Church of Scotland parishes were the World Day of Prayer, Holy Week services, Christian Aid Week, and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services. Only a minority of parishes belonged to a local Churches Together Group/Council of Churches (43%) or to an ecumenical ministers’ meeting (48%), but it could have been that none existed locally in some cases. The ‘deepest’ forms of collaboration were inevitably limited, just 6% of congregations sharing their building with another denomination, 3% being in a covenanted partnership with a congregation from another denomination, and 1% having involved an ecumenical partner in the appointment of a minister. More Church of Scotland parishes (70%) detailed hindrances to ecumenical working than identified benefits (60%). Further information about the research can be obtained from Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting at SKESTING@COFSCOTLAND.ORG.UK

Ghosts and UFOs

A majority of Britons (52%) believe that some people have experienced ghosts but fewer (38%) think that some individuals have witnessed UFOs with an extra-terrestrial origin. This is according to a YouGov poll conducted online among a sample of 2,286 adult Britons aged 18 and over between 28 and 30 August 2013, on behalf of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and published by ASSAP on 17 September 2013 (following a preview in the Sunday Telegraph for 15 September, p. 3). Disregarding inevitable variations in question-wording, belief in ghosts appears to have risen over time (see the tabulation of previous data at, and it is especially prevalent among women (62% in the ASSAP survey), the separated/divorced (64%), and residents of the East Midlands (66%). Belief in UFOs is highest in the North-East (50%). Disbelievers in ghosts number 34% and in UFOs 45%, peaking among full-time students at 50% and 61% respectively, with 14% and 17% of adults unsure. The data tables are at:


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Muslim Distinctiveness and Other News

Today’s round-up of eight religious statistical news stories leads on the first substantive output from an important and academic-led four-year-old sample survey of British Muslims.

Muslim distinctiveness

The distinctiveness of British Muslims is explored in a short but highly significant article by Valerie Lewis and Ridhi Kashyap, ‘Are Muslims a Distinctive Minority? An Empirical Analysis of Religiosity, Social Attitudes, and Islam’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 617-26. Data derive from face-to-face interviews by Ipsos MORI with a sample of 480 British Muslims between January and May 2009; and from face-to-face interviews by NatCen with samples of Britons of other religious persuasions (n = 2,457) and none (n = 1,903) from the contemporaneous British Social Attitudes Survey. Muslims were found to be more religious than other Britons in terms of beliefs, practices (public and private), and salience. They were also more socially conservative on a range of topics: gender roles in the home, divorce, premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. In terms of premarital sex and homosexuality, an independent effect of Islam was documented; on other social issues Muslim attitudes tended to resemble those of other religious people. Indeed, more generally, multivariate analysis revealed that much of the difference on socio-moral opinions was due to socio-economic disadvantage and high religiosity, both factors which – Lewis and Kashyap argue – predict social conservatism among all Britons and not just Muslims. The distinctiveness of Muslims, therefore, may not be as great as it superficially seems. It should be noted that no weights were applied to the Muslim data, and that there are several caveats from the authors concerning the representative nature of the Muslim sample (including a high rate of non-response). For access options for this article, go to:

Civic core

Two-thirds of all charitable activity (charitable donations and volunteering) in this country is attributable to just 9% of its citizens (the ‘civic core’). This is according to a report published by the Charities Aid Foundation on 13 September 2013 and entitled Britain’s Civic Core: Who are the People Powering Britain’s Charities? A further 67% of individuals account for the remaining 34% of charitable activity (the so-called ‘middle ground’), while 24% of the population undertake little or no charitable activity (‘zero givers’). Members of the ‘civic core’ have the greatest interest (37%) in supporting religious organizations (including places of worship), with ‘zero givers’ showing the least (10%); among the ‘middle ground’ the proportion is 20%. This trend reflects the fact that the ‘civic core’ is disproportionately composed of women, the over-65s, and people from professional/managerial backgrounds – precisely those groups most inclined to be involved with organized religion. The data derive from an online survey of 2,027 Britons aged 18 and over conducted by ComRes on 31 July and 1 August 2013, and the report is available at:

Full data tables for the poll were released by ComRes on 16 September. Table 21 provides breaks for interest in religious organizations by gender, age, social grade, employment sector, region, ethnicity, and the monetary value of volunteering and charitable donations. Table 64 gives details about volunteering for religious organizations during the past year among the sub-group of respondents who have given practical help to a social cause. Table 89 records self-assigned ‘membership’ of religious groups (56% Christian, 8% non-Christian, 34% none). Unfortunately, religious affiliation is not used in this set of tables as a variable to analyse answers to all the other questions about charitable disposition and activity. The data tables are at:


The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales reported on 2 September 2013 that the number of confessions (Sacrament of Reconciliation) is rising at many of its cathedrals. Twenty-two cathedrals were contacted by telephone or email on 21 August, of which 20 replied. Overall, 65% (i.e. 13 cathedrals) noted an increase in confessions, mostly attributing it to a ‘papal effect’ (either the visit to Britain of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, the inauguration of Pope Francis I in 2013, or both), while the remaining 35% (7 cathedrals) said confessions were ‘steady’ or ‘normal’. Actual statistics of those confessing were not cited by the Church, and it is possible that they constitute a relatively small proportion of professing Catholics. The Church’s press release is at:

The story was picked up by all the UK’s Catholic newspapers and by the Church Times, including a particularly upbeat report and leader in the Catholic Herald. Responding to the latter, in a letter to the editor published in the Catholic Herald for 13 September 2013 (p. 13), Anthony Hofler of Wolverhampton was in little doubt from his own experience that confession is falling out of fashion among Catholics, except, relatively, at Christmas and Easter. Undaunted, the front page of the same edition of the Catholic Herald highlighted responses by 32 priests to a survey about a three-year-long initiative in the Diocese of Lancaster to boost the uptake of confessions, apparently also with encouraging results. Significantly, again, no hard data were cited in this report, and none currently appear on the websites of the diocese or the diocesan newspaper, Catholic Voice.

With regard to the ‘papal bounce’, as already noted by BRIN in our post of 28 January 2012, average weekly Mass attendance was actually lower after the papal visit in 2010 than before. And, in gearing up for its Home Mission Sunday (which took place on 15 September 2013), the Church itself conceded there are ‘four million baptised Catholics who rarely or never attend Mass’ in England and Wales.


Recent public divisions about fracking within the Church of England and other Christian groups are evidenced in new research briefly reported in the latest issue of Christian Research’s monthly ezine, Research Brief, which was emailed to subscribers on 6 September 2013:


‘Our Resonate August omnibus, completed by 1.520 Resonate panellists, revealed that two-thirds of practising Christians regard it as valid that the church should derive income from mineral rights on property it owns (marginally higher support amongst church leaders). More than 2 in 5 regular churchgoers felt that the church should be able to profit from shale gas reserves located under land it owns, 1 in 3 were uncertain and 1 in 4 objected (to some degree). Interestingly, men (significantly so) and Londoners agreed more strongly than others. The results see-sawed the other way, 1 in 3 opposed and 1 in 5 in favour, if the land was dwelt on.’

University students’ religion

On 27 April 2013 BRIN provided preliminary coverage of research into English university students and Christianity, undertaken by a team led by Mathew Guest of Durham University, with funding from the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme. A major aim of the project, which collected data via online questionnaires completed by 4,341 undergraduates in 2010-11 and via in-depth interviews, was to test empirically the widespread assumption that higher education is a force for secularization. Full details of the findings were published on 12 September 2013 in Mathew Guest, Kristin Aune, Sonya Sharma and Rob Warner, Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 9781780937847, paperback, £19.99 – also available in hardback and ebook editions). The volume was reviewed by Gerald Pillay in Times Higher Education on 12 September 2013. Guest has also contributed a substantial article about the research – entitled ‘What Really Happens at University?’ – to Church Times, 13 September 2013, pp. 27-8.

Scottish religious affiliation

The results from the religion question in the 2011 census of population for Scotland are still not available (they are expected to be included in release 2A of the census data on 26 September 2013). Meanwhile, we can note the religious affiliation question from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS), conducted by ScotCen Social Research among 1,229 residents of Scotland aged 18 and over between July and November 2012. The marginals on the UK Data Service Nesstar site show that a majority of Scots (52%) now regard themselves as belonging to no religion, compared with 40% when SSAS commenced in 1999. A further 22% regard themselves as Church of Scotland (35% in 1999), 11% as Catholics (15%), 12% as other Christians (10%), and 2% as non-Christians (1%). This ‘belonging’ form of question-wording is known to maximize the number of religious ‘nones’, and a similar formulation is used in the Scottish census (‘what religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?’). Claimed attendance at religious services (other than rites of passage) in the 2012 SSAS was 19% at least monthly, including 12% weekly or more often. These figures are down on 1999 levels (27% and 17% respectively) but are probably still aspirational to a considerable degree. The latest Scottish church attendance census, conducted by Christian Research on 12 May 2002, revealed a weekly participation rate of 11%, with no deduction for ‘twicing’.

Churchgoing in the Presbytery of Dunfermline

As noted in the previous entry, there has been no Scottish church attendance census since 2002. Nor does the Church of Scotland – as the ‘national church’ – routinely collect attendance data (in the way that the Church of England has since 1968). So there is added interest to annual churchgoing counts organized in the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Dunfermline since 2009, the latest on 17 and 24 March 2013. Through the kindness of Allan Vint, summary data for the Presbytery’s 24 congregations have been made available to BRIN. Total attendance in 2013 was 2,493, 4% down on the 2012 total and 14% on 2009. Attendees comprised 34% men and 66% women; 9% children, 3% teenagers, and 88% adults (with an average adult age of 63, up by four years since 2009).

Baby names

Biblical forenames remain fashionable for Jewish boys, according to a list compiled by the Jewish Baby Directory website. Analysing around 1,000 birth announcements in the Jewish Chronicle, Samuel was found to be first equal in the list of boys’ names for the Jewish year September 2012 to September 2013, with Jacob and Joshua joint third, Joseph joint fifth, and Benjamin, Ethan, Nathan and Noah in joint eleventh position. The attraction of female biblical names was less strong, with Leah in fourth place, Rachel in ninth, and Rebecca in eleventh equal. Previously popular biblical names for girls, such as Sarah and Naomi, failed to make it to the top twenty. The rankings are at:


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Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted on Monday to continue dialogue on same-sex relationships and the ministry following consideration of the report on the subject by a Special Commission appointed in 2009.

After several hours of debate, the Kirk’s commissioners voted by 351 to 294 to adopt deliverance 7B, which means a move towards the acceptance for training, induction and ordination for the ministry of those in same-sex relationships.

The Assembly also voted, by 393 to 252, to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships who had been ordained before 2009 to be inducted into pastoral charges.

Homosexuality in the ministry has been, and remains, a hugely contentious issue in the Church of Scotland (as it is, of course, in the Church of England).

The extent of division of opinion in Scotland became readily apparent from a consultation conducted by the Special Commission at two levels of the courts of the Church: Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions. Formal ballot papers were used for this purpose. It should be noted that there was no survey of rank-and-file members of the Church.

1,237 responses were received from Kirk Sessions, representing 86% of congregations. The total membership of these Sessions was 34,438, of whom 22,342 (65%) took part in the discussion meetings.

Responses were submitted by all 43 Presbyteries within Scotland and by the Presbyteries of England and Europe. The total membership of these 45 Presbyteries was 4,309, of whom 2,624 (61%) participated in the discussion meetings.

The statistical outcomes of the consultation are summarized in section 2 of the report of the Special Commission, with a four-way analysis of the answers for each of the questions on the ballot paper: by individual members of Kirk Sessions, Kirk Sessions as a whole, individual members of Presbyteries, and Presbyteries as a whole. A commentary on the findings then follows in section 3. The document is available at:

The Special Commission has also published the full figures from the consultation for both Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions (in the latter case, anonymized within Presbytery). These Excel files will be found at:

The questions posed were generally lengthy and complex, and it is not really possible to do justice to the data here.

Suffice it to say, however, that, while only a fairly small proportion of respondents (9% of members of Kirk Sessions and 11% of Presbyteries) both regarded homosexual orientation as a disorder and homosexual behaviour as sinful, many of those who accepted homosexuality as a given disapproved of homosexual behaviour in practice.

Moreover, 56% of members of Kirk Sessions and 58% of Presbyteries opposed the ordination as minister of a person in a same-sex relationship. 45% and 48% respectively were hostile to such a person exercising some other leadership role in the Church.

About one-fifth of both groups of members of these church courts said they might leave the Church of Scotland if the General Assembly allowed people in committed same-sex relationships to be ordained. 15% in each said they would secede if such people were appointed to other leadership positions.

At the same time, the Church of Scotland really is between a rock and a hard place, since 8% of members of Kirk Sessions and 6% of Presbyteries indicated that they would leave if the General Assembly forbade the ordination of individuals in committed same-sex relationships.

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Scottish Kirk Statistics, 2010

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the supreme court of the Kirk, is meeting in Edinburgh from 21 to 27 May.

On the agenda is the report of the Legal Questions Committee, which includes (at appendices J-L) the statistical returns for the Church as at 31 December 2010. Disaggregated to presbytery level, they are freely available at:

Unsurprisingly, the data reveal that the Church of Scotland is continuing to experience numerical decline, in common with most other mainstream Christian denominations in Great Britain.

This is true in respect of very short-term change, between 2009 and 2010, and of medium-term change, over the decade 2001-10 (comparative congregational figures are given for each year back to 1999 and ministerial ones from 2005).

For example, there were 25% fewer communicants (the principal criterion of membership of the Church) in 2010 than in 2001, with an even larger decrease (of 44%) in total admissions (by profession, certificate or resolution) to the roll of communicants.

Communicants in 2010 stood at 445,646, a far cry from the 1,319,574 of 1956, the peak year following the amalgamation of the Church of Scotland and part of the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929.

There were 18,709 fewer communicants in 2010 than in 2009, according to the comparative table in appendix K (although elsewhere the decrease is variously stated as 14,046 and 14,681), a loss of 4% in the space of twelve months.

Especially worthy of note is that the number of deaths (11,454) far exceeded the 1,928 admitted by profession during the year, the latter figure being not much more than half the total in 1999.

Besides communicants, there were 69,158 children and young people aged 17 and under and 17,684 persons aged 18 and over but not communicants who were involved in congregational life in 2010.

Overall, therefore, the Church’s constituency amounted to 532,488 individuals, about 10% of the Scottish population (which is still rather better than the Church of England’s reach in England).

As for the rites of passage, there were 5,787 baptisms in 2010, 37% less than in 2001. Of these, 7% were of adults. There were 5,048 weddings in 2010 and 28,046 funerals.

Assuming that all Church of Scotland communicants who died in 2010 had a funeral service according to the rites of the Kirk, then three-fifths of all funerals conducted by ministers of the Church must have been of non-communicants.   

This would suggest a high degree of Church of Scotland nominalism, which is borne out by opinion polls of religious affiliation in Scotland.

There were 1,441 congregations in 2010, 7% fewer than in 2001. There were 1,134 ministerial charges, of which 17% were vacant (somewhat worse than the 14% in 2005). Just 15 ministerial students completed courses in 2010. Of the 939 home ministers in 2010, 23% were women, 4% more than in 2005.

There were 36,519 church elders in 2010, up from 36,215 in 2009, but 16% fewer than in 2001. Whereas 49% of elders were women, females accounted for 66% of the 9,609 office-bearers other than elders.

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Religious Affiliation by Birth Decade

Religious Affiliation in England by Five-Year Birth Period

Religious Affiliation in Scotland by Birth Decade

Affiliation in Wales by Birth Decade

My former colleague Rod Ling did some excellent work integrating the religion questions from all of the British Social Attitudes surveys from 1983 to 2008 into a single data file.

Looking at the pooled sample, I wanted to see how religious affiliation varies by birth decade in England, Scotland and Wales, and how the affiliation of younger birth cohorts compares with that of older birth cohorts.

My concern was that there would not be a big enough sample size for the oldest cohort (born 1900-1910) and the youngest (born in the 1980s) to break them down reliably by broad religious affiliation (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Non-denominational Christian, Free Churches, Other Christian, Other Religion and No Religion). For that reason I have looked at percentage affiliated by birth decade for Scotland and Wales (where sample sizes are smaller) and percentage affiliated by five-year birth period for England, to ensure that the breakdowns are reasonable.

The patterns are interesting – we can see that an increasing proportion of the younger birth cohorts are none, other religion or non-denominational Christian. In some cases non-denominational Christian describes those who are members of independent churches; in other cases those who identify as ‘Christian’ as a cultural or ethnic marker without affiliating to any particular group or institution.

Among those born between 1900 and 1909 in the combined English samples, 55% identify as Anglican and 16% as ‘no religion’. By comparison, among those born between 1980 and 1989 in the combined English samples collected over the course of the BSA surveys, 9% identify as Anglican and 58% identify as ‘no religion’. For the combined Scottish samples from the 1983-2008 surveys, among those born between 1900 and 1909, 56% identify as Church of Scotland and 16% as ‘no religion’. Among those born between 1980 and 1989, 12% identify as Church of Scotland and 63% as ‘no religion’. Overall, it appears that the increase in ‘nones’ among younger birth cohorts is largely at the expense of the established churches.

The data tables and charts are available here. While the charts are beguiling, be aware that the x-axis points are period categories rather than indicating a continuum: properly, the changes in proportions should be shown in steps (as illustrated below), rather than a trend existing between 1970-1979 and 1980-1989. But overall I think it’s fair enough to illustrate composition change between cohorts in this way (because the differences in the bars are not easy to read); please comment below if you think not!

Religious Affiliation in Scotland - Bar Area Chart

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Dunfermline Presbytery Community Survey

Other than statistics regularly collected by the various Christian denominations, there is only limited national data about religion in Scotland in very recent years. One has to go back to sources such as the 2001 civil census, the religion module in the 2001 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, and the census of churchgoing by Christian Research in 2002.

It is, therefore, good to note some more contemporaneous, albeit more localized, evidence in the shape of a 37-page report on the Church of Scotland Dunfermline Presbytery Community Survey, undertaken earlier this year by Rev Allan Vint, the Presbytery’s Mission Development Officer. This is available to download at:

The survey was primarily designed for internal Kirk purposes, to give the Dunfermline Presbytery ‘insight’ into the factors which underlie the seemingly relentless decline in Church of Scotland membership and attendance, and ‘discernment and wisdom’ to help develop future missiological strategy. Vint has previously carried out two censuses of attendance in the Presbytery.

The community survey was conducted on a limited budget and through a hybrid methodology, which will raise some doubts about the representativeness of the three achieved samples of adults, primary school pupils and young people who completed an online or paper questionnaire.

The questions asked covered: spare-time activities, religious affiliation, attributes of a Christian, level of Christian commitment, belief in God, image of God, perception of Jesus Christ, idea of heaven, religious experience, churchgoing and reasons for it, attitudes to church services, and previous Sunday school attendance.

Particular difficulties were encountered by the researcher in reaching teenagers (who constitute a mere 3% of the Presbytery’s worshippers). Only 131 young people replied to the survey. Anybody requiring information about the attitudes to religion and the Church of Scots aged 12-17 would be advised to gain access to the Ipsos MORI study conducted for the Church of Scotland in 2008 (see    

Perhaps the most interesting section of the Dunfermline report relates to the replies from 358 adults. This highlights some notable differences between sub-samples of regular (monthly or more) and irregular or non-attenders at church (of whom 69% identified as Christian, although only 11% regarded themselves as strongly committed to the faith and no more than 50% believed in God).

Especially striking differences emerged with regard to the definition of a Christian. Whereas 89% of regular churchgoers prioritized knowing Jesus as personal saviour, just 31% of irregular or non-attenders attached importance to this. The latter were far more likely than the former (63% versus 34%) to see faith in terms of leading a good life. They also attached much less significance to belief in God, belief in the truth of the Bible, being baptized and attending services. This – in effect – interchangeability of religion with ethics has been a long-standing feature of popular beliefs.

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Churchgoing and the Weather

The most adverse winter for thirty years, currently being experienced in the United Kingdom, will doubtless take its toll on levels of church attendance, not least given the relatively elderly profile of most mainstream Christian denominations. We shall probably never know for sure, since those Churches which make annual returns of their worshippers mostly do so on the basis of counts during the autumn.

One small clue to the impact of bad weather on churchgoing comes from a census taken in the Dunfermline Presbytery of the Church of Scotland in 2009 (and to be repeated this year). This is the subject of a short feature by Peter Brierley in the February 2010 issue of FutureFirst, the bimonthly magazine of Brierley Consultancy. A more detailed report on the 2009 Dunfermline census, including breaks by gender and age, may be obtained from Rev Allan Vint at

The Dunfermline census was conducted over two Sundays. The first, 8 March 2009, ‘proved to be a day of adverse weather conditions which resulted in particularly poor attendance for almost every church’. The census was therefore repeated on 15 March, when the number of worshippers was 7 per cent higher than the week before.

There are also some scattered historical data about the effects of bad weather on churchgoing, especially from 30 March 1851 when there was a Government census of religious worship throughout Great Britain, an exercise which has never been repeated. The day was mostly wet and stormy, as confirmed by extant meteorological readings. Comparison between the statistics for census day and average attendances reveals the former to be significantly lower, particularly in rural areas. In Shropshire, for example, general congregations were reduced by 22 per cent below the norm for places of worship which expressly commented on the state of the weather on 30 March.

Other local counts of church attendance from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras point in the same direction. In Cheltenham congregations were again 22 per cent lower on 29 January 1882 (a very wet day) than on 5 February (a reasonably fine one). In West Cumberland the census of churchgoing was taken on 14 December 1902, an exceedingly stormy day, which, in this predominantly rural area with indifferent transport and roads, apparently reduced congregations by up to two-thirds.

However, the evidence is by no means consistent. At Bradford a census taken on 11 December 1881, immediately after heavy snow, did not produce an appreciably smaller turnout at church and chapel than a replication on 18 December, when the weather was somewhat better, especially in the morning. Similarly, in Carnarvon attendances on a bitterly cold day (26 January 1908) were just 7 per cent below those on a warm sunny one (5 July), the same difference between two Sundays as for Dunfermline in 2009.

Hitherto, there has been little discussion of the topic in the academic literature. One exception is Robin Gill, who has made a short study of the relationship between weather and church attendance during the late nineteenth century (The ‘Empty’ Church Revisited, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003, pp. 20-3). He concludes that the weather did make a difference to churchgoing, but less than one might expect. Also, according to him, bad weather was more likely to reduce Free Church than Anglican attendances.

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