Religious Marriages and Other News

Seven new sources of British religious statistics feature in today’s bulletin, leading with the latest set of official annual figures on the mode of solemnization of marriages in England and Wales.

Marriages (England and Wales), 2011

The number of marriages solemnized in religious ceremonies in England and Wales dropped by 6% between 2010 and 2011, notwithstanding that the overall total of marriages increased by 2% over the same period. The decline affected all denominations and faiths, including the Church of England and Church in Wales, which conducted 7% fewer weddings in 2011 than 2010, despite the former’s push over recent years to stimulate public interest in getting married in church. The fall in religious marriages since 2001 has been 18%, in contrast to all marriages which have contracted by just one-half a percentage point. The proportion of religious marriages to the total has slumped from 99% in 1838 to 84% in 1901 to 67% in 1966 to 30% in 2011, 1976 being the year when civil ceremonies overtook religious ones.

Perhaps reflecting the struggles which many Christian denominations have had to come to terms with divorce, both partners in religious marriages continue to be more likely to be entering their first marriage than do their counterparts at civil ceremonies (82% against 60% in 2011, albeit the former figure has dipped from 95% in the late 1960s as divorce has spread even among people of faith). Couples undergoing a civil marriage are also 10% more likely to be cohabiting before marriage than those marrying in a place of worship; however, the latter figure had climbed to 78% in 2011 (compared with 41% in 1994). So, whatever their traditional teaching against it, the Churches have clearly had to accommodate themselves to a society in which living together (i.e. sex) before marriage is the norm. Were they not to turn a blind eye to it, religious marriages would simply implode.

The foregoing data (still provisional for 2011) are taken from a bulletin issued by the Office for National Statistics today (26 June 2013) and from associated reference tables, all of which may be accessed at:–provisional-/2011/index.html

Global threats

Given a list of eight possible international concerns, 55% of Britons selected Islamic extremist groups as a major threat to the country, second only to international financial instability (59%), and ahead of global climate change (48%), North Korea’s nuclear programme (45%), Iran’s nuclear programme (42%), political instability in Pakistan (31%), China’s power and influence (29%), and US power and influence (22%). This is according to the latest release of data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, with fieldwork undertaken (by Princeton Survey Research Associates International) in 39 countries in Spring 2013 (including Britain, where 1,012 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone between 4 and 27 March 2013). Nevertheless, Islamic extremist groups were even more likely to be categorized as a major threat in several other leading developed nations: Italy (74%), France (71%), Spain (62%), Germany (60%), Japan (57%), and the US (56%). In Britain an additional 33% considered Islamic extremist groups to be a minor threat and only 6% no threat at all. Topline tables were published on 24 June 2013 at:

Origins of life

The creationist view of the origin and development of life on earth is held by only a minority of UK citizens, according to Wellcome Trust Monitor, Wave 2, undertaken by Ipsos MORI through face-to-face interviews with 1,396 adults and 460 young people aged 14-18 between 21 May and 22 October 2012, but not published until 17 May 2013. Just 23% of adults and 21% of young people agreed that ‘humans and other living things were created by God and have always existed in their current form’, rising to 28% of over-65s, 27% of women, and 27% of those with no educational qualifications. A further 22% of adults and 18% of young people thought that ‘humans and other living things evolved over time, in a process guided by God’. But the biggest number in both groups, 50% of adults and 57% of young people, subscribed to the theory that ‘humans and other living things evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which God played no part’. The proportion peaked (68%) among those scoring most highly on a quiz about scientific knowledge which was a component of the research. A wide range of documentation about the survey, including data in Excel format (T146 is the relevant table for this question) and the main report (with analysis on pp. 32-3), is available at:

These results are broadly consistent with those obtained in Wellcome Trust Monitor, Wave 1, conducted in 2009. They also accord with evidence from other pollsters, although variations in question-wording and methodology make strict comparisons difficult. This evidence has been summarized thus by Clive Field in an, as yet, unpublished paper: ‘the creation in Genesis is now widely rejected in favour of evolutionist interpretations. This appears to have been a relatively recent phenomenon. Two-thirds to four-fifths now accept human beings have developed from earlier species of animals, while believers in the so-called young earth creation theory (that God made human beings in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years) fell from 29% in 1995 to below one-fifth in the most recent polls (2006-12). Excluding a fairly significant number of “don’t knows”, majority opinion is unevenly split between theories of Darwinian evolution and intelligent design (the latter still admitting some possible role for God or supernatural planner). Many do not see any inherent contradiction between evolution and Christianity in accounting for the origin of life on earth and thus can believe in both, and there is broad support for all explanations of the origin being taught in schools.’

Funeral hymns

Put on the spot, a plurality (44%) of 2,427 adult Britons did not know what song, hymn or piece of music they would like to be played at their funeral, and a further 11% did not want any music to be played. The remaining 45% nominated a particular song, hymn or piece of music, but none took more than 1% of the vote. The most popular religious or allied items were Abide with Me (the choice of 30 respondents), Jerusalem (28), Amazing Grace (22), How Great Thou Art (21), and The Lord is My Shepherd/Psalm 23 (20). The poll was conducted online by ComRes on behalf of Marie Curie Cancer Care on 3-6 May 2013, in advance of Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May), although the full data tables were not published until 12 June at:

Youth and religion

A YouGov poll of 940 18- to 24-year-olds for The Sun, conducted online on 14-19 June 2013 and published on 24-25 June, confirms the relatively weak hold which religion has over Generation Y, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. A mere 8% profess membership of a church or religious group (compared with 21% who belong to a gym). One-tenth claim to attend religious services once a month or more, with 56% never going and a further 18% less than annually. Only 12% say they are influenced a lot or a fair amount by religious leaders, even less than celebrities (21%), brands (32%), and politicians (38%), and way behind friends (77%) and parents (82%). Just 14% recognize religion as more often the cause of good in the world against 41% who agree that it is mostly the source of evil, the remainder being neutral or uncertain. No more than 25% believe in God, although another 19% accept that there is some kind of spiritual greater power; 38% believe in neither and 18% are undecided. And only 38% identify with a religion, 56% with none. Full data tables (with breaks by gender, age, and education) are available at:

while commentary on the survey can be found at: and

Methodist statistics

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has recently made available its statistics for mission report for the connexional year 2012/13 (representing the position as at October 2012, and based on a 98% response from local churches). Comparing with the year before, the picture which emerges is one of continuing decline on most performance indicators, with significant annual decreases in those with the loosest attachment to the Church, reflected in the figures for the community roll and rites of passage (the fall in membership and attendance was less marked). The following table has been compiled from data available at:




% change














Ceased to meet




Community roll





All age weekly average: Sunday




All age weekly average: midweek




Adult weekly average




Children/young people weekly average




Rites of passage













Psychological type and churchmanship of Anglican clergy

The relationship of psychological type preferences to three forms of self-assigned churchmanship (Anglo-Catholic, Broad Church, evangelical) is explored by Andrew Village in ‘Traditions within the Church of England and Psychological Type: A Study among the Clergy’, Journal of Empirical Theology, Vol. 26, No. 1, 2013, pp. 22-44. The sample comprised 1,047 Anglican clergy ordained in the United Kingdom (mostly into the Church of England) between 2004 and 2007 who responded to a self-completion postal questionnaire. The majority of clergy were found to prefer introversion over extraversion, but this preference was more marked among Anglo-Catholics than evangelicals. Anglo-Catholics also showed preference for intuition over sensing, while the reverse was true for evangelicals. Clergy of both sexes exhibited an overall preference for feeling over thinking, but this was reversed among evangelicals. These variations could not be wholly explained by differences in the level of conservatism or charismaticism across the traditions, suggesting that they were linked to preferences for different styles of religious expression in worship. In short, Village argues, people gravitate to traditions that match their psychological type, especially in respect of the perceiving function. The analysis is preceded by a fairly extensive literature review of psychological type and religion. The abstract and full-text access options for the article are at:


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