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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