Church statistics show continued decline, call into question establishment

The Church of England has today released its attendance statistics for 2011.The British Humanist Association (BHA) has drawn attention to the fact that the figures show a very substantial majority of people in England have nothing to do with the Church of England and has called for a reconsideration of its privileged legal and constitutional position as the established national church in light of that fact.

Attendance figures continued to show general long-term decline and low figures of attendance of all sorts. For example:

  • 98% of people didn’t go to a Church of England service on an average week
  • 95% didn’t go to Church at Christmas
  • 88% of babies weren’t baptised
  • 66% of funerals weren’t Church of England

Taken together with other polls and surveys, these figures confirm that the majority of people do not engage in religious practice, nor have religious beliefs, nor a religious identity.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘Most people don’t look to the Church of England even at the times of year or times in their life when to do so was traditional even for non-believers. Only 2% of people went to a Church of England service on an average week and only 5% of people at the “popular” time of Christmas – a lower attendance than in many years in the past decade. 66% of funerals were not Anglican, even though older people are more likely to be Anglicans, and most marriages weren’t Anglican either. Although the Church of England undoubtedly provided useful services to its members, the vast majority of the people of England have nothing to do with it.

‘In an ideal world, these figures would be of interest only to sociologists and the church itself. In a nation where the church in question has a privileged legal and constitutional position, they must be subject to wider public scrutiny and their implications drawn out. What they illustrate yet again is a church established by national law that has long ceased to be a truly national church. It is about time the legal position caught up with the social reality and the privileged place of Anglicanism and Anglicans was brought to an end. It can’t be right for a minority concern to have unique and automatic seats in our parliament, control of nearly a third of our state schools, and almost monopoly public funding for its mission in state funded social institutions like our prisons and hospitals. Our diverse and increasingly non-religious society needs a more appropriate settlement.’

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For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs on [email protected] or on 07738 435059

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.