Church of England Sunday attendance continues downward slide

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CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Attendance figures released by the Church of England show that Sunday worship attendance continues its downward slide and now stands at about half of what it was 45 years ago.

The report from the Archbishops’ Council Research and Statistics Department, released Friday (March 21), shows that on average in 2012, 800,000 adults attended church on Sunday. That’s down from 1.6 million Sunday worshippers in 1968.

Christmas and Easter services continue to attract the highest number of worshippers. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bring in around 2.5 million people and Easter services attract approximately 1.4 million.

One of England’s top women judges, Baroness Brenda Hale, said the Church of England is in decline because it is so undemanding.

She recently told a conference at Yale Law School: “It has no dietary laws, no dress codes for men or women, and very little that its members can say is actually required of them by way of observance.”

Her comments came in a lecture following a series of court cases in which British Christians claimed to be suffering from religious discrimination but lost their cases.

She described England as a “paradoxical country” when it comes to religion, saying that even though the Church of England is the “established“ church (and has been since Henry VIII broke from Rome in the 16th century), half the population does not profess any religious affiliation.


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  • gilhcan

    Judge Brenda Hale is unable to read the writing on the wall. It is precisely because of past, dark age efforts of churches like the Church of England to dictate theology, eating, dress codes, days of observance, and otherwise control the lives of people in all sorts of ways, as if they were a bunch of dummies, that people have dumped the churches.

    Religion and the churches have lost their meaning. And that’s the fault of church leaders and blind followers like Brenda Hale. I’m sure Hale, like Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito is also unable to keep her religious thinking out of her judicial work.

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  • Drastic Plastic

    An organisation like the CofE whose leaders are appointed by its enemies has little chance to prosper. Which will make Britain steadily a worse place to live in.

  • Frank

    When the church looks like the world, acts like the world and takes on the worlds standards why would anybody go to a church?

    Only when a church upholds Gods standards of morality and ethics does it give anyone a reason to get involved.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sometimes the Christian religion is better under persecution than when everything is seemingly going swell. Ireland and Poland are perfect examples. When those countries were “under the gun” their churches were full. But the CofE has had a very easy go of it as the pet of both the British government and Anglo culture.
    Thus it seems being “countercultural” is the way to go for a Christian church.

  • Shawnie5

    Exactly so, Deacon John, The slide is not even remotely because of the church “controlling people’s lives” but just the opposite — because the churches have required almost nothing of their people and for the most part never did, even in the mythical “dark ages.” Although the business about diet and dress codes is rather silly; what they need to require is genuine holiness and non-compromise with secular culture.

  • Atheist Max

    ‘Shame’ is the fuel of Religion.
    That is what many believers keep missing.
    And shame is fading away in the modern world.

    Darrell Ray’s book “The God Virus” explores these changes happening in (formerly) Christian societies – from the decline of sexual shame to the end of women’s repression.

    Emancipation, women’s liberation and sex – these things are destroying the fear and guilt of religion across society. Additionally, the neurology of ‘faith’ is now widely understood as mere biology.

    Religion is cultural delusion.
    Now we all know it. Holidays like Christmas and Easter may disappear within 30 years.

  • Edward Borges-Silva

    It is refreshing to see, at present, a ratio of three to one in this thread in favor of orthodoxy, the comments quite apropos.

  • Edward Borges-Silva

    I’m sorry, that’s only two to one, but encouraging.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    When shame goes out the window modesty and decency get thrown out the door. One need only see a video on the internet of some Gay Pride parades. No wonder St. Patrick’s Day parades don’t want to allow gay contingents in their parades with the gay groups being allowed to set their own rules. A compromise was in the works in South Boston, but the gay groups negotiating wanted to set their own rules (unlike all the other groups in the parades) so the parade sponsors wisely kept to their rules This was fortunate as and more people became acquainted with the antics at Gay Pride Parades when they had the freedom they wanted in the St. Patrick’s Day Parades.
    Of course, the media “fronted” for the gays and never printed or put on TV News what having gays do their “own thing” in a parade means thereby skewing the debate on the parade issue in favor of gays.

  • Atheist Max

    What irony!

    This idea that sexual expression is somehow unacceptable to you is entirely created only in your mind under the influence of your Christian delusion.

    Gay expression of joy at one’s body is tame compared to the routine horrific Catholic pornography of a practically nude man in nothing more than a loin cloth bleeding red blood from wounds above most altars in most churches.

    The irony: you see nothing wrong with such a pornographic, life sized Jesus bleeding violently over a congregation at center of the Church Nave – along with violent depictions of the stations of the cross encircling countless children in their pews!

    Such an assault on human decency!
    Yet gorgeous, decent, honest men walking down a street is a problem for you???

    Somebody isn’t noticing his true inner feelings.

  • J. Grimes

    This sounds like a sinner trying to justify his sin.

  • Atheist Max

    ‘Sin’ is a word which only works in an imaginary realm. ‘Sin’ isn’t real.

    These words suffice: good, bad, right and wrong.
    ‘Sin’ is nonsense.

    “Gay” isn’t a bad thing.

  • Jay

    The waters of babylon the great are steadily drying up.

  • England should come back to Rome, the only way Christianity will survive in England, and everywhere. Protestantism and their over 3000 denominations has ruined Christianity. Only Rome where Christ’ Vicor on earth and who follow him will stand.

  • TimN

    Talk about start with conclusions and fit the facts.
    To quote the mission report:

    Overall in 2012, on average 1.05m people attended Church of England churches each week showing no significant change over the past decade

    The CofE is not declining significantly. It declined in the 70’s-90’s, and is now maintaining itself, despite the fact that the surrounding culture is increasingly post-christian.

    And Baroness Hale’s comments were in regards to accommodation for Christians within the law. The Church of England was not specifically mentioned (other than the fact that it is established) – none of her remarks would apply any less to Baptists or Pentecostal s. Linking the two statements is disingenuous at best…….

  • Shawn English

    this is the Truth… and its Biblical… We are in the world But should never be so comfortable here that we forget Gods standards… Going against the grain is our Lot… John 15:19 and nuff nuff other references

  • Atheist Max


    “come back to Rome”?

    The Thirty Years War proved that neither the Catholics nor the Protestants could follow Christianity.

    Christianity is a wicked joke on humanity. It is a doctrine which decrees two opposite things and insists you follow them both!

    “Love your neighbor”
    “Beware the Lord’s enemies”

    IT CANNOT be true.

  • Larry

    They could bring back witch burnings which were so popular under Cromwell.

    That will pack the seats!

  • martin granm

    And did Mao and Stalin keep their atheist thoughts out of how they ran their countries? No. There are over 100 million dead because of those two!

  • martin granm

    Another trollish comment. You can not prove how wonderful it is to live under an atheist government so you do the only thing that you know how to do…you attack religion.

  • martin granm

    Remember Mao and Stalin? They are the porters children of atheism!

  • Atheist Max

    Ummm. Lol..
    You live under an Atheistic government right now!
    And I’d bet you like it pretty well.

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion” – US Constitution.

    That’s right, we have No religion – despite whatever your Jesus wants.
    And we still have the only constitution on earth that says this.

  • Atheist Max

    Mao demanded worship of Mao.
    Stalin demanded worship of Stalin.
    Jesus demanded worship of Jesus.

    Nope…… None of them sound like Atheism to me.

  • Inigo de Ona

    And your philosophy demands worship of self.

  • Atheist Max

    Why must I worship something? Why does it matter? Ever think of that?

  • Atheist Max

    Lack of a belief in a god is not a threat to anyone.
    Dictatorship is the threat. And that has nothing to do with atheism.
    Totalitarianism goes with religion.

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  • Doug

    So if church attendance is steady and the population is declining, does that mean that the percentage of the population attending church has declined? Or had the British population stabilized?

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