(The Tablet) R Catholic population stable while Anglican numbers drop

The proportion of British people identifying themselves as Anglican has halved in the last 50 years, while the proportion of Roman Catholics has remained largely steady, according to new data.

The percentage of self-identified Anglicans in Britain has fallen by half since 1963, according to figures released this week by the British Election Study in the run-up to next year’s general election. This year 31.1 per cent of respondents were Anglican compared to 64.5 per cent in 1963.

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said that it was active across the country, carrying our weddings, baptisms and funerals, and was host to vital community activities.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

One comment on “(The Tablet) R Catholic population stable while Anglican numbers drop

  1. Terry Tee says:

    In theory this is encouraging news for UK Catholics, that our membership is holding steady. And of course I am glad about this. However, there are some troubling signs.

    The sociologist Grace Davie has spoken and written about the pattern of church membership in Britain as now ‘belonging without believing’ ie people want some kind of association with church, but without doctrinal commitment or participation in regular worship. The parallel in the U.S. would be the trend for religion to be an ethnic marker rather than conscious membership of a faith community. In England this trend has been marked in the Church of England, where there is a tenuous, but still real, sense of belonging to the national church. However, logically we know that such a vague sense of belonging will disappear within a generation or two because it will not be transmitted.

    I mention all this because there are indications that this ‘belong without believing’ trend spreading to the Catholic Church too. Consider the following statistics. They are for England and Wales only and come from the yearly official Catholic Directory. (For 2014 I have added estimated baptism figures for one diocese, Hexham and Newcastle, which were lacking from the official table.)

    Mass attendance 1,135,000
    Baptisms 74,800

    Mass attendance 958,000
    Baptisms 60,000

    Mass attendance 927,000
    Baptisms 57,000

    Mass attendance 844,000
    Baptisms 61,319

    You can see there is a staggering drop in Mass attendance and baptisms. Baptisms have begun to creep up again, almost certainly due to Polish immigration. The drop in church weddings is also very steep.

    These figures conceal enormous regional variations. The North West, especially Liverpool, was until recently a Catholic stronghold, but Mass attendance has plummeted there. By contrast in London and the South East it has held firm – just as London is a bright spot for the Church of England also.

    I apologise for this long post, but I want to provide a qualification to the sense of Catholic identity holding firm. Much as I would like to blow our Roman trumpet, I am afraid that we face very real challenges. Unfortunately the encouraging figures for the Catholic Church in the British Election Survey mentioned in this post are not the full picture. Moreover, unlike the Church of England, the Catholic Church faces enormous challenges in finding and sustaining vocations to ordained ministry. There is a growing shortage of priests, which, given our strong sacramental spirituality, is a daunting challenge.