Death Spiral For The Anglican Church As Massive Numbers Leave The Church

News Image By PNW Staff September 18, 2017
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The Church of England's membership is now declining so swiftly and steadily that it can hardly be considered anything less than a death spiral as millions drop out of the ranks of the faithful. 

Instead of relying solely on the official figures provided by the Church, which still claims to have over 85 million members, many are now taking a closer look at the British Social Attitudes Survey, conducted every year since 1983. 

In 2016, the survey was given to 2,942 adults between July and October and respondents replied, not with an official church affiliation that may be found on a certificate or registry, but instead they described their actual beliefs, religious identities and behavior. 

The results could hardly be worse for the Church of England and Christianity in general.

Across all age groups, a total of 15% of British claim Anglican Christianity as their religion, down from 30% in the year 2000. But even more striking is the gap between the age cohorts. Only a scant 3% of the young adult population between the ages of 18 and 24 identifies as Anglican, as compared to as many as 40% of those over the age of 75. 

The implication is that the congregations will soon be dying from advanced age and there will be few from the next generation to replace them in the pews.

Catholicism has remained little changed over the past 30 years with roughly 10% of the population but in the 18-24 age group, a mere 5% identify as Catholic. And for both Anglicans and Catholics, the matter of identity is no longer a binary question as great numbers of increasingly liberal Christians find themselves at odds with official Church positions on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion. 

Thus the 3% of young adults that claim to be Anglicans and 5% of those who claim to be Catholic have far less in common with their more traditional elders than in generations past, often holding views diametrically opposed to those of the Church, a fact which calls into question the future stability of the Church of England as an institution.

In ages past, people tended to respond to surveys with a religious identity such as the Church of England even if they didn't truly believe or weren't practicing. But now, experts are discovering, people are expressing their non-religion more clearly. 

As Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool said in an interview with Christian Today, "In this modern world, people are more willing to be honest and say they have 'no religion' rather than casually saying they are 'C of E'." It is the "rise of the nones", as some have dubbed it.

The recent survey puts the percentage of those who claim "no religion" at 53% when considering the full age range but a much higher 71% when looking only at the 18-24 age group. 

Even more astounding is the increase from 62% in the previous year of the study, an increase of 14.5% in a single year. For the 25-34 age range the number is little better at around 66% of the population claiming no religion.

In a country where the state supports the church in public schools, it is remarkable that such a small percentage of students graduates with no connection to the church.

The abandonment of the Anglican church has also given rise to a phenomenon known as secular congregations. These are regular gatherings of people who yearn for the sense of connection and community support without having to believe in any religion or form of spirituality. 

They support each other in times of tragedy, celebration, major life events and in the day-to-day task of living. Now taking over abandoned churches in some cases, these secular congregations are an attempt to fill a void being left by the vanishing Anglican Church by a generation that has decided to reject its teachings and values.

One woman, a 26-year-old journalist named Tamsin, was interviewed for a piece on secularism by 5 Live. She meets with her Sunday Assembly, one such secular congregation, in London once every two weeks. She said in the interview, "I'm not religious at all. I like the fact that this is a way for community to come together, without having to be about religion."

In another generation, the Church of England will have virtually faded from the public eye as it hangs on with only a fraction of a percent of the population. 

After that, it will be gone entirely if nothing is done to reverse this death spiral. This is truly how religions are extinguished in the modern age: not by a bloody holy war or continent-burning jihad, but by the quicksand of secular apathy.

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