Decline of the church in the UK


Highlights and some of my thoughts from yesterdays seminar on Decline of the Church In no particular order:

1. Are secularization theorist correct, that modernity is dismantling and replacing the need for religion? 2. Two key different approaches to assessment, sociological(quantitative data etc, anthropological (ethnographic studies etc) 3. Sociological approaches often offer data (church is in decline etc) but little by way of interpretation, the 'why?', 'how does it feel?' etc. 4. The increasing place for Empirical Theology in these assessments (i.e Alan James etc) 5. Surveys on church attendance in UK show: 1979 - 12%, 1989 - 10%, 1998 - 7.5%. The trend is downards 6. Anecdotally, the figure is much much lower in urban places, maybe 1%, and sometimes higher in rural areas with low population densities. 7. Reminded me again of how different the UK is the USA. The UK is secular, the US is a religious nation (over 40% attendance/connection to church)

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8. People are occasional attendees, the role of regular attendance is gone from most churches. 9. People have their own liturgical calendar. In the country it can be around harvest, mothering sunday etc. I wonder if in urban areas it is around public holidays that are now vacation times. The church calendar now marks peoples vacation lives. How do we live the church calendar when peoples liturgy is something very different? 10. Apart from France, which is like the UK, weekly attendance at church can be as high as 29%. The higher north you go and more protestant you get the lower church attendance (apart from norther Ireland due to culture demarkations by religion) 11. National Census in 2001, optional question on religion, had 71% of UK self selecting as Christian! 12. Was this people believing and not belonging, where are they getting their christian input from? 13. Or is it people selecting Christian as an ethnic statement, i.e 'Not Muslim', and a selection against atheism, i.e most people believe in God, and if they aren't muslim will still opt for Christian when questioned. In other words they saw this survey as 'do you believe in god?' 14. Despite downward trend of church, 97% of people opt for a religious funeral! Reminded me again of place for connection to our world in funerals for evangelism. 15. Also 20% of children are baptized, another key place for church to meet people. Weddings down to 40% by church, but still a huge proportion. 16. I know some argue the church should refuse to baptize kids, do funeral and marriages for non christians...yet I am more convinced we need to use these things as rites of passage to connect to our community. 17. 1851 UK and Wales Survey: asked about people at church, it was a shock to Victorian England. 18. In 1851 unless you were a member of the church of england you could not be a member of parliament, civil servant, lecturer etc. And those people in these jobs who ran the country assumed everyone was like them. 19. 39% of population at best were in attendance at church, and 50% of those were not in c.ofe churches 20. So the english have always been occasional attenders, and even in height of churches culture, 50% were in non church of england churches. 21. Church decline slightly, then more so after 1st world war, then it grew after 2nd world war, and was probably still around the 39% mark into the 1950's. 22. What triggered the decline? Maybe sexual emancipation, thesis of females freed from set roles, to negotiated roles with men, and the found the church as one place that perpetuated the role of women in society. Women opted out, and men stopped as they only went to reinforce their roles with their wives. 23. Decline in religious education in UK. Although compulsory in school, it doesn't take place, shortage of RE teachers, and most schools ignore the law in this respect. 24. First and Second generation of children growing up who have been taught nothing about christianity, huge implications for our evangelism!

My full notes are