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Christian Scots down 11% in Census

04 October 2013


Flying the flag: St John's Episcopal church, Princes street, Edinburgh 

Flying the flag: St John's Episcopal church, Princes street, Edinburgh 

A SHARP fall in the number of Scots calling themselves Christian is a challenge, but "all is far from lost", the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, says.

Data just released from the 2011 Census shows that just over half (54 per cent) of the population of Scotland regard themselves as Christian - down 11 per cent since the 2001 Census; while those with no religion rose nine points to 37 per cent.

Bishop Chillingworth said in a statement on Friday: "The figures . . . are a significant challenge for churches. . . The reasons are clear. Traditional patterns of church life have difficulty attracting people in a mobile, fast-changing, and increasingly sophisticated society. . .

"Rising levels of interest in spirituality - evidenced by growing interest in pilgrimage, prayer and other faith-related activity - show that many people are searching for depth and meaning in their lives. Many are open to exploring discipleship, even if they are unlikely to become church members in the traditional sense.

"Churches need to change, and I welcome that. We need to become more creative and flexible."

The Census also showed that many people in Scotland identify themselves as Church of England or Anglican rather than as Episcopalian or of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The figures are: Church of England, 66,717; Episcopalian, 21,289; Anglican, 4490; Scottish Episcopal Church, 8048. There were also 2020 members of the Church of Ireland, and 453 from the Church in Wales.

That was described by the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, in his blog, as a "wee identity crisis".

He wrote: "We've a significant branding problem. There's only one Church of the Anglican Communion in Scotland; yet even the Census report has six different lines relating to us.

"Some of the people who claim to be Church of England will make their way to the Church of Scotland and never know the difference. This infuriates Episcopalians, but we should be thinking about why we are so invisible to those people."

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