OFFICIAL statistics issued last week suggest that attendance at
C of E churches may have levelled out after decades of decline.
A report by the Archbishops' Council, Statistics for Mission
2012, released on Friday last week, suggests that, on an
average Sunday in 2012 (the latest year with available data) about
859,000 people attended a C of E church. This compares with 901,000
The average weekly attendance for the Church was higher, at 1.05
million people. About one in five of those who attend a C of E
service weekly are reckoned not to attend on a Sunday.
Three months ago, a C of E report on church growth, From
Anecdote to Evidence (News,
31 January), suggested that there had been nine per cent
decline in average weekly attendance over the decade to 2010.
But Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics for the
Archbishops' Council, said that decline had mostly stopped over the
The earlier figures have now been revised. "These statistics for
2012 show that weekly attendance over the past decade has not
changed significantly," Dr Botting said. "The introduction of
cleaner data and more rigorous methodological approaches and
analysis means these figures provide a clearer picture of Anglican
churchgoing in the decade to 2012."
There is a health warning with many of the Church's figures,
since one quarter of churches (27 per cent) returned no or only
partial data, forcing the researchers to introduce estimates into
their working. A C of E spokesman said: "We are confident that the
estimates made are the best possible, but they will, of course,
always be estimates."
The C of E statistics do not take account of population grown.
Since the population of England grew by 7.8 per cent between 2003
and 2012, the stable figure for average weekly attendance
represents a percentage decline.
The 2012 average Sunday attendance of 859,000 represents 1.6 per
cent of the population of England. In 2003, approximately 1.8 per
cent of the population attended church on an average Sunday.
None the less, the new estimates suggest that more churches are
growing than was thought earlier: 20 per cent of churches are
growing (the earlier figure was 18 per cent), and 57 per cent are
stable; just 23 per cent are thought to be declining.
Again, Dr Botting said that the difference could be explained by
the use of more up to date data and different methods for
estimating what was happening at churches that did not return any
The C of E spokesman also said: "The church-growth programme
used the most up-to-date data available when they were doing their
analysis, and considered data from the decade to 2010. The more
recent analysis just published uses the recent data now available
and considers the time period 2007 to 2012. The two sets of figures
are actually very close."
Statistics for Mission 2012 suggests that almost one in
five of those who attended church at least monthly was under 18
years old, just over half were between 18 and 69, and 28 per cent
were aged 70 or above.
Christmas services in 2012 attracted 2.52 million people,
slightly down from 2011 (2.64 million). The broader picture of the
past five years, however, is of fairly stable Christmas attendance,
slightly fluctuating depending on the weather and on which day
Christmas falls each year.
Almost 1.4 million people attended an Easter service in 2012.
This figure remains stable year to year.
A rare increase came in the field of adult baptisms - which were
up to 11,160 in 2012, from 9600 in 2008.
The Church baptised more than 137,000 people in 2012, a rate of
around 3000 per week. It also married almost 56,000 couples, an
increase of eight per cent from 2011.
There has been a steady drop in those being confirmed, however,
with a fall of 29 per cent between 2003 and 2012. Just 22,540
people were confirmed in 2012.
A BOOSTER JAB? MAJOR SURGERY?
Throughout February, the Church Times gave the C of E a
thorough medical. We asked 35 specialists to take the Church's
temperature and peer down its throat. They looked at its
congregations, leadership, governance, and social influence, and
made recommendations for treatment.
This wide-ranging examination proved popular, and prompted so
much debate that we are now offering the four sections in one handy
book, published by Canterbury Press. Ideal for individual study or
group discussion - and there's a big discount for multiple
£12.99 (CT Bookshop price £11.69 - only £8.99 if you order six
copies or more)
Order your copies now onwww.chbookshop.co.uk,or find the link on