THE "spectacular" growth of the churches in London is a
rejoinder to the "very powerful academic narrative that our society
is inevitably getting more and more secular", a colloquium heard
The colloquium, "Church Growth and Decline in a Global City:
London, 1980 to the Present", at the University of London's
Institute of Historical Research, was organised by the Revd Dr
David Goodhew, director of the Centre for Church Growth Research at
Cranmer Hall, St John's College, Durham. On Tuesday, he said that
the findings presented should encourage clergy who might
"internalise fatalism", but that Anglicans were occasionally guilty
of being "snooty" about those churches that were enjoying
"It is implied that these are theological unsophisticates who
will broaden and deepen and learn how to be a bit more like us," he
said. "And I think we could do with being a bit humbler, and asking
in what ways are these people connecting the gospel with London,
and how might the Anglican Church learn from this?"
The colloquium heard from Dr Peter Brierley, whose London Church
Census of 2012 suggested a growth of 16 per cent between 2005 and
2012, from 620,000 to 720,000 people attending on Sundays. The
number of churches grew by 17 per cent, from 4100 to 4800.
Dr Goodhew suggested that Dr Brierley's figure was "quite
probably an undercount" in the light of research by Dr Andrew
Rogers in Roehampton, showing that black-majority churches in
Southwark numbered 240 (News, 28 June).
The Revd Dr Babatunde Adedibu, policy and research officer for
the Redeemed Christian Church of God, reported that the
denomination had planted more than 600 churches in the UK since the
1980s, many in London.
"The primary picture that comes out from the resarch is of very
significant church growth across London but's it not the whole
picture," Dr Goodhew said. "There has been an explosion of
attendance in Pentecostal churches. Orthodox churches are also
growing strongly, and Roman Catholic congregations are growing a
little overall and a lot in some places. Conversely, some of the
older Free Churches, like the Methodists and the URC, are
continuing to decline sharply: attendance has more than halved in
London since 1979."
Dr Goodhew suggested that the data presented raised questions
about the C of E's ethnic make-up. While 36 per cent of those
attending London Baptist churches and 45 per cent of Roman
Catholics were from ethnic minorities, the proportion from ethnic
minorities fell to 21 per cent in the C of E. "I think that raises
serious missiological questions for the Anglican Church. When Black
and Asian Anglicans migrate to this country, where do they go to
Dr Goodhew's research team is now looking at new churches in the
north-east. He said that early findings suggested that "a number of
developments in church growth that are focused in London are
happening to some degree nationally, and may well happen to a
greater degree over time."