Church numbers in London buck trend

09 May 2014

RCCG

Numbers: Dr Babatunde Adedibu said that the Redeemed Christian Church of God had planted more than 600 churches in the UK since the 1980s, many in London

Numbers: Dr Babatunde Adedibu said that the Redeemed Christian Church of God had planted more than 600 churches in the UK since the 1980s, man...

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 last Friday.

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 growth.

"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 church?"

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."

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