THINKING of oneself as "Church of England" or "Anglican" is
increasingly irrelevant, clergy have suggested, responding to last
week's statistical analysis indicating that Anglicans were in steep
decline in the UK (News,
The Dean of Chelmsford, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall, writes
that parish priests and deans are leading "increasingly
He points to the decline in confirmations, even in churches that
are growing, as "a version of the same story. . .
"Confirmation suggests an ownership of a specific denominational
identity, which is simply not part of the deal for most people. I
would suggest that even most people of my generation, and certainly
those of my children's, find denominational identity increasingly
His position was affirmed by Ali Campbell, a
"Young people in the Church of England are not growing up
Anglican," he said on Wednesday. "They may 'join' at some point
when confirmed, and move on to parish rolls; but, in my experience
of the last 18 years serving at both local and diocesan level, . .
. they would first and foremost identify with Christ and their
local church - not because their local church is Anglican, but
because it is where they have been accepted, loved, received
guidance, and found significance. . . Denominational stuff just is
not on their radar."
Mr Campbell pointed to the rise in non-denominational
gatherings, such as Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor, and the
"cross-fertilisation" present in C of E schools: "We pass on what
we value and what we consider to be of most importance," he
"It may have been in the past that what we passed on was the key
tenets of Anglicanism such as the Thirty-Nine Articles. If,
however, we have shifted our focus to put Jesus more at the centre,
the gospel we proclaim, the kingdom we are in with Christ as the
head, it is hard to make that 'Anglican', because these things we
are teaching are about being part of the Universal Church. . .
"We may not see young people joining the Anglican Church, but
they are joining in with the mission of God as the local Anglican
churches crack on and make a local difference."
The publication of the NatCen analysis of the British Social
Attitudes (BSA) survey prompted comparison with other polls that
have asked the same question: "Do you regard yourself as belonging
to any particular religion?"
The last census suggested that 59 per cent of the population
identified as Christian and 31 per cent as Church of
England/Anglican/Episcopal. The YouGov poll conducted for the Faith
Debates in 2013 suggested that just under one third identified as
Anglican or C of E. The BSA figure was 17 per cent.
The Rector of Plemstall and Guilden Sutton, the Revd Dr Mark
Hart, suggested that this might reflect "the fuzziness of
many people's sense of denominational
Another parish priest, the Rector of St Andrew's, Farnham, the
Revd Simon Reynolds, estimated that at least 20 per cent of his
Sunday congregation was made up of "Methodists or URCs who have
drifted towards us over the past decade".
Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University,
suggested that the BSA figures "should be treated with some
caution". But, she said: "Where all the polling agrees is in
finding that Anglican affiliation has declined dramatically since
the 1980s, and continues to do so."
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said that
the figures reflected "several different things. . . There's
post-Christendom: people who've grown up without religion in their
lives no longer feeling the need to identify as nominal C of
"There's post denominational: those who just call themselves
Christians and don't like the labels. And there's the move away
from orthodox faith to implicit and understated
"I'm not worried about whether people call themselves Anglicans.
What's important is bringing people into encounter with the living
God, enabling them to become disciples of Jesus Christ and aligned
with the work of the Spirit in the world. We need to re-evangelise
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