The Church of England and its future (or lack of future) have hit the headlines again these last few weeks.  Central to the concern is the continued decline in overall membership and attendance combined with the observation that the large number older people means that huge numbers need to join and attend in order to balance those who are likely to die over the next 30 years.  On that basis it will be mid-century before numbers are likely to pick up, if nothing changes.  Attendance is predicted to be 425,000 by then, down from a weekly 725,000 now in very rough terms.  What should we make of such dire predictions.

  1. The figures are of course well researched and these are potentially accurate predictions, so no quarrelling with the numbers or the research.
  2. If such an outcome did materialize it would be harmful for the whole Christian community and not just the Church of England.  Whether we like it or not the social and religious impact of the Anglican Church is significant and important.
  3. The prediction is predicated on the important phrase “if nothing changes”.  There are indications that some things are changing, the question is, are they changing fast enough?
  4. These figures underline the tremendous importance of the recent moves to renew the Church of England in a whole variety of ways.  The goal of some of the renewal initiatives is to see attendance in the Church of England increase by 1 million in the next 20 years.  That’s quite a different picture from one of unremitting decline.
  5. This all serves to illustrate how important the renewal agenda within the Church of England is.  Making significant resources available to create a different future possibly represents the single biggest challenge for the mission of the Church of England in the next 30 years.

The situation of the Church of England obviously hits the headlines in a way that no other church does and the situation of other churches are different and complex, both negatively and positively.   But whatever our tradition we should watch carefully how the C of E is working with its renewal agenda.  There is much to learn.

Blog Post by: Rev. Dr Martin Robinson