The Church of England today welcomed the publication of the latest Census figures which confirmed that Christianity remains the largest religion in England in 2011, with 31.5 million people (59.4 per cent of the population) self-identifying as Christians.
“These results confirm that we remain a faithful nation,” said the Rev Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Archbishop’s Council. “England remains a country where the majority of the nation actively identifies the role that faith plays in their life. Clearly we welcome the fact that Christianity remains the most populous faith in England – with six in ten people identifying themselves as Christian. When all faiths are taken together, people of faith account for two-thirds of the nation – two in every three people identify themselves as having a faith.
“Obviously the fall in those choosing to identify themselves as Christians is a challenge. We need to look closely at the fuller figures published next year and to reflect on what these tell us. One of the reasons may well be fewer people identifying as “Cultural Christians” i.e. those who have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons. They indicate a changing pattern of religious life in which traditional or inherited identities are less taken for granted than they used to be.”
“The work of the Church of England is not limited to those who declare Christian affiliation. As a Church we continue to serve people of all faiths and none, in parishes, schools, community projects and through the 23.2 million hours voluntary work that churchgoers contribute outside their local church to the local community,” said Arun Arora.
“In a speech earlier this year, Her Majesty the Queen spoke of the Church of England’s ‘duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country’. The figures released today show that the Church’s duty concerns the overwhelming majority of people in England.
“The death of Christian England has been greatly exaggerated. Despite a decade of nay saying and campaigning by atheist commentators and groups, six out of ten people in England self-identify as Christians, a figure which rises to more than two-thirds when including people identifying with faith as a whole.
“During the past decade alone the CofE has baptised an average of 2,500 people a week – with a 40% increase in adult baptisms – conducted more than 100 weddings a week, celebrated the ordination of more than 5,000 new priests and maintained more than 16,000 parish church buildings. While 253 churches closed over the past decade, 1,000 new congregations were started through the Fresh Expressions initiative.
“Today’s figures pose questions – not least for most of the London based national media – about whether their perceptions and reporting of faith accurately reflect the reality of a faithful nation, especially when considering the figures in the North East and North West of the country.
“Doubtless, campaigning atheist organisations will attempt to minimise the significance of the majority figures for faith and Christianity. In fact, these figures draw attention to the free ride that had been given to these bodies whose total membership would barely fill half of Old Trafford. For instance there are an estimated 28,000 members of British Humanist Association – the same membership as Union of Catholic Mothers, whilst the National Secular Society has an estimated 5,000 – the same as the British Sausage Appreciation Society.”
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