The figures on church attendance are interesting.
Whereas the average drop across the board was 15 per cent in the seven years since the last survey, in 1998, the Church of England declined by only 11 per cent. The fastest rates of decline were among Roman Catholics and Methodists; whereas the Pentecostal Churches showed significant growth over the period.
As a result, Methodism has dropped to fourth place behind Pentecostalism. If these rates continue, the C of E will overtake the RC Church within the next four years.I hadn't realised quite what a disastrous hit the CoE had taken in the 1970s and 80s - that it had half a million less attendees than the left-footers in 1989. There must surely be more Muslim worshippers than CoE or Catholic ones.
But Catholic attendance is falling faster than the CoE's. Is it the lack of gay role-models among the clergy, the shortage of women bishops, or the evil influence of the 1960s liberal reforms ('Vatican II'), as the old guard of priests and laity age and die, replaced by post-Vatican II Catholics ?
Two notable factors stand out from the results. One is the significance of ethnicity. The black-led Churches, especially the ones that attract immigrants, have grown during the past seven years. Ten per cent of all churchgoers responding to the survey were non-white.
All traditions experienced decline, but Evangelicals less so: nine per cent against 18 per cent. But this figure rises to 17 per cent if one subtracts non-white Evangelicals.
The second factor is related to this: the growth of the Church in London, where 44 per cent of churchgoers are non-white. London has 11 per cent of all churches in England, and 20 per cent of all churchgoers. It has 53 per cent of all English Pentecostalists, and 27 per cent of all Charismatic Evangelicals. Also, it caters for 57 per cent of all worshippers in their 20s. “I couldn’t believe that figure myself, and had to check it again,” said Peter Brierley, the director of Christian Research.