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New research suggests the Church in the UK IS growing

A new study from researchers based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, suggests the Church in the UK is beginning to grow ...

An international team of leading researchers, based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, have just published a study entitled Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present, reports The Church of England Newspaper.

Here are just a few of the startling statistics that have been unearthed:

  • There are 500,000 Christians in black majority churches in Britain. Some 60 years ago there were hardly any
  • At least 5,000 new churches have been started in Britain since 1980 – and this is a conservative estimate. The true figure is probably higher
  • There are one million Christians in Britain from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities
  • The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by more than 70 per cent since 1990

This research has been endorsed by a range of senior academics and church leaders – from Justin Welby, the new Bishop of Durham, to Archbishop Vincent Nicholls, head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Professor David Bebbington, the leading historian of evangelicalism comments: “This is excellent research. It is commonly supposed that the Christian Church in Britain is moribund, but the essays in this volume all demonstrate, from different angles, that in the recent past there are signs of vitality and growth.

“Nor is the vigour confined to new churches, for mainstream bodies have also participated in the upward trend here depicted with scholarly care.”

Durham Bishop Justin Welby responded to the research by saying: “Church decline is neither inevitable in prospect nor accurate in retrospect. This book reviews the reality of what is happening in Christian religious practice in the UK.

"As such it comes at a crucial time, when the Church of England appears to be gathering the will to change, and when an accurate and reasoned understanding of what is really happening, and has done so since 1980, is essential.

Factors to be taken into account to place the new research context include:

  • The observation that the growth of new churches and ethnic minority churches has often gone on beneath the radar of many academics, much of the media and not a few in the Anglican Church
  • Evidence of church growth and decline needs to be looked at together. The UK Church is both declining and growing. Where you look affects what you find. The real picture for the last 30 years looks something like this:

- Roughly the same number of churches have closed as have opened

- Some denominations have seen serious decline – notably the major denominations – Anglican, Methodist, URC, Catholic

- Some churches have seen major growth; especially churches rooted in ethnic minority communities and newer denominations

- Some parts of the mainline churches are seeing growth – Anglican growth centres on the Diocese of London (the one Anglican diocese which has consistently grown over the last 20 years) and new Anglican churches/fresh expressions

What's your view? Do these findings tally with your experience? Mail us with your take ...

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