Sunday, December 23, 2007

Catholics Outnumber Anglicans in Anglican England

News of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism has made headlines around the world. In the shadow of that story we read of another angle to the growing decline of Anglicanism in England: for the first time since the 16th Century, there are now more practicing Catholics in England than Anglicans.

A survey by the group Christian Research published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper showed that around 862,000 worshippers attended Catholic Mass each week in 2006, exceeding the 852,000 who went to Church of England services.

Attendance at Anglican services has almost halved over the past 40 years as the country has grown steadily more secular, the research showed, with only Pentecostalism showing any rise in popularity among Christian denominations.

While attendance figures for both Catholic and Anglican services are declining, Catholic numbers are slipping by a lesser degree as new migrants arrive from east Europe and parts of Africa, boosting Catholic congregations.

The Church of England is not taking the dip to second place lying down, the Telegraph article reveals:

In an attempt to combat the declining interest in traditional religion, the Anglican Church has launched radical new forms of evangelism that include nightclub chaplains, a floating church on a barge and internet congregations.
The French Christian site La Croix adds some details, from Peter Brierley, the former general director of Christian Research, who assisted in conducting the survey:
"A part of the reason for the increase [in the number of practicing Catholics] is that you have a large number of immigrants coming from Catholic countries, especially Poland." British authorities say that at least 300,000 Poles have come to Great Britain since joining the EU in 2004, while polish sources place the number at closer to one million, of which half have centered around London.

Unmentioned in the Sunday Telegraph's coverage of the story is what effect, if any, the ongoing schism within the Anglican communion may be having on Church attendance. Might British traditionalists be growing as disillusioned with their post-modern church, as many of their US counterparts are? Maybe, just maybe, it's not about where it is being taught, whether on land or on "floating barges", but simply what is being taught... or rather, what is no longer being taught.

If one's faith teaches that anything goes, then why need a God at all to help us live that kind of life? If every behavior is equally healthy and helpful to the community at large, then why even have faith to begin with, since there would exist no better version of ourselves to imagine aiming ourselves to become?


truepeers said...

Maybe the Anglicans are in decline because they think that all religion can be reduced to what appears today rational and progressive, and that "religion" need not entail a leap of faith. For example, Rowan Williams now downplays the virgin birth: "Although he believed in it himself, he advised that new Christians need not fear that they had to leap over the “hurdle” of belief in the Virgin Birth before they could be “signed up”. For good measure, he added, Jesus was probably not born in December at all. “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”"

If life, and answers to its dilemmas, were reducible to materialistic reason, we wouldn't need religion and faith. Mary can be a model for women, precisely because faith in her can be seen as putting faith in the model of an unquestioning "yes" to God, to what can't be taken purely on reason but which, when sincerely taken on faith, makes a positive difference in one's life.

It seems to me Williams is lying about the real hurdle to becoming a Christian.

tiberge said...

I agree with truepeers - the Anglican Church, by trying to keep in step with the times, has been blown up on its own petard. A church has to remain faithful to its doctrines, or it isn't worth a candle. If a mere individual, like myself, questions the birth date of Christ, that's one thing. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury does it, it's quite different. Like a father who says he really doesn't love his children because they have faults. There seems to be a mania today to conform to left-wing, counter-culture trends. This lack of a desire to stand firm becomes ultimately a lack of individuality - everybody says and thinks alike. Everybody questions EVERYTHING that has be accomplished over 2000 years, until there's nothing left...

Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all three of you.

Charles Henry said...

Happy New Year to you, Tiberge, and a belated Merry Christmas. Hope you are having a restful holiday.

And Congratulations on your joining Brussels Journal! A well-deserved december gift, for you, and even more so, for the conservative community as a whole.