Everyone knows that few Christians in Britain worship regularly. But The London Times revealed the severity of this trend. As Ruth Gledhill reported,
Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests. The fall -- from the four million people who attend church at least once a month today - means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. ...
In contrast, the number of actively religious Muslims will have increased from about one million today to 1.96 million in 2035.
It's true that Gledhill's story is based on projections; as such, the state of Christianity in Britain might well change. Even so, I think that Gledhill deserves little but praise.
She did a good job of getting the story, which is based on statistical analysis of worship in Britain. She did a good job of putting the story in context, drawing out the implications of church membership decline and comparing it to those of non-Christian faiths. She did a good job of parsing out the statistics for individual denominations. (Presbyterians and Methodists are predicted to have fewer than 10,000 adherents combined.)
That said, I have a few quibbles with the story.
Gledhill points to a few exceptions to the Christian trends:
Only in the large, evangelical churches of the Baptist and independent denominations is there resistance to the trend, but many of these churches also show some decline. One small area of growth is in Northern Ireland, where the enthusiasm of Pentecostals and other independents has led to a slight increase in numbers of churches - a trend expected to continue to 2050. The three growing denominations are the Orthodox, Pentecostals and smaller denominations, all dependent to a degree on immigration.
I think that Gledhill should have unpacked this paragraph a bit. Why do scholars think that evangelicals are bucking the trend? Is it because their churches demand more of their adherents and/or because their services are more low church than high church?
Similarly, Gledhill quoted a Church of England official about her story:
The Church of England disputed the forecasts last night. Lynda Barley, its head of research, said: "These statistics represent a partial picture of religious trends today. In recent years church life has significantly diversified so these traditional statistics are less and less meaningful in isolation."
It's unclear what Barley means by diversified. Is she referring to Christians who go to fellow Christians' homes to worship? If so, does this mean that Christianity can survive without churches?
In a story of this magnitude, fleshing out answers to the questions would have made it even better. Once again, the goal is to link facts and statistics with realities on the ground, in terms of faith ann practice.