Ageing Church of England ‘will be dead in 20 years’

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An Anglican priest during the communion service
An Anglican priest during the communion service

THE average age of its members is now 61 and by 2020 a “crisis” of “natural wastage” will lead to their numbers falling “through the floor”, the Church’s national assembly was told.

The Church was compared to a company “impeccably” managing itself into failure, during exchanges at the General Synod in York.

The warnings follow an internal report calling for an urgent national recruitment drive to attract more members.

In the past 40 years, the number of adult churchgoers has halved, while the number of children attending regular worship has declined by four fifths.

The Rev Dr Patrick Richmond, a Synod member from Norwich, told the meeting that some projections suggested that the Church would no longer be “functionally extant” in 20 years’ time.

“The perfect storm we can see arriving fast on the horizon is the ageing congregations,” he said. “The average age is 61 now, with many congregations above that.

“These congregations will be led by fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy … 2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying.

“Another 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.”

Andreas Whittam Smith, the first Church Estates Commissioner, who leads the Church’s £5.3 billion investment fund, said the demographic “time bomb” for Anglicans should be seen as “a crisis”.

He told the assembly: “One of our problems may be that decline is so slow and imperceptible that we don’t really see it coming clearly enough.

“I have seen large companies perfectly and impeccably manage themselves into failure. Every step along the road has been well done.

“Every account is neatly signed off.”  Source: The Telegraph

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