How should we read the apparent decline in Christianity? by Lynda Rose for Christian Today
The 2021 census has for the first time recorded a drop in people identifying as Christian in England and Wales – down from 59.3% in 2011, to 46.2% last year. A further 37.2% were recorded as saying they had no religion, while people identifying as Muslim rose from 4.9% in 2011 to 6.5%.
It is a sad fact that in our multicultural, multiethnic society, every major religion represented in the country with the exception of Christianity, has over the last decade reported an increase in religious affiliation.
Nevertheless, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of Canterbury, appears to remain upbeat – cheerily optimistic even. He is reported as saying that the country has “left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian”, but that Christianity still has a major role to play in secular society … which, faced with the cost of living crisis and war in Europe, would appear in his view to be mainly that of providing food and warmth.
Around 2,500 years ago, maybe more, the author(s) of the book of Proverbs, wrote, ‘Without a vision the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18). The Archbishop would perhaps do well to take heed. Yes, people do need help and support in these difficult times, and throughout history the Church has offered support and assistance to those in need. But the role of the Church, first and foremost, is not to be an agency for social work, but to guard the truth of the Gospel and provide spiritual leadership in and to a society that has incontrovertibly lost its way, and that sadly now feels to be in terminal decline.
As in World War II, when King George VI called the nation to pray and those prayers were so miraculously answered, it is to provide vision and a point of connection between the people and God, whereby at times of danger God’s power is called in aid.