The Church of England has been facing an increasingly despairing outlook over the last few years. In 2016, John Spence, the Church of England's finance chief advised the general assembly that church attendance would continue to plummet for the next 30 years.
This projection was based on a variety of data, and more recent studies seem to reinforce the prediction. The British Social Attitudes survey, the results of which were released last year, found that only 3% of adults under 24 described themselves as Anglican. And only 5% of the 25 to 34-year-old demographic identified as Anglican. According to Spence, an 81-year-old is eight times more likely to attend church than a 21-year-old.
Shocking news, I know.
This week the news got worse for the church, as the Cathedrals Working Group presented a report to the General Synod, the governing body of the church. The report concerned severe financial problems some cathedrals are facing, notably the Peterborough and Exeter cathedrals. In the report, the CWG proposed a new law that would prevent any cathedrals facing insolvency from being sold.
Basically, the Church of England does not want to lose these historic buildings and have them turned into restaurants or community centers, or even, heaven forbid, taken over by the Catholic Church! The problem is that the upkeep on these large, intricate buildings is very expensive. The upkeep for the Exeter cathedral alone was revealed in 2016 to be about £1.5 million pounds a year.
Now, despite these financial troubles and shrinking numbers, the Church of England also discussed this week plans to open 100 new churches across Britain. This includes "café-style churches." Who knew that was a thing? Ignite, a café-style church founded 10 years ago in Margate, Kent will be the model for nine new café churches. More churches will be opened in the diocese of Leicester, the diocese of Manchester, in Plymouth, Swindon, and market towns in east England.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, while speaking about the new churches said, “These projects are wonderful examples of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God – and faithful to their communities in love and mission. Through their innovation, they signal a growing determination in the church to share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that make sense for those in our most deprived communities.”
I find that it all just really reeks of desperation, to be honest. The Church of England can see the writing on the wall. The vast majority of their congregations are older, and each successive generation is abandoning religion quicker and quicker.
Pouring money into new churches seems like throwing money down the drain, and you could also argue it betrays certain Christian ideals. If Archbishop Welby were truly serious about helping those in the "most deprived communities," then the church would spend that money in a more efficient way that really helped the people of Britain. Pulpit and pew-filled cafés are the last thing impoverished communities need.