Will ageing congregations be the death of the Anglican Church of England?
Some in its midst fear the answer to that question is yes.
Anglican Church of England Investment Fund
Andreas Whittam Smith, the overseer of the Church of England Investment Fund, told the General Synod yesterday that the Church of England was facing a “crisis” with its ageing demographic.
He likened the Church of England to large companies that “perfectly and impeccably manage themselves into failure.”
He suggested that not all Anglicans were fully aware of the scale of the crisis facing the Church of England.
“One of our problems is may be that decline is so slow and imperceptible that we don’t really see it coming clearly enough.”
Another Synod member, the Rev Dr Patrick Richmond, from Norwich, warned that a “perfect storm” was brewing, as the number of adults and children attending services continues to decline nationwide.
He expressed concern that there would be no Anglican Church of England left as ageing members start to die out in the next few decades.
“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.”
He added: “2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage – that is, people dying.”
He suggested that 20 years from now the Church of England would be “no longer functionally extant at all”.
Some bloggers have offered their thoughts on how serious declining attendance is for the Church of England.
EChurch Blog writer Stuart James said it would take more than a recruitment drive to turn Church of England attendance around.
“Normally headlines are alarmist, but sadly I think one’s spot on,” he said.
I think this aptly sums up the situation many Anglican parishes find themselves in.
“I still find the decline of the CofE painful to contemplate. As to why this is happening, I have my theories and no doubt you do also.
“It’s easy to kick something when it’s down.”
The Vernacular Curate blogger, Fr David Cloake, was a little more optimistic, dismissing Dr Richmond’s comments as “grotesque pessimism”.
He said that the average age of Anglican Church of England attendance had always “erred towards the ancient” because people tended to return to the Church of England in their fifties “once families and their immediate needs abate.”
Source: Christianity Today | Wednesday, 13 July, 2011.