Opinion Former Article

Church of England school visits being used to offset falling Church attendance

The Church of England has today published its annual attendance figures for 2016. The latest Statistics for Mission has revealed that the long-term pattern of decline in Church attendance has continued, except amongst school services, where numbers show an increase. Humanists UK has expressed alarm at the increasing use of Church schools, most of which are state-funded, as tools for proselytising.

The latest stats show that all-ages average weekly attendance dropped to 927,300 in 2016 from 961,100 in 2015. Average Sunday attendance has dropped to 813,000 from 779,800. However, bucking the general trend, average weekly ‘school service’ attendance is up year on year: from 125,700 in 2013; to 147,100 in 2014; to 168,900 in 2015; to 179,300 in 2016.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is alarming to see that, as the Church of England continues to represent an ever smaller fraction of the public, its state schools are increasingly being used as tools for recruitment, at public expense. Every young person should have the right to grow up and decide their own religion or belief, but in recent years the Church has been explicit that its schools are tools for evangelising.

‘With just 3% of young adults now saying they belong to the Church of England, it is wrong that the Church runs almost a quarter of all schools, a proportion that only continues to grow. This is an area where the UK Government urgently needs to think again.’

Social media growth?

In the Church of England’s own press release about the new figures, it buries the picture of decline by boasting about growth in social media presence, following heavy staff investment. The Church writes of reaching 1.2 million people a month across its platforms, including 1.5 million during its recent Christmas campaign and 2.5 million across Easter.

However, this is a lot smaller than most well-known charities. Just this week, for example, Facebook reports that Humanists UK’s engagement has been over four times that of the Church of England’s (see also links included below).

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at richy@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3072.

See also:

Humanists UK on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/humanists.uk/
Church of England on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thechurchofengland/
Humanists UK on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Humanists_UK
Church of England on Twitter: https://twitter.com/c_of_e
In the UK, around 30 charities have a bigger overall presence on social media than Humanists UK, including popular charities like Mind, Guide Dogs, and RNLI.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

 

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