Comments: how many evangelicals in the CofE?

I'm an evangelical, a vicar, and a member of New Wine (one of the signatories to this weeks 'covenant'), but there is a difference between that and me endorsing everything AM, or New Wine, does and says. I find it odd that an organisation that seeks to speak for me goes to the AB of C with a document I had never heard of, several bits of which I disagree with.

AM represents a coalition of leaders of various evangelical groupings, and is an attempt to discover a unified evangelical voice after a generation of fragmentation into conservative, charismatic, post-e etc. That's a good thing, but I wish they would focus outwards, on mission and community transformation, rather than inwards on CofE politics.

Posted by David Keen at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 8:26pm GMT

These are interesting figures. The increase in the proportion of 'evangelical' worshippers has risen from 31.5% to 34% (although the total number of evangelical worshippers has fallen, I note).

A statistician would have some interesting questions of the methodology. Anglican Mainstream could do to publish more meaningful statistics than this if they are trying to make the case that evangelicalism is going to sweep the nation — for a start there are no figures for the number of 'transfers' from chapels and house churches within the ConsEv world, a notably volatile one.

Not that I want to run down the revival if there is one brewing from HTB. I'm just a natural cynic (in the proper sense).

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 8:39pm GMT

The "Evangelicals" often claim that they are the growing part of the church - ie Evangelicals are growing and since general membership is shrinking, liberal membership is shrinking.

These statistics do not bear this out. While the number of Evangelical churches grew between 1998 and 2005, the actual number of worshippers did not (308600 in 1998 vs 297500 in 2005). It is true that the percentage increased slightly (31.5% in 1998 vs 34.2% in 2005).

An argument can be made that since the number of evangelical churches grew in the same period (3589 in 1998 to 4273 in 2005) that Evangelicals are doing no better than the other categories in the CofE.

Evangelicals always raise the issue that all the large parishes are evangelical, and this is true, but in the CofE most Evangelical parishes are in the big cities and their suburbs, while most parishes for historical reasons are in the rural villages, and have dwindling numbers (often < 20) as much due to the urbanisation of the country as any other reason.

Posted by Charles at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 8:52pm GMT

Overall CofE declines 12.6% while evangelicals only 3.7%. Wow! That really reversed the trend, didn't it? I guess those who think evangelical fare is pretty tame better take another look. This could really be the answer!

Of course, when reading polls, its always advisable to inquire into the bias of the pollsters and examine the wording of the questions asked and the methodology. Brierley is unknown to me, but in general, I have had every reason to question church ability to gather reliable stats. But if this is for real, I'll be signing up for Alpha. If not, Omega.

Posted by canonical at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 9:41pm GMT

I always remember that the answers people think they are supposed to say in terms of definition are the answers people are more likely to say.

The survey with which I helped, that looked at Church and People on Longhill Estate (Peter G. Forster), had returns that suggested people were queueing outside the churches on Sunday when, instead, the survey was a response to the absence of relationship.

Behind all statistics are always value judgments and the problems of labelling. Is there a 'suppose to say' value on being orthodox and being evangelical? I'd suggest that there is. I'd suggest the other way for some others, like the non-committal and the liberal. Look, for exmple, at how InclusiveChurch finds it necessary to claim it is orthodox (just as an example). So, definitions.

Another warning (again need to check the method and safeguards etc.) is that some of it looks like religious sociology, at least in the presentation ("positive results", "less encouraging").

And there was this on

>There are two opportunities this week for individuals to make a difference. The first is to vote in the General Election on Thursday. The second is to be counted in the fourth English Church Census on Sunday 8th, probably not quite so well-known!Every minister in the country, all 24,000 or so of them, should have received a form by the end of April at the latest so that each church can be counted on the 8th. The more churches which respond, the more accurate the results will be. Will you be counted?<

Er, not quite about accuracy, is it? It is about effort to be included, making the best impression.

The main headline afterwards was that evangelical decline was about 11 per cent with 17 per cent with the non-white churches growth taken out, and that the C of E actually declined less quickly than other denominations. There were also marked regional variations (especially London).

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 10:38pm GMT

'Future gatherings should not include "open folk", but "must blow out of the water the view that evangelicalism is made up of three strands: open, mainstream and charismatic. Open must be excluded.'

This quotation is from the minutes of a Post NEAC4 meeting of representatives from the Church Society, the Fellowship of Word and Spirit, and Reform, dated October 2003. It was reported in Rachel Harden's article "Conservative Groups 'two faced' says bishop", The Church Times, 9 January 2004.


Posted by Graham Kings at Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 10:53pm GMT

The perceptions of evangelicals are not helped by the obviously unrepresentative make-up of the House of Bishops, and Synods.

No diocesans are "conservative" evangelicals, and very few are charismatic evangelicals. Open evangelicals are represented fairly well. On the other "side" liberal catholics and liberal low church diocesans are completely disproportionate to success - as measured by "bums on pews". This is, I understand, said to be a careful political balance [=liberal elite's perception]!

What's worse, evangelicals don't even get proportionate representation at General Synod because of the sliding scale of representation - bigger churches get proportionately fewer representatives -, and that propotionas are based on nominal electoral role (membership), rather than people actuaslly coming to the church.

Hence evangelical Holy Trinity Brompton (Sunday attendance about 3000 - but I bet the ER is a lot lower as new people take time to sign up) and liberal St Marys Putney (Sunday attendance about 200 but ER 555) get almost the same vote in Synods!

The flip side is that, as contributions to central diocesan funds are based on ER, Giles Fraser's congregation at St Mary's should be paying proportionately more for it's voting 'power'... I wonder if they are paying their assessment in full?

Posted by Dave at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 12:22am GMT

The question still remains: how many do these [the "Covenant"] networks represent?

It has for a long time been obvious that these so-called "networks" - who as David King points out are not good at genuine communication amongst themselves! - do NOT represent "all who uphold and seek orthodox teaching and leadership." Fulcrum, for example, certainly represents one strand of "all who uphold and seek orthodox teaching and leadership" which these self-proclaimed leaders deliberately exclude.

The characterisation of the question as "impossible and unnecessary" and the highly defensive nature of the posting is very revealing: it means that these so-called networks themselves realise that there is a gap between their claims and reality, and are desperately hoping that no-one will call their bluff. It also carries a high probability that they are already facing questions from people who have spotted the credibility gap.

Unethical misrepresentation seems to be standard practice amongst these self-appointed cliques. Remember the late 2003 petition with - allegedly - "13 million supporters across the Anglican Communion"? That turned out to be a petition signed by people who claimed to be signing on behalf of the "13 million," but they'd not bothered to ask the "13 million" what they thought. Remember also the letters from the so-called "Global South" primates that hadn't actually been agreed to - much less signed - by all the so-called signatories?

Even the phrase "Global South" is a misrepresentation, as not every church in the "Global South" agrees with that self-appointed grouping. Churches like the Church of the Province of South Africa - certainly part of the "Global South" - publicly disagree with that group.

It's time that these cliques of self-styled "orthodox" leaders were held to account for their repeated public departures from orthodox Christian ethical teaching and leadership.

Posted by Rob Hall at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 8:29am GMT

Here's the glorioys offer of a whole thread dedicated to Numbers. And only 6 comments...


Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 8:38am GMT

Dave - the question is, given the role of an English diocesan bishop, how could a member of Reform work with those they consider not Christian at all, which they would have to do in that role.

Nazir-Ali is pretty much a conservative evangelical, James Jones used to be but he has shifted towards a more open position - he doesn't believe that sexuality is a first-order issue.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 9:26am GMT

Though Brierley's census may be the only real census of church attendance there is, there are some indications that it isn't very accurate.

First, its origins are in the evangelical nexus. It is not therefore observably unbiased. Indeed, recently there have been strong protests from both RC and Orthodox churches that the methods led to an unfair representation of their figures

Second, I guess there are many churches like those I serve which pay little attention. We collect figures for the diocese in October as we are required to do, but the church census stuff gets filed under WPB as soon as it arrives. No, we are not a megachurch. We are doubtless statistically insignificant. But I guess there are enough like us to slew the figures.

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 9:41am GMT

Dear All (especially David Keen *waves*),

I've just sent this email to Anglican Mainstream:

"Dear Sir,

Regarding your quote: "We are often asked about the numbers that our networks represent. In one sense the question is impossible and unnecessary because we seek to speak for all who uphold and seek orthodox teaching and leadership."

I feel it my duty to point out that, as far as I know, I have never met you, never discussed theology or ecclesiology with you, never subscribed to your organisation, never attended any meeting organised by you, never taken part in any election for you to hold any position of authority over me, or ever appointed you to speak for me in any capacity whatsoever.

I attend an evangelical Anglican church, whose vicar is a member of Reform. It does not follow that all his congregation are Reform members, or agree with the Reform position regarding the future of the Church of England. I dislike the idea that my faithful attendance at the same church for two decades is taken as tacit consent for everything that Reform says or does. I might also add that I am not alone in being concerned by this exhibition of ungodly hubris.

I must also make you aware that when you reply, I intend to share your response with Thinking Anglicans, who are debating your pronouncements with interest.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Morden"

I expect this missive to be about as successful as all my other letter-writing endeavours (ie no response). But I feel better for doing it.

Posted by Simon Morden at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 9:46am GMT

'No diocesans are "conservative" evangelicals,'

Off the top of my head -Chester, Liverpool and Rochester for a start.

But all this number crunching leaves me cold.Would Jesus count 'bums' and charge so much per 'bum' ?

How naive of me

Posted by laurence at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 10:42am GMT

Well said Simon Morden.

When I was a member of the CoE down south, the 1830 show was probably evangelical but the 11am service was quite sane.

Do AM think their churches' leaders really want to split their congregations in (at least) two?

Posted by Tim at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 10:42am GMT

Simon Morden's missive is terrific. I feel better for reading it , an all !

It's disgraceful if they fail to reply.

Posted by laurence at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 10:48am GMT

This sounds rather similar to Anglican Mainstream's great Dec 2003 internet petition, organised by the same cast of characters including Canon Sugden, which demonstrated a shaky command of mathematics and an even weaker grasp of authentic - or should we say orthodox? - polling methodology.
If you recall, it was an appeal for the Archbishop of Canterbury to provide alternative oversight for congregations that could not stomach the idea of Gene Robinson's consecration (sound familiar?) and claimed that its alleged 13 million signatures, achieved by primates of several African dioceses signing up their entire communities, represented "a majority" of the 70-odd million strong Anglican communion.
Closer analysis showed that most of the signatories had not been asked for their opinions (sound familiar?) and that only 4,013 individuals, 3,192 families, 249 parishes and eight dioceses (out of 500) had actually signed up.
I don't think at this stage I'd rely on Canon Sugden and friends to add up the weekly collection accurately.........

Posted by Stephen Bates at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 11:15am GMT

So, Stephen Bates - is the picture given on nos the opposite of reality in your view - or is it generally accurate?

If it gets the big picture right, there is no real issue here (given estimates have to be made to make any picture at all)

Posted by NP at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 12:51pm GMT

On the subject of Sugden's shaky maths, I recall Stephen Bates sharing on this site an example of Sugden's odd grasp of the concept of membership. As it seems relevant to this thread's discussion of how many (or how few?) Sugden and cronies really represent, hope Stephen doesn't mind my posting again part of his post from 18 November 2005:

"The last time I saw Chris to speak to face to face was at a Reform conference in October last year, when he told me that he was not a member of Reform. But I then noticed that he went on to vote on one of its motions.
Maybe they allow non-members to vote, or maybe Chris doesn't know that you are not supposed actively to participate in the decisions made by organisations of which you are not a member. Or maybe he really is a member. Or perhaps they have a closet membership?"

Posted by Rob Hall at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 12:51pm GMT

I think the point is, NP, Anglican Mainstream's claim to speak on behalf of most evangelicals. As Fulcrum's response to their covenant wheeze today shows, they simply don't - and they don't seek to consult even those they do claim to represent before presenting their plans to the world and Archbishop Williams. We just don't know, do we?

Posted by Stephen Bates at Friday, 15 December 2006 at 1:58pm GMT

'Maybe they allow non-members to vote, or maybe Chris doesn't know that you are not supposed actively to participate in the decisions made by organisations of which you are not a member. Or maybe he really is a member. Or perhaps they have a closet membership?'

If the Reform mob are allying with that exemplar of transparent opinion-taking ++Abuja, there must be good Scriptural precedent for it. Handy Bible quotes supportive of vote-rigging etc, anyone? Perhaps we could start with the election of Matthaias in Acts, but it's not particularly good, since it seems to leave the decision up to God/serendipity. There must be some better ones....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 16 December 2006 at 10:02am GMT

The holy ghost and US...


Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 16 December 2006 at 10:38pm GMT

Probably too late to get a discussion going on this now, but I've noticed elsewhere in human societies that ruling classes are very slow to realise when change is coming, and to cede power to the "other". I think that the pattern is: ignore minorities that are below about 2%, ridicule them when they grow but still below about 5%, then try to actively assimilate or eject them when they grow larger. At about 20-30% the conflict breaks out that first asserts the minority's rights and then eventually overturns the ruling class.

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 17 December 2006 at 11:00pm GMT

The number of fundamentalists varies according to their leaders' political needs at the moment.

Sometimes they are a very small "faithful remnant" when that is to their advantage.

At other times they are an overwhelming wave that will crush their foes like insects.

It all depends on what best benefits their propaganda at any given moment.

Posted by JPM at Monday, 18 December 2006 at 7:29am GMT

Its not a case of 'overturning', Dave. A pluralist situation allows different groupings to co-exist. However, in the case of the church, this needs to be done within separate organisations, as they can no longer co-exist.

Although I wonder what people would expound energy on should they no longer have their internal divisions to row about!

What is clear is that people are not going to change their minds, so trying to find a point of consensus is folly.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 18 December 2006 at 9:12am GMT

MM said
Although I wonder what people would expound energy on should they no longer have their internal divisions to row about!

The lesson of Church History (and of political history etc etc) is that the new grouping then proceeds to find something internal to row about.... Hence things like "The Mount Tabor United Free Presbyterian Dissenting Connection of 1885"

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 18 December 2006 at 12:01pm GMT

Merseymike is right on the futility of agreeing to disagree / pretending their is unity

All get hurt and frustrated that way

The best thing about KJS as PB is that she does not seem determined to broker a doublespeak-fudge - sadly some other senior people seem bent on doing just that

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 19 December 2006 at 2:24pm GMT

Clearly not everyone in a church is the same, but it's not a bad idea to give a rough guide of how people fit into the spectrum of opinions in the C of E.. clearly not everyone who goes to a liberal church is a liberal either, and clearly having more numbers is not evidence that you're right in an argument, perhaps evidence of spiritual blessing??.. maybe.. maybe not. Having heard Giles Frazer laying into Chris Sugden and saying the C of E wouldn't split over JEffrey JOhn's because almost everyone in the C of E has no objection to gay bishops is perhaps one reason why the evangelicals feel the need to give a show of force to put pay to this untruth.

What's so so sad is that in the family of GOd we're being so bloody awful and bitchy with each other.. We can be forthright on theological issues etc but it shouldn't get personal and it shouldn't get nasty and all to often it does.

Posted by James Pennington at Monday, 22 November 2010 at 4:45pm GMT
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