Anglican synod fears closure of churches in rural Britain

(Photo: . REUTERS / Nigel Roddis)Two atendees of the Church of England's Synod leave during a lunch break in the session during which they will discuss and vote on the consecration of women bishops, in York, July 14, 2014.

The Church of England's General Synod has warned that churches in large parts of rural Britain could close in less than a decade as its congregation ages and no new blood in believers are encouraged to join.

Church leaders at the recent synod stressed the need to "attract" new members to help make the Anglican church relevant in changing times, The Daily Telegraph reported on February 10.

During his presentation to the synod, church finance committee chairman John Spence pointed out the trend of attendees joining services.

Results of an in-house research on attendance revealed that regular attendees decreased one percent every year. In terms of its aging demographic, two-thirds of its members are over 55 years, Spence explained.

"If you look at that arithmetic projection you identify that over a period 2007 to 2057 church attendance and membership would fall from 1.2 million on a regular basis to something like two or three hundred thousand if current trends continue," he said.

"If you could stop the loss of membership, rather than death, you would still see a reduction by more than half," he noted.

"And even if you started a compound growth rate of three per cent per annum we could expect membership to keep falling until around 2041 before an upward trend is resumed."

As for the aging congregation, Spence said the greying population could force the closure of churches in rural Britain because of the lack of new blood in terms of worshippers.

"We know that we have large numbers of parishes now with very small electoral rolls and with nobody on them below the age of 70," he said.

"We know from what at least two diocesan bishops have said that in less than 10 years we will see a threat to the presence of church in communities across rural England and some urban areas as well."

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