The scale of the Church of England’s atrophy has been starkly set out by figures presented to its general assembly that show church attendance will continue to fall for the next 30 years.
Previously, the church predicted that its decline in numbers was likely to continue for another five years before recovering.
But John Spence, the C of E’s finance chief, said on Wednesday that the decline was expected to continue for another three decades, with today’s figures of 18 people per 1,000 regularly attending church falling to 10 per 1,000. An 81-year-old was eight times more likely to attend church than a 21-year-old, he said.
“On all likely measures of success, given the demographics of the church, it is unlikely we will see a net growth in church membership within the next 30 years,” said Spence. “I could have given you other facts, but I think you get the point.”
The figures illustrate the challenge facing a church whose congregations are ageing as the millennial generation increasingly spurns organised religion.
A church source acknowledged that the 30-year prediction was “much gloomier” than previous forecasts. But it did not take into account the potential impact of the C of E’s emphasis on evangelism and its £72m programme of “renewal and reform”, the source added.