Calls grow to disestablish Church of England as Christians become minority

Lazy eyes listen


The discovery that England is no longer a majority-Christian country has sparked calls for the church’s role in parliament and schools to be abolished, while Leicester and Birmingham became the first UK cities with “minority majorities.”

For the first time in a census, less than half of England and Wales’ population – 27.5 million people – identified as “Christian,” 5.5 million fewer than in 2011. It sparked calls for urgent reform of laws requiring Christian teaching and worship in schools, as well as the appointment of Church of England bishops to the House of Lords.

The Muslim population in England and Wales increased from 2.7 million in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2021. While 46.2% of people claimed to be Christians, 37.2% claimed to be atheists, amounting to 22 million people. If current trends continue, within a decade, there will be more people who have no religion than Christians.

Many of the steepest declines in Christianity occurred in the north of England, where seven out of ten people claimed to be Christian a decade ago, but now only half do.

The 2021 census data on ethnicity, religion, and language published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday also revealed:

*59.1% of Leicester residents and 51.4% of Birmingham residents are now members of ethnic minority groups.

*In England and Wales, 81.7% of the population is now white, including non-British, down from 86% in 2011.

*The ethnic minority population increased from 14% to 18.3% in 2011. Asian British make up 9.3% of the population, up from 7.5%, Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean-African, and African make up 4%, up from 3.3%, and mixed and other ethnicities make up 5%.

*Romanian is the fastest-growing language, with 472,000 people claiming it as their primary language. Apart from English and Welsh, the most common main language is Polish.

The ONS census deputy director, Jon Wroth-Smith, said the figures demonstrated “the increasingly multicultural society we live in,” but added that “nine in ten people across England and Wales still identify with a UK national identity, with nearly eight in ten doing so in London.”

In some places, the 10-year census results heralded a new era of “super-diversity.” Fourteen local authorities reported that more than half of their usual residents identified as belonging to an ethnic group other than white, with the proportion being highest in the London boroughs of Newham, Brent, and Redbridge.

Outside of London, Slough in Berkshire had the highest non-white proportion, followed by Leicester, Luton, and Birmingham. One in every ten households in England and Wales now has people of two or more ethnicities, and the mixed-race population increased by half a million to 1.7 million, though at a slower rate than in the previous decade.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles took on the titles Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, resulting in a drop in Christian numbers. They appear to be a challenge to how he frames his monarchy, though he has already stated that he will serve people “regardless of their background and beliefs.”

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, stated that the Church recognizes the challenge of halting the decline, saying that it “throws down a challenge to us, not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth, but also to play our part in making Christ known.”

The Bishop of Barking, Lynne Cullens, insisted that the church should not feel “defeated.” “We’re like the Nike tick,” she compared us to. “We must descend before ascending.” We will become a church that is more sensitive to the worshipping needs of the communities as they are today.”

However, secularists and others are now calling for an end to the Church of England’s status as an established church, which requires King Charles to take an oath to preserve the Church of England, guarantees Church of England bishops and archbishops 26 seats in the House of Lords, and allows state schools to hold Christian worship.

According to Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, the results make the case for keeping Church of England leaders in the House of Lords “more difficult to justify” and “raises the issue of the Church of England’s disestablishment.”

“Some will argue that an established church that represents only a minority of the population should not exist,” he said. “Others will respond that the archbishops and bishops seek to represent all faiths, bringing a different viewpoint to the Lords, and that the system works.”

The current status quo, according to Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, is “absurd and unsustainable,” while Prof Linda Woodhead, head of the department of theology and religious studies at King’s College London, said: “The fact that Christianity is no longer the majority religion means policy is out of step with society.”

“It’s been difficult to defend having an established church since the beginning of the twentieth century, but it’s now becoming a figment of the imagination,” said Dr Scot Peterson, scholar of religion and the state at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. It made sense in 1650 for the king to be the head of the Church of England, but not in 2022.”

Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, and Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales, as well as Brighton and Hove and Norwich in England, had the highest proportion of people who said they had no religion. They were among 11 areas with more than half of the population who are not religious, including Bristol, Hastings in East Sussex, and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, the majority of which had low ethnic-minority populations.

The areas with the fewest non-believers were Harrow, Redbridge, and Slough, where nearly two-thirds of the population is of minority ethnic origin.