24 September 2010
70% of Britons say they are Christian
News that nearly three quarters of people in Britain say they are Christian has bolstered the cause for believers to become more open in expressing their faith.
The Evangelical Alliance says for too long people have felt awkward about sharing their faith at the office or in schools and colleges for fear of getting into trouble.
"This is hardly surprising when you hear about Christians going to court to defend their right to express their faith," says Stephen Cave, Director of Advocacy for the Alliance.
"As a result, Christians have increasingly felt bewildered about what they can and cannot say or do. Of course faith is personal to each individual but that doesn't mean to say it's entirely private - far from it. In fact we welcome dialogue with people of all beliefs, including atheists. Where possible we should engage in conversation not confrontation."
The research by the Office for National Statistics entitled Integrated Households Survey: Experimental Statistics showed that 71 per cent of the British population describe themselves as Christians, confirming the last national census figures from 2001. The data revealed Scotland to be the most Christian country with 72.3 per cent of the population identifying themselves as Christian, followed closely by England at 71.4 per cent and Wales 69 per cent.
Nearly 450,000 individual respondents were asked: "What is your religion - even if you're not currently practising?" For the same survey dated April 2009 to March 2010, 20.5 per cent of respondents said that they had no religion whatsoever.
Stephen Cave added: 'Our challenge now is to demonstrate that being a Christian is much more than belonging to a certain group. Quite simply it's about making a commitment to Christ and enjoying the freedom of conscience to do that in public life."
The ONS findings come days before lobby group Christian Concern for Our Nation launches a campaign Not Ashamed to encourage believers to put faith back in the public square. The group has been encouraged into action after Pope Benedict XVI warned leaders in Britain that excluding religion from public life could lead to "atheist extremism". The Pope also spoke of an 'aggressive secular' agenda wanting to push faith into hiding.
In September Christian Research released figures on church trends showing that attendance figures have levelled out across Church of England and Roman Catholic congregations, reversing an earlier trend of declining figures. Interestingly attendance for Baptist churches is on the rise.
Meanwhile the Church of England is marking September 26 as the national Back to Church Sunday. The campaign first started in Manchester in 2005 and is now nationwide.
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.