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20 March 2008

English Church Census 2005


  1. The English Church Census
  2. General census findings
  3. By denomination 
  4. Evangelical churches and growth
  1. The English Church Census

The English Church Census was carried out by Christian Research on 8 May 2005 with the participation of 18,720 churches - half of the total of 37,501 known churches in England originally contacted. Statistics and figures below are therefore based on information supplied by churches on attendance figures for all services on May 2005.

Estimates have been made for those who did not respond, partly on the basis that their figures would on average be similar to those who did respond, but also comparing the results with previous studies and/or published denominational figures.

Further information on the English Church Census' methodology can be obtained from 'Religious Trends 6' and 'Pulling Out of the Nosedive', Christian Research 2006.

  1. General Census Findings

Overall church attendance

Based on the Census findings it is now estimated that:

  • Of the 50,309,000 people living in England, 3,166,200 usually attend church on a Sunday; regular churchgoers therefore amount to 6.3% of the total population.
  • The number of existing churches in England is estimated to stand at 37,501.
  • The proportion of churches per individuals is now one church to 1,340 people; the size of the average Sunday congregation, however, is 84.
  • Since 1998 there has been an overall decline in regular church attendance of 15%, from 3,714,700 to 3,166,200.
  • The largest section of regular churchgoers, 57%, live in towns or suburban areas; 24% in cities or estates, and 19% in rural areas.

Ethnicity and regular churchgoing

  • Census figures reveal that at present 83% of churchgoers are white, 10% black, and 7% from various other non-white ethnic backgrounds.
  • This means that non-white church attendance has increased by 19% since 1998, while the white churchgoing community has dropped by 19%.
  • According to these figures, black church attendance is at least three times their proportion in the population, which was 2.6% in the 2001 National Census and is currently estimated to be around 3.8%.
  • Church attendance among Chinese, Korean and Japanese is also well above their proportion in the population, which is estimated at 0.8% and was 0.4% in 2001.
  • The proportion of non-white churchgoers is highest in London, where 44% of churchgoers are now black, 14% other non-white, and only 42% white.
  1. By denomination

Regular churchgoers' denominational affiliations are as follows:

  • 28% of regular churchgoers in England are R. Catholics
  • Anglicans also make up 28%
  • 9% are Methodists
  • 9% are Pentecostal
  • 8% are Baptist
  • 6% attend independent churches
  • 6% are part of the 'new' churches or denominations
  • 2% URC
  • 1% Orthodox
  • and 3% attend other types of churches.

The number of churches by denomination with the average size of their congregation are as follows:

  • There are 16,247 Anglican churches in England, with an average congregation size of 54.
  • 5,999 Methodist churches with an average congregation size of 48.
  • 3,656 R. Catholic churches - average congregation 244
  • 2,386 Baptist churches - average congregation 107
  • 2,281 independent churches - average congregation 84
  • 2,227 Pentecostal churches - average congregation 129
  • 1,470 URC churches - average congregation 48
  • 1,307 'new' churches - average congregation 140
  • 317 Orthodox churches - average congregation 81
  • and 1,611 churches of other descriptions with an average congregation of 63.

When compared with figures from previous census, the 2005 Church Census reveals that:

  • URC churches have had the most pronounced decline in church attendance since 1998, with the number of Sunday churchgoers going down by 43%.
  • Catholic churches have also lost significant numbers with a 27% decline since 1998.
  • Methodists have lost 24% of regular Sunday churchgoers
  • Anglicans 11%
  • Baptist and 'new' churches have both lost 8%
  • and independent churches 1%.
  • Pentecostal churches, however, have seen a 34% rise in regular church attendance since 1998
  • other smaller denominations have seen a 9% growth in attendance
  • and Orthodox churches a 2% rise.

The age of the average churchgoer in England is 45 years, but that of each denomination varies widely:

  • Pentecostals are the youngest, with the average age of its regular churchgoers of 33,
  • 'new' churches have an average of 34
  • Orthodox church, 40
  • independent churches, 42
  • Baptist, 43
  • R. Catholic, 44
  • Anglican, 49
  • both Methodists and URC church average 55
  • and various other smaller denominations 44.


  1. Evangelical churches and growth

Churchmanship criteria

Christian Research gathered data regarding evangelicals for its English Church Census by including a list of 9 categories in the questionnaire distributed to churches.

Respondents were invited to tick up to three of the 9 categories which included: 'broad', 'evangelical', 'low church', 'catholic'[1], liberal', 'charismatic', 'anglo-catholic', 'orthodox' and 'radical'.

The combination of ticks on the form was then translated into one of seven churchmanships, one of which was 'evangelical', which was further broken down into three components:

  • Broad evangelical: those who ticked 'broad' and 'evangelical' unless they also said they were 'charismatic'.
  •  Charismatic evangelical: those who ticked 'charismatic' on its own or with any other combination. The great majority of these also ticked 'evangelical', although a few also ticked 'catholic'.
  • Mainstream evangelical: those who just ticked 'evangelical', also including any evangelicals who did not tick 'broad' or 'charismatic'.

Evangelicals in the majority

According to the 2005 English Church Census:

  • 40% of regular churchgoers attend evangelical churches - two-fifths of total English churchgoers.
  • 27% attend churches described as catholic
  • 9% of churchgoers attend churches described as broad
  • 9% attend churches described as liberal
  • 7% attend churches categorised as low church
  • 5% attend churches categorised as anglo-catholic
  • and 3% other types of churches.

When compared with percentages from the 1998 census, it appears that - though all categories have declined - the proportion of evangelicals has risen whilst all other categories have either stayed the same or decreased:

  • The proportion of evangelicals in the churchgoing population has risen from 37% in 1998 to 40% in 2005.
  • Catholics remain the same proportion as in 1998 at 27% together with those categorised as broad at 9%, anglo-catholics at 5% and other non-descript categories at 3%.
  • Liberal churchgoers, at 9%, are now a smaller proportion than in 1998, when they were 11% of total churchgoers.
  • Low church attendees are also a smaller proportion now at 7% compared to 8% in 1998.

The 2005 percentages mean that each week:

  • 2.5% of the English population are evangelical churchgoers, 1.7% are catholic, and 2.1% all the other categories combined.
  • Of the total 3,166,200 people attending church on an average Sunday, 1,264,800 churchgoers attend evangelical churches.

The 40% of evangelicals among regular churchgoers are broken down into three sub-categories as follows:

  • 6% of the 40% chose the phrase 'broad' evangelical; 18% 'mainstream' evangelical, and 16% 'charismatic' evangelical.
  • 'Broad' evangelicals appear to be in decline within evangelicalism, having gone from constituting 29% of total evangelicals in 1989, to 16% in 1998, to 10% in 2005.
  • 'Mainstream' evangelicals have remained stable within evangelicalism since 1998 constituting 46% of the total number for evangelicals, after a very pronounced proportional rise from 27% in 1989 to 46% in 1998.
  • There has been a rise in the proportion of 'charismatic' evangelicals from 38% in 1998 to 40% in 2005, nearing the figures of 1989, when charismatic evangelicals constituted 44% of evangelicals.

Evangelicals within their denominations

Evangelicals are the substantial majority of churchgoing Baptists, independents, 'new' churches and Pentecostals, but they also have a strong presence in other denominations and churches:

  • 95% of Pentecostals describe themselves as evangelicals
  • also 88% of Baptists
  • 84% of independent churches
  • 84% of 'new' churches
  • 34% of Anglicans
  • 21% of URC churches
  • 18% of Methodists
  • and 4% of R.Catholics.
  • 52% of other various smaller denominations also described themselves as evangelicals.

In various denominations the proportion of evangelicals has risen since 1998:

  • 34% of Anglicans are evangelicals now, compared to 31% in 1998 and 26% in 1989.
  • 88% of Baptists are evangelicals, compared to 87% in 1998 and 83% in 1989.
  • In independent churches evangelicals now comprise 84%, compared to 82% in 1998 and 65% in 1989.

In other denominations, however, the proportion has dropped:

  • Among the Methodists 18% are evangelicals now compared to 34% in 1998 and in 1989.
  • In the 'new' churches 84% are evangelical compared to 92% in 1998 and 99% in 1989.

Evangelical congregations

The average size of the congregation in evangelical churches is higher than that of other churchmanships with the exception of catholic[1] congregations:

  • catholic congregations average 206 people
  • charismatic evangelical churches average 104
  • broad evangelical congregations - 77
  • anglo-catholic and broad churches - 54
  • liberal churches - 46
  • and low church congregations and other categories average 36.

The average evangelical churchgoer, at 42, is among the youngest of all regular churchgoers:

  • charismatic evangelicals are younger, however, with an average age in their congregation of 38
  • mainstream evangelicals follow at 42
  • catholics at 45
  • broad evangelicals at 47
  • and general broad at 48.
  • Oldest among churchgoers are the liberals, low church and anglo-catholics at 50, 49 and 49 respectively.

Reflecting the rise in non-white churchgoers across England in recent years:

  • The number of non-white evangelicals has increased from 208,500 in 1998, to 286,000 in 2005; a proportional rise of 37%.
  • Churchgoing among white evangelicals, however, has gone from 1,182,800 in 1998, to 978,800 in 2005; a proportional decline of 17%.
  • Non-white evangelicals now constitute 18% of the total number of evangelicals.
  • The highest proportion of non-white churchgoers is found among charismatic evangelicals, where they constitute 31% of the total, closely followed by catholics, where the proportion is 28%.



1. catholic spelt with a lowercase 'c' refers to churchmanship category and not the Roman Catholic church, which is referred to as 'R. Catholic'.