As someone who studied religious studies for my first degree, I have always been fascinated by the intersection of religion and public life. The religion data of the 2021 census is very interesting and has implications for how we do public theology.

The Census data revealed that for the first time in England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2%) describe themselves as Christian”, a 13.1% decrease from 2011. Despite this decrease, Christian” remained the most common response to the religion question.

No religion” was the second most common response, increasing by 12% from 25.2% in 2011 to 37.2%.

Officially, this Census confirms for many Christians who are aware of the various culture shifts in British and wider western European history that, Britain is a pluralistic, secular, post-secular postmodern society. 


As a missionary scholar who sees the UK as a mission field, I have however wrestled with the question, why is it that British public theology is still seeking to engage from a place of presumed power? 

Therefore, I find it interesting sometimes when I sit in church gatherings or some strategic national meetings, how we (oftentimes) still want to engage the public arena almost as if we have the dominant power in society. Sometimes this betrays our lack of societal understanding of how the public has shifted from a church and state model. 

This attitude is sometimes reflected in ways we exercise our public leadership when dealing with the government. In the premodern times, that is, before the Enlightenment worldview and thought, the church operated on a Constantinian model were Church and State were intertwined. I fear, that on occasions, we are still operating from this Constantine model of public theology, when we feel we should benefit from privileges from the government, because after all we are the church. 

But increasingly, with this new Census data on religion, we all need to be engaging with the key question, what does a British public theology that is not rooted in power look like? What does a British public theology that operates from a marginal vulnerable place look like? In order for us to be able to construct such a public theology we will need to appreciate that as Christians we are in the minority in a secularised, post-secular, postmodern, pluralistic society and therefore our Christian imaginations and engagement have to stem from a place of humility, recognising that we do not have all the answers. This is the starting point of a journey that can allow us to look at Jesus’ missional engagement from the margins. Jesus operated from the periphery of society but with such a dynamism that attracted the attention of the masses and of those in power.