Thursday, 10 May 2012

The remarkable vigour of conservative Anglican churches in England

I received this morning an email from a group seeking support for 'proper provision' for those in the Church of England opposed to the introduction of women bishops. In it, they mentioned some statistics about these churches. I had already spoken on the phone to one of their organizers, so I know the sort of questions they are asking, but even I was somewhat surprised by the figures. To quote:
We now have 178 clergy "signed up" - representing 259 churches: 

These churches represent an electoral role [sic] of approximately 34,500 and attendance of about 36,500.  They have provided 367 ordinands over the past 10 years and have, on average, more than doubled their congregration and planted 68 new churches or congregations in the past 10 years.
On the one hand, the figures are quite small. But by any standards, they represent a remarkable vigour, not least in the average attendance of  140.

Now of course such things are open to dispute, but rather than disputing them, it would be good if someone could investigate them further. In one of his excellent books on church growth, Bob Jackson noted in passing a congregation (not ours but actually in our neck of the woods) which had seen considerable growth recently, and asked whether there might be lessons to learn.

Surely the same is true here. Indeed, the Church of England has a statistics department. Perhaps someone from that department could be spared to see if these things are true and then to report back on them.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to add your name, either as clergy or as another congregation member, to the list, email

Update: No sooner the word than the deed. Someone has sent me this link describing a research project of just the sort I was suggesting above. However, at this point we have to bear in mind the distinction, observed by Phillip Jensen, between the 'church of gospel growth' and the 'gospel of church growth'. There are various ways of growing a big church - preaching the prosperity gospel is one. To be really 'valid', this survey work ought to look at the theological position of the churches involved, not just their methods. A quick read through suggests that those organizing the survey are aware of these factors. I especially liked this bit: "Given the potential tendency of the church to ignore research findings it is important that this new study has credibility and ‘buy in’ from across the Church."

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  1. I know it's a quote, but I think they mean electoral "roll" rather than electoral "role".

  2. Well spotted - and it was a 'cut and paste', hence the note in loc.

  3. Apologies to all involved - a late night spelling mistake on my part.

    Many I also remind people that the petition John refers to is aimed specifically at women. Before people start shouting that this is sexist – there was a particular reason for this decision. At the last General Synod there were many speeches from those in favour of admitting women to the episcopate which called on the House of Bishops to "Listen to the voice of women" when they meet next week to discuss the possibility of amending the legislation. A group of General Synod members agreed in principle but felt it was important that the House of Bishops listened to a variety of female voices, hence we started this petition.

    Dear Bishops, As loyal Anglican women, we, the undersigned,

    • Rejoice in the fact that men and women are inherently equal,
    reflecting the image of God,
    • Recognise that we all prosper when there is male oversight and
    headship in the family and the church
    • Ask the House of Bishops to provide more robust provision than is
    currently provided in the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and
    Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure a secure future for us in the
    Church of England.

    If you agree with this sentiment please send your name, address, church and diocese to if you wish to add your name.

    If you are a member of the clergy who would like to flag up your support for the same issue please contact us at the same address.

    Many thanks

    Susie Leafe

  4. Hmm and now it is not late but I still can't spell.

  5. Rev. Richardson:

    As a resident in America and with association with the TEC, it is difficult to get an accurated picture of the C o E.

    Here's a darker note that might be closer to the truth?

    Donald Philip Veitch
    North Carolina, USA