Conservative Anglican churches offset decline of church attendance in UK

(REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)Members of the Church of England’s Synod attend the session during which they will discuss and vote on the consecration of women bishops, in York, July 14, 2014.

Anglican churches that are affiliated with the conservative group Reform has reported a three to four increase in church attendance each year for the past five years.

The Church of England as a whole has been experiencing a one to two percent decline in attendance each year, according to Christian Today.

The Reform-linked churches have reported that the average weekly attendance was 99 percent as opposed to 40 percent in the whole Church of England.

Reform is a conservative evangelical group within the Church of England that teach the “infallibility and supreme authority” of the Bible and it has objected to the appointment of female bishops in 2014. The group also preaches against sex outside of a heterosexual marriage.

It was also reported that more younger people attend the churches linked to the conservative group. Only 18 percent of the congregation were aged over 70 compared to 30 percent in the whole Church of England.

“Without these churches the collapse of the Church of England would be even more noticeable,” Reform director Susie Leafe told Christian Today.

Reform is also one of the organizers of the Renew annual conference, along with two other conservative organizations, the Anglican Mission in England and Church Society.

The statistics came from over 300 churches that submitted a report of their church attendance to Reform each year in the past five years.

“What the leadership of these churches have in common is a belief that the Bible is our authority in matters of life and doctrine and the teaching we find in its pages about Jesus Christ is reliable, coherent, challenging and life transforming,” Leafe said, noting that Reform member churches were spread across the U.K. and have varied styles ranging from the traditional to charismatic.

The findings seem to align with the results of a study conducted in Canada which showed that churches that uphold a more literal interpretation of the Bible grow faster than those that are more liberal.

“If we are talking solely about what belief system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches, the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner,” said David Haskell lead researcher of the Canadian study titled “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy.”

Haskell’s research is scheduled to be published next month in the international journal Review of Religious Research.

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