Only one in five Britons now identify with the established church whose bishops are appointed nominally by the Queen, but, for all practical purposes by the Prime Minister, and some of whose bishops sit by right in the upper chamber of the UK bicameral parliament without ever having stood for election even by the Anglican congregations.
At the same time, the proportion of self-identifying as having no religion has increased from 31 percent to 48 percent, having briefly topped 50 percent in 2009. 'No religion' is now the largest demographic group by far and even outstrips all the Christian groups added together. The only groups to increase over this period have been 'Other religions' which includes Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc of whatever sect, tripling from 2 percent to 6 percent, and 'Other Christian' group, which includes Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Reformed, Calvinist, Quaker, Plymouth Brethren, Mormon, etc, remained static and 'Catholic' declined marginally from 10 percent to 9 percent.
Bad those these figures are for the Anglican Church, the underlying trends must be giving them nightmares, especially those who earn their living from it. Of course, one has to be cautious about making accurate forecasts from trends, they are after all only trend and tend to become less accurate over time, representing only a best estimate, but these trends have been consistent now for 29 years. Projecting them forward for another 25 years (i.e. one generation) from the current year to 2039, and assuming a linear trend, we get a forecast guaranteed to spread gloom throughout the Anglican community in Britain - affiliations to the Anglican Church in Britain will be less than 1 percent of the population. Long before that stage is reached, the church will cease to be a viable entity having neither congregations to minister to nor clergy to minister to them.
On current trends, 'Anglican' will be the smallest demographic group, being outdone by all three other religious groups.
Meanwhile, 'No religion' will have reached the mid 6os, approaching two-thirds of the population.
As I said earlier, one has to be cautious about making form predictions from simple trends but these figures, especially those for 'No religion' are strongly supported by figures taken from a more detailed survey published in British Social Attitudes 28:
At some point in the next ten years or so, affiliation with the Anglican Church in Britain will fall below 10 percent of the adult population on it's way to de facto extinction, and will no longer be able to ignore the fact that its moral authority was long since lost, as was its smugly arrogant assumption of the right to guaranteed seats in our legislative body. The next head of state will inherit the title of Defender of the Faith with little or no faith to defend. He will he titular head of an irrelevant church with which almost no-one identifies and which few people will mourn the passing of.
It is time to disestablish the Church of England, to remove its bishops, and those of other religions who sit in the House of Lords by virtue of the positions of leadership of their respective faiths, to end its involvement in state-supported schools and to cut it loose from public subsidy and exemption from corporation tax on the considerable income derived from its investments in property, banking and industry. There is no justification for a faith subscribed to by only one in five Britons to be given special privileges over and above the rest of us. It's time to privatise the Church of England and allow it to find its place in the market-place for ideas, ethics and morals.