By Tim Ross, Religious Affairs Editor
9:02PM BST 12 Jul 2011
The Church of England will cease to exist in 20 years as the current generation of elderly worshippers dies, Anglican leaders warned yesterday.
The average age of its members is now 61 and by 2020 a âcrisisâ of ânatural wastageâ will lead to their numbers falling âthrough the floorâ, the Churchâs national assembly was told.
The Church was compared to a company âimpeccablyâ managing itself into failure, during exchanges at the General Synod in York.
The warnings follow an internal report calling for an urgent national recruitment drive to attract more members.
In the past 40 years, the number of adult churchgoers has halved, while the number of children attending regular worship has declined by four fifths.
The Rev Dr Patrick Richmond, a Synod member from Norwich, told the meeting that some projections suggested that the Church would no longer be âfunctionally extantâ in 20 yearsâ time.
âThe perfect storm we can see arriving fast on the horizon is the ageing congregations,â he said. âThe average age is 61 now, with many congregations above that.
âThese congregations will be led by fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy â¦ 2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying.
âAnother 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.â
Andreas Whittam Smith, the first Church Estates Commissioner, who leads the Churchâs Â£5.3âbillion investment fund, said the demographic âtime bombâ for Anglicans should be seen as âa crisisâ.
He told the assembly: âOne of our problems may be that decline is so slow and imperceptible that we donât really see it coming clearly enough.
âI have seen large companies perfectly and impeccably manage themselves into failure. Every step along the road has been well done.
âEvery account is neatly signed off.â
Then finally they find they have âgone bustâ, he said. âI sometimes feel the Church is a bit like that.â
He added: âI wish that all of us would have a sense of real crisis about this.â
Maths lessons are too âcapitalistâ and should be reformed to promote Christian values, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, told Synod.
The meeting heard that teachers should not illustrate lessons with examples of âprofit and lossâ, or encourage children to save in order to buy bikes or toys.
Instead, lessons should focus on the maths involved in giving donations to charity, saving for an overseas project, or even âtithingâ â giving 10 per cent of oneâs income to the Church, Synod members said.
In his speech to the assembly, Bishop Butler said: âWe need to explore different models from a Christian perspective of how we approach all the curriculum, not just RE.â
FAIR USE NOTICE: This article contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond âfair useâ, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.