The decline of the Church of England may have been arrested by a rise in patriotism, according to a report by a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
Professor Stephen Bullivant’s report notes that: “The proportion of self-describing Anglicans in Britain has more than halved, from 40 per cent in 1983, down to 17 per cent in 2015.”
However, analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey and European Social Survey figures show there has been a modest rise from the 2009 low of 16.3 per cent to 17.1 per cent in 2015.
“If talk of even a modest Anglican revival would be premature, one certainly can speak of a newfound stability,” Professor Bullivant wrote.
The academic speculates that the precipitous decline of Anglicanism in Britain can be attributed in part to the efforts of anti-theist campaigner Richard Dawkins, and credits its partial recovery to an increased sense of national pride.
“People see Christianity as an expression of Englishness. There has been more rhetoric around Britain being a Christian nation,” the professor observed.
“People are looking for ways to connect with others. I suspect a larger proportion of people who do say they are Anglican tend to be patriotic.”
He added that: “After decades of bad news, this is certainly welcome for the Church of England. If I was in the Anglican Church I would be celebrating this.”
Commenting, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, welcomed the “gentle increase in the number of people who see themselves as Anglicans” which the report describes.
“In Liverpool, where I am bishop, we say that we want more people to know Jesus and more justice in the world – a message of personal relationship and community action. In my experience that message remains attractive to people in this increasingly self-centred and lonely world,” he told The Telegraph.