East of England: Number of Christians drop by 12%, Census shows

THE number of Christians living in the East of England has fallen by 12% in the past decade, the 2011 Census has revealed.

The data shows that numbers fell by 374,000 from 2001 to 2011 in the region and nationally the numbers of Christians fell by four million.

The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, said the figures were a “challenge”, but added that the “death of Christian England has been greatly exaggerated”.

Census data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 60% of residents in the East of England classed themselves as Christian.

In comparison the number of Muslims in the East grew by 88%, taking the numbers from 78, 931 to 148,000 in 2011.

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The number of people now listed as being of no religion is 28%.

Bishop Nigel said: “These results confirm that the majority of the nation actively identifies the role that faith plays in their life.

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“Clearly we welcome the fact that Christianity remains the most populous faith in England – with six in ten people identifying themselves as Christian. When all faiths are taken together, people of faith account for two-thirds of the nation - two in every three people identify themselves as having a faith.

“Obviously the fall in those choosing to identify themselves as Christians is a challenge. We need to look closely at the fuller figures published next year and to reflect on what these tell us.”

Church of England spokesman the Rev Arun Arora said one of the reasons for the decline could be fewer people identifying themselves as ‘cultural Christians’: “That is, those who have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons.

“They indicate a changing pattern of religious life in which traditional or inherited identities are less taken for granted than they used to be.”

The census also reveals the impact of immigration on the region, showing a significant rise in the number of foreign-born residents living in the East of England. This has increased by 70%, from 378,000 in 2001 to 642,000 in 2011.

It also revealed that the East of England has seen the largest decrease (7%) in the number of mortgages homes.

Guy Goodwin, the ONS’s director of census, said: “These statistics paint a picture of society and help us all plan for the future using accurate information at a local level.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of census statistics. Further rich layers of vital information will be revealed as we publish more detailed data for very local levels over the coming months.”

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