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A brief review of statistics 

The Overall Picture

Most people realise the number of baptisms has continually declined (by nearly 80% since 1900).   The chart below puts this into further depression!

From 70% of live births in 1920, baptisms have dropped to 20% in 2007.  However as live births include those of other faiths (which has obviously increased proportionately in the same period) I have carried out further research to find a more realistic comparison within the Anglican community.  Over the same 100 year period the only consistent measure is of Easter Communicants (Christmas statistics are not available for the same period).  The reduction is similarly significant - a reduction from 26% to 9%.

 But in the darkness there is light in the last 7 years! 

 Baptisms 2002 to 2007

Total: down from 151,000 to 139,000

Infants down from 103,000 to 88,000

Child (1-12)  steady at 40,000

Adult (13+) up from 8,000 to 10,000

 

It’s that “adult” figure that is encouraging and reflects the comment to us by a Diocesan Bishop who said he seldom officiated at a Confirmation Service without there being an adult baptism - very often by immersion.   It is a trend that has continued upwards for many years.   Of those baptized in 1990, 80% were infants, 15% were children and 4% were 13+.   In 2007 the corresponding figured were 63%, 29% and 7%. 

We must take care in our interpretation but one conclusion is that because less infant baptisms take place there are more reaching maturity and wanting to affirm their faith personally.   

There is no objective evidence as to why the 1-12 age group is relatively static in numbers.  Would I be right in assuming that this might reflect a more careful reflection by parents before the baptism?   Or is there a possibility some feel (quite wrongly) that entrance to Church Schools will be facilitated.   Another factor, though there is no objective evidence, is that in 2008 over 45% of live births were “outside marriage” - a question quite often raised by our website correspondents.  

Thanksgivings 2002-2007

It has to be admitted we are working from a relatively low base, but having fallen from the peak in 2004, 2007 saw an increase from 5,900 in 2006 to 6.400.  

Our research sadly confirms that the Thanksgiving Service is still relatively unheard of, and still considered a “second-class” option.   Those who would like more information are invited to look at our website page and associated cross references .

Regional Variations

There remain very wide differences across Dioceses, with infant baptisms being highest in Carlisle Lincoln and Hereford 300-400 baptisms to 1000 live births, and lowest in London, St Albans and Birmingham (less than 100 baptisms per 1000 births)  

Update to the above figures

Figures for 2009 show the same downward trends related to 2002 base year with the exception of child baptisms up10%, adult baptisms up 31%, and child thanksgivings up 13% over the period.

 

[All figures sourced from the Church of England Statistics Web pages and the Office for National Statistics]    

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