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‘More practising Muslims than Christians in Britain by 2035′

By BEN CLERKIN – More by this author

Last updated at 08:38am on 8th May 2008

Under fire: Rowan Williams suggested that British law should accommodate
aspects of Sharia law

Churchgoers will be out-numbered by practising Muslims in Britain within 30
years, research published today suggests.

By 2035, there will be about 1.96million active Muslims in Britain, compared
with 1.63million churchgoing Christians, according to calculations by a
religious think-tank.

Up to 4,000 churches could close by 2020 if congregations continue to shrink
at current rates, the thinktank warns.

The study goes on to suggest that the number of active Hindus could
outnumber Christians after 2050.

But the Church of England moved to discredit the research last night,
claiming the results are “flawed and dangerously misleading”.

The number of practising Muslims is based on the number who declared they
were active in the last national Government census in 2001.

If the same process had been applied to Christians it would give a figure of
20million active churchgoers, according to Church House, the headquarters of
the CofE.

But the study did not count many Christians who worship every week because
it only included those adults on the Church of England‘s parish-based formal
voting lists. Those on the lists are allowed to vote at parochial church
council meetings
.

A C of E spokesman said: “These sorts of statistics, based on dubious
presumptions, do no one of any faith any favours. Faith communities are not
in competition and simplistic research like this is misleading and
unhelpful.”

Experts have suggested Muslims are more likely to practise their faith. More
than half of the Muslims who responded to the 2001 census said they prayed
every day, compared to 6.3 per cent of Christians who attend church services
each week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, came under fire earlier
this year for suggesting that British law should accommodate aspects of
sharia law, the code that governs how Muslims should behave.

The latest research was carried out by the think-tank Christian Research,
which describes its aim as encouraging “change in Christian culture so that
by 2010 more churches are growing”.

The Reverend Lynda Barley, head of research and statistics for the
Archbishops’ Council, said last night: “The figures for the number of people
worshipping in a Church of England church or cathedral each month are 30 per
cent higher than the electoral roll figures and have remained stable since
2000.

“More are involved in fresh expressions of church and chaplaincies across
the country and we have no reason to believe that this will drop
significantly in the next decade.”

Miss Barley added: “These statistics are incomplete and represent only a
partial picture of religious trends in Britain today.”

 

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